New rules for special guardianship will come into force later this month.
This alternative to adoption provides secure placements for children unable to live with their parents and is most often used to enable the youngsters to live with extended family members or friends instead. Unlike adoption, children living in special guardianship placements maintain a legal link to their birth parents.
But adoption advocates have claimed that the assessment of potential carers is often rushed and mainly driven by a desire to offer the family courts an option for vulnerable children less drastic than adoption. The number of children placed with special guardians has risen by a steep 190 per cent since 2010, Community Care reports.
In December the government announced plans to strengthen the assessment process undertaken by social workers to try and ensure a potential special guardian is genuinely capable of looking after the child and meeting their current and future needs. Some candidates for special guardianship will have suffered psychological and emotional harm as a result of their experiences with their parents and under the new guidelines this possibility must also be taken into consideration.