Family First – the rise of the Special Guardianship Order

20/01/2022

It is a sad fact that every year many children are placed into the care system. There are many reasons for this and there is no one size fits all solution to this growing problem.

Often, the relevant local authority will consider whether there are any family members who can step in and look after the children. This may be for a short period until the parents are able to look after their children again. However, in some long-term cases, the family member might act as a guardian to the child until they reach maturity.

What is best for the child?

New research from UCL has shown that children who were looked after by relatives as opposed to foster carers or care homes had much better outcomes. The study looked at family formations, relationships and living arrangements of adults in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s and found that those with a history of being in residential care had the worst outcomes as adults. The study showed that those who had been looked after by relatives had the best results.

Special Guardianship Order

The local authority will often recommend a special guardianship order (SGO) is applied for by the relative looking after the child or children. This gives the Special Guardian parental responsibility in respect of the child and enables the person to make important decisions relating to the child’s health and wellbeing. An SGO can last until the child reaches 18. It allows the person with the SGO to claim child benefit and other related benefits and often the local authority will put support in place to help both financially and emotionally.

An SGO may be appropriate where:

  • A child has settled in a long-term foster placement
  • When a child is too old for adoption
  • When a suitable family member has been assessed to provide long-term care for the child

More information

If you wish to know more about special guardianship orders, please contact one of our specialist family lawyers who will be able to assist you further.

20/01/2022

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