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Special Guardianship Orders – Are They Right For You?


Special guardianship orders were introduced in December 2005.  Its aim was to bridge the gap between a residence order and adoption as it was becoming increasingly common for family members to step into the breach when social services decided that the parents could no longer care for the children in a safe manner.

Under a residence order, the person caring for the child shares parental responsibility (the ability to make decisions relating to that child) with the parents, even though the carer has the day to day care of the child.  Therefore, if that child required a hospital procedure then all persons with parental responsibility would have to give consent.

Adoption is obviously one of the most extreme orders the court could make in respect of a child.  Under this order the parents would lose their parental responsibility and whoever the adoption order is made in favour of, would then become that child’s legal parents.  However, if a family member is caring for the child, courts have been reluctant to make an adoption order as it distorts the family tree, which could therefore cause confusion to the child as he/she grows up.

The special guardianship order was therefore introduced to allow the children to remain within their family but with more security as to their placement.  Under a special guardianship order, the person with the order has parental responsibility over and above that of the parents.  This therefore gives the carer more control than what they would receive under a residence order, but it doesn’t go to the extreme like in adoption cases and remove the parent’s parental responsibility completely.  This way the child will still know who their parents are and what relation their carer is to them.  In addition, the rules allow for the local authority to provide support to the carer, which can include financial support.

The most appropriate order will depend upon your circumstances and factors you should consider include whether the child is a relative, what support you may need now or in the future in caring for the child (both practically e.g. managing parental/sibling contact and emotionally) and your relationship with the child’s biological parents.

Samantha Sanders is a solicitor in the Care Proceedings and Adoption team.  She can be contacted by phone, 01484 538421, or by e-mail, samantha.sanders@ridleyandhall.co.uk.

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