What is Special Guardianship?

Special guardianship is a way of providing a safe and secure family life for a child while they are growing up. A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) provides legal security (overriding parental responsibility) for children who cannot be cared for in the long term by their birth parents. It is an alternative to adoption or long-term fostering of a child. 

Special guardianship has real benefits to the child as they have the assurance of knowing they have a safe home environment and have the comfort of knowing their guardians can manage and offer support around contact on their behalf, if this is in their best interest.

It often gives the guardians a sense of security and peace of mind whilst they are providing a secure home for the children and have the support of their local authority.

Who can become a Special Guardian?

To become a Special Guardian, you will need to apply for an Special Guardianship Order. You need to be over 18 years old and can apply:

  • as a single person, a couple or a group of people (with a connection with the child)
  • if the child is in the care of the local authority, have consent of the local authority. 
  • if you are the child's foster carer who has looked after the child for at least one year immediately preceding the SGO application.
  • if you have the consent of all those with parental responsibility for the child.

There are additional considerations, which you can discuss with your local authority special guardianship team.

What about the feelings of the child?

The Court will want to know the child's thoughts and feelings in relation where they are going to live and any contact with their birth family.

What happens next?

If you want to become - or have been asked to become a Special Guardian and live in one of the Consortium boroughs, contact your residing local authority or if the child is in care, the local authority where the child lives. 

It is important to discuss your motivation to become an SGO and whether it is the right thing to do for you and your family, as well as the child concerned.  The local authority will prepare a report by a social worker, who will meet with you*. The report will contain:

  • the child's wishes and feelings
  • the birth family and their views
  • your suitability as the proposed guardian
  • criminal records, health reports and reference checks
  • the plan for contact between the child and their birth family
  • an agreed support package

The report will then be sent to court and a hearing arranged. A decision will be made based on the report and the evidence heard. The court can also give permission for the child's name to be changed or give permission for the child to be taken out of the UK for more than three months.

*If you are making a private application to become an SG carer, your lawyer will give the local authority three months notice to complete the report.

We are here to help

As a Special Guardian there are a range of support services available. For more information and for what courses are available, visit our Events page. You can also contact your special guardianship team. 

We can provide advice, information and training and can offer support groups where you can meet other Special Guardians. Sometimes you may need extra support depending on the needs of the child - we, and other professionals are here for you to talk to.