A special guardian is someone appointed to care for a child following a special guardianship order (SGO). They will have parental responsibility for the child, allowing them to make parenting decisions in their interests, but without the separation of family ties that adoption may bring.
An SGO is a private law order made under the Children's Act 1989 and it is intended for those children who cannot live with their birth parents but helps to provide them with greater security than long term fostering.
This information is available for special guardians and their families living in the Warwickshire area or who we have assed. SGOs are a common route towards attaining life stability for children or young people who are unable to live with their birth parents.
We can provide carers with support in cases where the child was previously Looked After by us before the SGO was granted and where this order was granted in the last three years. When the three year period from the making of the SGO has expired, the local authority where the special guardian lives is responsible for providing support services. If there are any safeguarding issues these will need to be referred to the local authority that the special guardian lives in.
All special guardians have a support plan. These include help for the children, their carer and their family and the child/young person’s birth family.
The plans are based on the needs of those involved but typically include details around health, education, emotions, identity, finance and housing.
We can offer you help, advice and guidance around the things on your support plan.
We run a telephone helpline and work with other teams to provide the best possible advice and guidance to special guardians and their families.
Under a special guardianship order children will continue to have priority for school admissions and will still receive pupil premium. For children in Warwickshire, involvement of the Virtual School will continue or we will help people access virtual schools in other areas. We can advocate on behalf of special guardians to access support for education.
Family time and identity
We can offer advice around any issues with family time arrangements and work with special guardians to help children build a sense of identity. We can support carers to access and understand the importance of life story work.
Emotions and behaviour
We can offer training or help special guardians to find information about a range of emotional issues. We signpost to health and education services, such as RISE (CAMHS), or carer support groups so people can share their experiences. If qualifying criteria are met, we may also be able to help you apply for funding for specific therapies through the Adoption Support Fund (ASF).
We work to ensure SGO carers continue to receive all eligible financial support. If you tell them us about any changes in circumstances, we can give you the best advice and guidance possible.
Special guardianship carers are eligible for financial support as detailed in special huardianship Regulations, a special guardianship financial assessment should be completed as part of the special guardianship assessment process and can be agreed in the special guardianship support plan. An SGO support allowance is means tested and takes into account benefit allowances and is reviewed on a yearly basis unless otherwise agreed. SGO carers have a duty to notified of any changes in their financial circumstances.
The assessment process
If you are considering an SGO, then a SGO assessment will need to be completed before a court can make an SGO. This report considers the suitability of you as a special guardians. Special guardianship order regulations stipulate that the local authority is require to report on suitability before an SGO can be made. This includes:
- Basic details about name, date of birth, address and background
- Details of any current or previous marriage or civil partnership or cohabiting relationship
- If the proposed special guardians are in a relationship, an assessment of their relationship
- The current relationship with the child/ren concerned
- A health history
- Details of how the proposed special guardian relates to adults and children
- Previous parenting experience
- Details of income and expenditure
- Details of other members of the household
- Details of any other child of the proposed special guardian, even if they are not part of the household
- The views of other household members about the application
- A health history
- Employment history
- Details of any other involvement in family court proceedings
- Reasons for making the application
- Hopes and expectations for the child/children’s future
- Wishes and feelings about the child/children’s contact with parents
The local authority will also carry out criminal record checks (often called DBS checks). They have to talk to referees who have known the special guardians for a long time and a medical assessment will be carried out by a GP.
Special guardians and the children they care for can meet with a nurse to assess children’s health and look at any needs they may have. If needs are not being met we can help signpost to health services to get more support.
We offer a wide range of online and face to face training opportunities including:
- Making placements work
- Child protection and safeguarding
- Emergency paediatric first aid
- Protective behaviours
To find out more, call the helpline on 01926 742228 or email firstname.lastname@example.org