They provide children who cannot live with their birth parents a legally secure placement. Parents are unable to discharge it without the permission of the court, but, unlike adoption, it does not end the legal relationship of the children with their birth parent(s). The order gives the special guardian responsibility for the child’s care and upbringing in day to day decisions.
Research conducted by Jim Wade on children under Special Guardianship between 2006 and 2011 found that for many children in this period the process provided little disruption and could be important in leading to permanence in their lives. However, there could be little support for some families or children when facing difficulties often related to abuse or neglect of children in previous situations.
The number of babies being made subject to special guardianship orders in England has tripled in two years and Andy Elvin, chief executive of fostering and adoption charity TACT, said children living with extended family "is a good thing".
“TACT welcomes the fact that more children and young people are finding permanence through Special Guardianship Orders,” he added.
“TACT is committed to finding the best permanence options for children and young people. We are concerned that insufficient post placement support is available for some children in special guardianship placements.
“Children find permanency through foster care, extended family, adoption, residential care and returning to birth parents. We call on the Department for Education to urgently look at establishing a permanency support fund and not focus on supporting one route to permanency above any other”
Special Guardianships are now being used for progressively younger children, and there have also been concerns that the system is not robust enough. This has helped spark a governmental consultation about the changes, which will be considered in discussions over future changes to the law and guidance.
The consultation invites local authorities, children and young people, Special Guardians and others to provide their opinions. The review will be overseen by an Expert Advisory Group, including local authority, practitioners and representative organisations. Views are invited on: the assessment process, advice and support for special guardians, examples of best practice and how the use of special guardianship has changed since it was first introduced. The deadline for responses is 18 September 2015 - you can give your views at www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/446131/Special_guardianship_review_consultation_.pdf.