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Special Guardianship Orders

Kinship care through a Special Guardianship Order allows relatives or friends to look after children who cannot live with their parents.

People who are not directly related to the child but who are still in the child’s social network may also be eligible to become kinship carers. For example, someone the child knows well and trusts; a neighbour, a parent of a school friend or a close family friend. Sometimes this type of care is called family and friends care because this more accurately describes what it is, and kinship foster carers are sometimes referred to as connected persons.

Click on the navigation on the right-hand side for more information on the services we provide, or contact us and we will be able to assess your situation and discuss your options. Call us on 01924 431 774, email us at or fill out an online contact form, and we will return your contact at a time convenient for you.


A Special Guardianship Order appoints one or more individuals to be a child's Special Guardian, also known as a kinship, foster or family and friends carer. It is a private law order made under the Children Act 1989 and is intended for those children who cannot live with their birth parents and would benefit from a legally secure placement.

Special Guardianship Orders are more secure than Child Arrangements Orders and have a real impact on the exercise of parental responsibility, including in relation to taking children outside the jurisdiction. The impact on birth parents’ rights becomes far more significant if the carer/s later seek to adopt the child/ren following a significant period of Special Guardianship. It is, therefore, important that legal advice is sought regarding the impact on all parties’ rights prior to making any decision whether to apply for, support or oppose such an order.

Most importantly, Special Guardianship Orders provide the carer or carers for a child with “enhanced” parental responsibility rights, which can override the rights of another person including a parent with parental responsibility (except another special guardian) and in relation to a child’s care, upbringing and other important issues, for example, in relation to the child’s health and education.


Kinship care can be a private arrangement or formalised through a legal order. Which method you should use will depend on your situation and that of the child.

  • Private arrangement - this is an informal arrangement where a child is looked after by individuals other than the parent, such as a grandparent or a close relative. No legal agreements have been undertaken, therefore the new carers are liable for any issues that arise and could face legal consequences.
  • Private fostering - this is when a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) is cared for by someone who is not their parent or a 'close relative'. This is a private arrangement made between a parent and a carer, for 28 days or more. Close relatives are defined as step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts (whether of full blood, half blood or marriage/affinity).
  • Kinship Fostering - this is an arrangement whereby the local authority has legal responsibility for a child and places them with a family member or friend who is a foster carer for that child.


The following people may apply to be special guardians:

  • Any guardian of the child.
  • Any individual who has a Child Arrangements Order in their favour and for the child to live with them.
  • Anyone with whom the child has lived for at least three years out of the last five years.
  • Anyone with the consent of the local authority if the child is in care.
  • A local authority foster parent with whom the child has lived for at least one year preceding the application.
  • Anyone who has the consent of those with parental responsibility.
  • Anyone who has the permission of the court.


Special Guardianship may be sought in situations whereby a child/ren’s needs require stability and security within their current placement, and where to do so, carer/s need to be able to make both day-to-day and important decisions on their behalf. Should you wish to consider making such an application, our expert lawyers are on hand to advise and support you through the process.


How much does a special guardianship order cost?

To find out about our service fees, contact us - we will discuss your situation and provide you with an estimate. We offer a free initial appointment to assess your eligibility and in many cases, it is possible to get free legal aid. Alternatively, it might be possible to get help with legal costs and/or the court application from the Local Authority (children/social services) if Special Guardianship is a realistic option within existing care proceedings.

We will provide you with advice on funding options and legal aid when you contact us.

When does a special guardianship order end?

The limitations introduced by Special Guardianship will end when the child turns 18 years old. At this point, they will be legally responsible for their own actions and can decide how to communicate with their parents.

Alternatively, the authority of family and friends carers can be ended before the child turns 18 if they successfully apply to the court to do so. This will end any Special Guardianship limitations set by that order.

What section is special guardianship order covered under the Children Act 1989?

Special guardianship orders are covered by section 14 of the Children Act 1989.

How much is kinship care allowance?

The amount of the kinship care allowance that a foster carer (or special guardian) will receive for their care may depend on their needs and those of the child.

Please note that an allowance can be payable by the local authority to a Special Guardian; however, the rates and allowances paid can vary and depend on each person’s individual circumstances and can be subject to a periodic means-tested review. The payment and duration of any allowances paid varies from each local authority.

How long does it take to get kinship care?

If a child's previous carers are no longer able to look after them, this may be reason enough to place a child into kinship care straight away. However, if it is a question of suitability, child services will need to conduct an assessment to find the right solution for the child.

What is a kinship care assessment?

When a child is placed into care, a kinship care assessment will be conducted to determine the suitability for their care. This assessment will typically take 16 weeks, and will involve regular visits from the social workers to ensure that the child is safe and is having their needs met.

Contact Us

Call our Child Law Helpline on 01924 431 774 or email to book a free information session at any of our offices. Alternatively, fill out an online enquiry form and we will return your call.

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