A Special Guardianship Order is a new legal option intended to provide stability and long-term security for children where adoption is not suitable.
A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) appoints one or more people to be a child's special guardian giving them parental responsibility and the ability to make day to day decisions on all aspects of caring for the child. Unlike adoption, an SGO retains the link between the child and their family and a court can vary or end an SGO if circumstances change considerably.
Benefits of a Special Guardianship Order
A Special Guardianship Order will suit children who do not want to be legally separated from their birth family, but would gain from greater legal security and permanence. It will benefit children in long-term foster care or those who are cared for on a permanent basis by members of their wider family. An SGO is particularly appropriate where birth parents, or others with parental responsibility, cannot provide a permanent home but the child's links with the birth family need to be preserved. A special guardian can also appoint a guardian for the child in the event of their death. Before a SGO is made the social services department has to prepare a detailed report for the court and if requested has to carry out an assessment of what financial and other support services the family will need to care for the child.
Restrictions of a Special Guardianship Order
The special guardian cannot change the child's surname or remove the child from the country for longer than three months without the written consent of all those with parental responsibility or an order of the court. The question of what surname the child should have and what contact the child should have to other family members will be considered by the court when the order is made.
Who Can Apply For Special Guardianship?
A special guardian must be over 18 and must not be the child's parent. Joint applicants need not be married. A court can make a SGO during family proceedings if they think that is the best solution. The following persons are entitled to apply for a SGO:
- Any guardian of the child.
- A local authority foster parent with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year.
- Anyone with a residence order; consent of the local authority; parental responsibility for the child; or the court’s permission to apply.
Anyone with whom the child has lived for three out of the last five years.