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Special guardianship is where you take on the responsibility of caring for a child until they are 18 years of age. It gives you parental responsibility (PR) for the child over and above that of the parents. In essence you have 51% PR and the parents retain 49%, however, as the child resides with you, if the parents do not agree then you can overrule them.
A special guardianship order (SGO) is less severe than adoption as the child retains a link to the child but more substantial than a residence order as with a residence order you share parental responsibility for the child with the parents.
Any person can apply for a SGO as long as they are not the parent to the child. i.e:
• Any guardian of the child
• A local authority foster carer with whom the child has lived for at least one year immediately preceding the application
• Anyone who holds a residence order with respect to the child, or who has the consent of all those in whose favour a residence order is in force
• Anyone with whom the child has lived for three out of the last five years
• Where the child is in the care of a local authority, any person who has the consent of the local authority
• Anyone who has the consent of all those with parental responsibility for the child
• A relative with whom the child has resided with for over a year
• Any person, including the child, who has the leave of the court to apply
Whilst you have PR over and above that of the parents, you cannot:-
• Change the child’s name
• Remove them from the country for more than 3 months
• Agree for the child to be adopted
A special guardianship order is usually most appropriate when the parents have significant problems of their own and are unlikely to agree with decisions about the upbringing of the child and that the child is unlikely to be returned to the care of the parents.
If a special guardianship order is made by the court then, in order for the parents to have the child returned, they will need to show that significant changes have taken place in their lives since the order was made before the court will even consider changing the placement of the child.
The local authority can offer assistance both practical and financial under a special guardianship order if they feel it is appropriate.