Special guardianship and alternative carers.
If you would like to become a carer for a child or children in your extended family or close friends who cannot stay with their parents, we’ll support you as you take the legal steps to make it possible.
It is essential that you follow the correct procedure to have the best foundations for building strong relationships for the future. Our solicitors will give you the clarity you need to understand your options and guide you over the hurdles you’ll need to pass.
Clear, practical and supportive advice
Becoming a kinship carer is a rewarding prospect. You have the opportunity to change the course of a child’s life for the better, giving them long-term security and a safe home, saving them potentially a childhood in foster care or the permanent separation of adoption. But it is crucial you know your rights and understand exactly what this means for you and your family. That is where we will help. Our broad range of legal expertise in special guardianship, kinship foster care, and other forms of legal framework means we can give you clear advice on your role, on potential support plans and representation through the process of getting the order, which can be complicated too.
One size doesn’t fit all for kinship care, and that’s because no two families or individuals are completely alike. For this reason, we follow a tailored approach, taking your situation and hopes for the future into consideration to lead you towards a solution that works for everyone. There are a number of options open to you, and we’ll give you clarity on how each one will affect you and the outcome we think is realistic given the circumstances.
We’ve successfully helped grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends of the family become special guardians and alternative carers. We do this by providing full and reliable advice, writing helpful position statements when the Local Authority supports you, and making compelling challenges to negative assessments when they do not. But we’re always honest and will tell you in plain English what you can expect from the outcome.
What is a special guardianship order?
Not to be confused with Children’s Guardians, a special guardianship order is a Court order under the Children Act 1989 for a child to live with and be cared for by an individual who is not their birth parent. This person will usually be a family member or friend who has been assessed by children’s social care as fit to look after the child. It provides an opportunity to avoid the child living with people they don’t know or being placed for adoption. In many cases, it also means the birth parents can have more contact with the child. There are a number of options, including wellbeing and financial support and different levels of contact with the birth parents, and we can help you see the full picture.
Being a special guardian
If you become a special guardian, you have parental responsibility for the child and the power to override the child’s own parents until that child reaches the age of 18. That means you will have to protect and maintain the child and make decisions for them, like where they go to school and agreeing to medical treatments. You can take the child outside the UK for a limited period without needing to get a court order. You may be able to get an allowance, which is means tested and helps cover the cost of the care you provide.
Being a special guardian can be very rewarding, but it is recommended you get legal advice to make sure you know how it will affect your life and which legal options are available to you.
Who can be a special guardian?
If you want to become a guardian of a child, you will probably have already been assessed by local authority children’s services. You don’t need to be a blood relative, but you will likely need permission from the court or local authority to apply, unless the child has lived with you for a certain amount of time. We have taken lots of clients through the assessment process and the hearing, taking away some of the stress and worry they understandably feel.
There are circumstances when special guardianship is not the right fit for your circumstances, and we advise aspiring family carers on the potential alternative options including caring as a kinship foster carer, a child arrangements order, and more.
What if the Local Authority does not believe I am suitable?
Many of our clients come to us with a positive assessment, for legal advice funded by the Local Authority. However, if you wish to challenge a negative assessment, then we have a track record of obtaining family placements for children in the face of opposition from the Local Authority, and legal aid may be available to fund the case.
Apply for a special guardianship
If you want to apply for a special guardianship order or another alternative carer arrangement, get in touch with our team for legal advice and guidance through the process. You can call Denise Herman on +44 (0) 1923 725 015, email at email@example.com or fill in our contact form.