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Let's Not Forget About Special Guardians!

Monday, 17 October 2016. Posted in Adoption/Guardianship, Parenting and Families

Special Guardians

This week – 17th October to 26th October 2016 – is National Adoption Week. #SupportAdoption

Chances are you will know someone who has adopted a child or who was adopted themselves – even if they haven’t told you.  Adoptive parents are often, quite rightly, seen as society’s unsung heroes, giving children a permanent home and loving family life.  But adoption isn’t the only route to helping provide children with a stable family life and in recent years there has been a significant rise in the number of Special Guardianship Orders granted – in 2015 over 5,300 [1] orders were granted.

 

What are Special Guardianship Orders?

A Special Guardianship Order appoints one or more people to be a child’s special guardian.  The Order gives ‘parental responsibility’ to the Special Guardians.    

The main difference between Special Guardianship Orders and Adoption Orders is the legal status of the Special Guardians – they do not have the same rights as Adopted Parents and, if the birth parents are still actively involved in the care of the child, there can be more crossover of care. 

special guardianship

 

Who can become a Special Guardian?

There are many people who can apply for a Special Guardianship Order:

  • Any guardian of the child
  • Anyone who the child has lived with for 3 or the last 5 years
  • A Local Authority foster parent, with whom the child has lived with for at least a year.
  • A relative of the child with whom the child has lived for a year prior to the SGO being granted.

 

Special Features of Special Guardianship Orders:

Legal rights: Special Guardians and birth parents keep parental responsibility of the child, which is different to adoption orders.  This may result in more complicated arrangements as the boundaries can be a bit more blurred.  The Special Guardian will have day to day responsibility for the child and is able to take the child out of the country, but for no longer than 3 months.  However, both birth parents and Special Guardians are legally responsible for the dental and health care requirements of the child.

Contact: Where possible, the child still has some contact with their birth parents.  Often these arrangements are agreed between both sets of adults, however where disputes or complications arise, the Courts may get involved.  For most adopted children, there is very limited contact with their birth parents, often in the form of letters received once or twice a year.

Ending the Special Guardianship Order: Birth parents are not able to end the SGO unless the obtain special consent for the Court to apply for this to happen. 

Changing names: Special Guardians are not able to change the legal name of the child.

Adoption: Should the Special Guardian want to put the child up for adoption, they will need to seek consent from the birth parents.  

Increased Support for Children

Increased stability? Special Guardians are known to the child, they are often a relative or foster parent and have already built relationships with the child.  For many children, this previous relationship can really help provide stability in their life, at a time of immense upheaval. 

However, Special Guardianship Orders have not been without their controversy and last year the Government responded to criticisms that SGOs were approved too freely by firming up the assessment process.  There have been cases where children have been inappropriately placed, with people who are not best placed to care for the child.  The new, more robust assessment processes, aim to ensure the best interests of the child are upheld at every turn.  

With almost 70,000 children in care at any one moment, many because of abuse or neglect in their family home, being able to offer a safe and happy home is an incredible thing to do.  

 


 

[1] Community Care

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