The number of children being made subject to special guardianship orders in England has tripled in two years, according to data obtained by the BBC – the news article can be read in full via http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32840224
A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) is a court order whereby a child is placed with extended family, friends or foster parents until they reach 18 instead as an alternative to being adopted or placed into long term foster care.
Figures obtained more recently show that in particular the number of children made subject to a SGO rose from 160 in 2012 to 520 in 2014, while most of the children are aged four or under.
This is against a background whereby the number of children placed for adoption has been falling; unreleased figures, cited by the Independent newspaper on 14 May 2015, show the rate of adoptions fell from 1,550 in the summer of 2013 to 780 in the summer of 2014, so by a factor of almost 50%.
The Department for Education says it is reviewing the situation, but a spokeswoman said that SGO’s were effective in many circumstances.
Special guardianship is a long-term placement and is a direct alternative to adoption or care for children whose parents are said to have neglected or abused them or caused to them significant harm in some manner.
Groups concerned with families have welcomed the fact more children can live safely with relatives or friends, but some family charities have expressed fears special guardianship is being used inappropriately and where the more complex and costly adoption route would provide greater stability and a permanent home.
Andy Elvin, chief executive of fostering and adoption charity TACT, said children living within extended family “is a good thing” but he said there were concerns over whether SGO assessments (required before any such order can be made) were detailed enough, saying some family members may not be close to the child before the process begins. He also raised concerns about the level of “post-placement” support and how in some instances this is not as high as it was after adoption.
Cathy Ashley, chief executive of justice charity Family Rights Group, said there was evidence that being placed with extended family was beneficial for the child, but is concerned that it “isn’t right that there isn’t parity of support” for the carer with the benefit of the SGO
The British Association for Adoption and Fostering told the BBC that recent court rulings have reminded local councils’ of the need to consider all available options, such as placing children within the as an alternative to the last resort of adoption.
The Department for Education said: “Councils have told us the way they use SGOs has evolved over the 10 years since their introduction, including a rise in orders for younger children in more recent years. “That is why we are taking the opportunity to ensure SGOs are only used in the right circumstances, as well as reviewing the existing good practice and support available for special guardians. We will report back in due course.”
If you are presently being asked to care for a child or children or are currently being assessed as a potential long term carer for a child and a SGO is being considered, at Kyles Legal Practice we may be able to help. Our family lawyers are willing, able and qualified to assist in helping your voice be heard and in appropriate cases ensuring then that your views are made known about to family and local authorities. In appropriate cases, we can secure legal aid funding and apply for you to be joined as a party to the case should proceedings be on-going.
At Kyles Legal Practice we offer free and confidential initial appointments to potential clients and so should you require legal advice and help upon the making of a SGO then in the first instance please do not hesitate to contact our head office on 0191 257 1051 or alternative email directly AndrewWraith@kyleslegalpractice.co.uk and make an appointment without delay.
Childrens Services, Family Law