I am considering a special guardianship order
  • I am considering a
  • Special
  • Guardianship
  • Order
A guide for Special Guardians

I am considering a Special Guardianship

What is Special Guardianship?

Special Guardianship is a way of providing a permanent, stable home for a child when they are unable to live with their birth parents. A Special Guardian is typically a family member, friend or someone connected to the child.

Special Guardianship can only be granted by a judge in a family court via a Special Guardianship Order (SGO). Becoming a Special Guardian gives that person overriding parental responsibility for a child (over any other people with parental responsibility) and the authority to make decisions in the best interests of that child.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is defined in Section 3 of the Children Act 1989 as being:

"All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property."

What does parental responsibility mean?

When decisions are being made about the upbringing of a child, all those with parental responsibility are allowed to have a say in that decision.

As a Special Guardian shares parental responsibility with birth parents, in case of a disagreement over decisions, the Special Guardian has the overriding authority to make the decision they feel is in the best interests of the child.

Why be a Special Guardian?

Caring for a child under a Special Guardianship Order gives parental responsibility which includes the authority to make decisions in the best interests of the child.

It affords the Special Guardian and the child the opportunity to have a private family life, without ongoing involvement from Hampshire County Councils Children’s Services. It provides the child with a permanent home and the stability that brings, as well as giving the Special Guardian the support of a legal order, setting out their responsibility for the child, which in turn may increase their confidence in the role.

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A Special Guardianship Order is permanent, lasting until the child turns 18, or until the order is discharged by the court. Becoming a Special Guardian involves welcoming a child into your home, family and everyday life. It comes with the happiness, excitement and pride of raising a child, as well as the challenges.

The children that Special Guardians are caring for have often experienced significant trauma and may not respond in ways that they're used to. But supporting a child on their journey and helping them heal can be an immensely rewarding experience.

Once a Special Guardianship Order has been granted, you will have access to the advice, guidance and support of the Family Connections Post SGO support service.

What does the Order mean?

When a person becomes a Special Guardian and therefore has parental responsibility, they must:

  • provide a home for the child
  • protect and care for the child

They are also responsible for:

  • setting boundaries for the child
  • choosing, and providing for, the child's education
  • agreeing to the child's medical treatment
  • looking after the child's property

A Special Guardianship Order secures a child's long-term home with someone who is not their parent. It lasts until the child turns 18 or until the order is discharged by the court. Special Guardians gain an enhanced form of parental responsibility. This means they can use their parental responsibility to the exclusion of others.

Although a Special Guardian holds parental responsibility for a child, they must obtain the consent of everyone who has parental responsibility for the child before they make some important decisions, for example:

  • changing the child's surname
  • changing the child’s religion
  • putting the child up for adoption
  • taking the child abroad for more than three months
  • the child having surgery for reasons other than improving health, such as circumcision, sterilisation or cosmetic surgery
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How do you become a Special Guardian?

There are two ways to become a Special Guardian:

  • By submitting a private application
  • With local authority involvement

Private applications

Where families have made their own arrangements for the child to live with a connected person and the carer would like to become a Special Guardian, they can make an application to the court. The local authority must then assess them and write a report for the court.

Criteria for private SGO

To make an application for a Special Guardianship Order, there are certain criteria you must meet. You can apply for a Special Guardianship Order if you are:

  • A guardian of the child who was appointed by the parent or special guardian to raise the child after they died
  • A person who already has a child arrangements order (or a residence order) saying that the child should live with them
  • A foster carer who is approved by children’s services and who has had the child living with them for at least one year before applying for the special guardianship order
  • A grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling, stepparent who has had the child living with them for one year immediately before applying for the special guardianship order
  • A person who the child has lived with for at least 3 out of the last 5 years up until 3 months before making the application
  • A person who has the consent of:
    • Any person who has a child arrangements order saying the child should live with them (or a residence order)
    • Children’s services if the child is already in care under a care order
    • In any other case, the consent of each person who has parental responsibility (usually the parents, but may also include stepparents, guardians, children’s services)

If none of the above apply to you, you must seek the permission of the court before making an application.

If you would like to speak to Hampshire County Council about making a private SGO application, or would like to let us know of your intention to do so, please complete this form.

Local authority recommendation

If the local authority (in this case Hampshire County Council) is working with a family, they may ask birth parents if there are any family members or friends who could care for their child, if they cannot return to or remain in their parents’ care.

If you have been identified as someone who could take care of the child, and you’re willing to do so, the local authority must carry out an assessment. Following the assessment, the local authority may recommend that a Special Guardianship Order is granted.