The Adoption and Children Act 2002 introduced a completely new order, Special Guardianship and this came into effect in December 2005.
- It is an order made in court for the applicants to care for the child and have day to day parental responsibility for that child. The parents are still legally the child's parents but their parental responsibility is limited.
- The purpose of the order is to give the child the security of a permanent home until the age of 18 and beyond.
- It differs from adoption in that it is expected that the child will keep links with his/her parents.
If you'd like to speak to a social worker about Special Guardianship please call 0300 555 1384.
A Special Guardian can make all the day to day decisions about the child apart from:
- Consenting to the child being adopted
- Letting the child be known by another surname (unless the Special Guardian has the parents' written consent or the court's permission to do so)
- Removing the child from the UK for more than three months (unless with the permission of the court).
Unlike Adoption Orders, Special Guardianship Orders can be varied or ended if circumstances change a lot. People who can apply to the court to do this include:
- The Special Guardian.
- The Local Authority named in a Care Order relating to the child.
- Anyone with a Residence Order which relates to the child before the Special Guardianship Order was made.
- The child’s parents or guardians.
- A step-parent who has parental responsibility.
- Anyone who had parental responsibility immediately before the Special Guardianship Order was made.
- The child (if the court is satisfied that the child has sufficient understanding).
If you are not the child and the court’s permission is needed, they may only give their permission if circumstances have changed really significantly since the Special Guardianship order was made. The court has to decide how things must change before a Special Guardianship order is altered in any way. It’s not a decision that’s taken lightly – or frequently.
You can apply to be a Special Guardian either individually or jointly with someone else - or several others. If two of you apply, you don’t need to be married. A child’s parent cannot be made that child’s Special Guardian.
You can apply to the court for Special Guardianship if:
- You are 18 or over.
- You are the child’s guardian.
- You are a local authority foster carer and the child has lived with you for a year immediately before the application
- You have a residence order relating to the child, or the consent of everyone a residence order relates to.
- The child has lived with you for three out of the last five years.
- You have the local authority’s consent if the child is in local authority care.
- You have the consent of everyone with parental responsibility for the child.
- You have the court’s permission to apply.
A court can also make a Special Guardianship order during family proceedings which are about a child’s welfare if they think that’s the best solution - the child always comes first.
If you want to apply for a Special Guardianship Order, you need to notify the Local Authority where you live, unless the child is in care, in which case you need to notify the Local Authority responsible for the child.
You need to notify the Local Authority at least three months before you apply to the court. The only exception to this is if you have the court’s permission to make an application when there’s already an application for an adoption order. That’s to make sure your competing application doesn’t delay the adoption order hearing.
If Hampshire County Council are the appropriate local authority, you can notify the Children's Services Department by contacting 0300 555 1384 or by filling in this online form.
If the child or the child's family, or your family are not known to Children's Services Department and are not currently receiving services, you will need to seek legal advice and also to find out if you are entitled to receive legal aid to fund your application.
The Local Authority must have three months’ written notice from you of your intention to apply to the court. (Unless you have the court’s permission to apply right away because someone else is already applying to adopt the child.)
Notify Hampshire County Council Children's Services Department by calling 0300 555 1384 or
- The Local Authority investigates your suitability to become the child’s Special Guardian.
- An application is made to the court.
- The Local Authority submits a report on your suitability.
- The court considers your application and the Local Authority’s report and makes a decision.
When they get the written notice of an application, or if the court makes a request, the Local Authority has to investigate and prepare a report to the court about the suitability of the people applying to be Special Guardians.
The report to the court has to include:
- Information about the child who is the subject of the application.
- Information about the child’s family.
- The wishes and feelings of the child and others.
Information about the prospective Special Guardian.
- this will include an assessment of the applicant's suitability to care for the child and cover issues such as health and accommodation.
- Evidence of Health and safety checks and references and a criminal record (CRB) check will be required.
- Information about the local authority that compiled the report.
- A summary about each prospective Special Guardian’s health prepared by a medical professional.
- The implications of making a Special Guardianship order for the people involved.
- The relative merits of Special Guardianship and other orders.
- A recommendation regarding Special Guardianship.
- A recommendation regarding contact for the child with his/her close and extended family and with any other significant people.
- An assessment of any further support needs for the child, his/her parents or the Special Guardian/s.
Local Authorities are required to provide a range of Special Guardianship support services in their area.
- If you are someone involved in Special Guardianship, for example, you are a Special Guardian, you are a child subject to a Special Guardianship order or you are the child's parent and think you need support, you can ask the Local Authority to assess your support needs. Your needs may have changed since the order was originally made.
- You should contact the Local Authority where the Special Guardian lives unless the child was in the care of a different Local Authority immediately prior to the Special Guardianship order being made.
- The Local Authority in whose area the child was a child in care is responsible for assessing support needs for the first three years after the order is made and should be contacted in these circumstances.
- Three years after the order was made the Local Authority where the Special Guardian lives becomes responsible for assessing support needs and should therefore be contacted.
- A child who was in care immediately before the making of a Special Guardianship Order may qualify for advice and assistance as a care leaver.
- When the child reaches 16 years of age you should contact the Local Authority who lasted looked after the child to discuss needs and services.
- Care leaver services can be provided up to the age of 21 or 25 if the young person is in eduaction or training.
- Contact Hampshire Children's services on 0845 603 5620 to discuss support needs and services.