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Sometimes there is a crisis in the family home and it is necessary for the children to be looked after by someone else, often a close friend or family member. In most cases, this is for a short period of time, in others a more permanent solution is needed. At this point, a Special Guardianship Order may be considered.
A special guardianship order (SGO) is a legal order appointing a carer – usually a relative – as the child’s ‘special guardian’ until they turn 18. They are often made when a child has been placed in the care of a close friend or family member due to their parents no longer being able to care for them. It is a more secure order than a residence order because a parent cannot apply to discharge it unless they have the permission of the court to do so, however it is less secure than an adoption order because it does not end the legal relationship between the child and his/her birth parents.
The ‘special guardian’ then shares parental responsibility for the child with the parents and can make major decisions about the child without having to consult them.
They can be a good option for children who can’t live with their parents, as it gives them a stable home and links to their birth family, but every case is different and there are many factors to consider.
Who can apply?
Any person over the age of 18 can apply for a SGO although they must fulfil criteria set in the Children Act 1989 to ensure that the placement is in the best interests of the child.