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Special Guardianship

What is a Special Guardianship Order?


Special Guardianship is an order that places a child to live with someone other than their parents on a long-term basis. The person who the child(ren) is placed with becomes Special Guardian of the child(ren). Special Guardianship was introduced in the Adoption and Children Act 2002


A Special Guardianship Order will:

  • Ensure the long-term placement of the child(ren)

  • Give the Special Guardian(s) Parental Responsibility

  • Maintain links with the child(ren)’s birth family

  • Allow the Special Guardian to exercise their Parental Responsibility with the exclusion of any others with Parental Responsibility apart from another Special Guardian


What are the alternatives to Special Guardianship?

  • Adoption

    • This will place the child(ren) in a permanent home

    • When the adoption order is given, the birth parents will lose Parental Responsibility

    • It is common in adoptions for links with the birth family to be lost

  • Long term fostering

    • This will offer secure placement for a child who cannot live with their birth parent

    • Foster parent do not get Parental Responsibility and therefore have no legal basis for making important decisions concerning the care of the child

    • Long-term fostering does not always give the child(ren) to feel as much permanence and belonging

  • A Child Arrangements Order

    • An order issued by the courts setting out arrangements regarding where the child(ren) should live

    • The person whom the child is to live with will have Parental Responsibility which is on an equal level the parents


What are the requirements to become a Special Guardian?


A Special Guardian must be an adult (over 18 years old). Joint applications can be made – there is no requirement that those who submit a joint application must be married.


One may apply for a Special Guardianship order if one is:

  • Local Authority foster carer who  the child has resided with for a period of one year directly before the application

  • The child’s Guardian

  • Someone who the child has lived with three of the past five years – providing that the child has not stopped to live with you for three months or more prior to the application

  • The child(ren) are cared for by a Local Authority, and the Local Authority consents to you making an application

  • Someone who has a Residence Order/ Child Arrangements Order pertaining to the child(ren)

  • You are a relative of the child with whom the child has lived with for at least one year instantly/ immediately predating the order

  • You have the court’s consent to make the application


Is there an assessment to become a Special Guardian?


There is an assessment if you make an application for a Special Guardianship Order. It is required that three months before submitting their application to the court, one must tell Children’s Services in writing of their wish to submit an application for the order. Children’s Services will then investigate and write a report so the court can deide if they think the applicant is a suitable as a Special Guardian for the child(ren)

In the situation that the child is in care, then it would be mandatory or the prospective Special Guardian to inform the relevant Local Authority. Subsequently, the Local Authority will write a report to the court, detailing whether they find the prospective Special Guardian suitable

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