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Special Guardianship Order

Kinship care means that relatives or friends look after children who cannot live with their parents.

Kinship care may include people who are not related to the child but who are still in the child’s social network. For example, someone the child knows well and trusts; a good 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 called connected persons.

Kinship care can be a private arrangement or formalised through a legal order.

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  • 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.
  • 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 have legal responsibility for a child and place them with a family member or friend who is a foster carer for that child.


A special guardianship order is an order appointing one or more individuals to be a child's 'special guardian'. 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 who would benefit from a legally secure placement.

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 following people may apply to be special guardians:

  • Any guardian of the child.
  • Any individual who has a residence order or any person where a residence order is in force and who has the consent of the person in whose favour the residence order is made.
  • 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 leave of the court.


This order discharges any existing care order or related section 34 Contact Order. It confers parental responsibility, which can be exercised to the exclusion of any other person with parental responsibility apart from another special guardian. The special guardian has responsibility for day to day decisions relating to a child's care and upbringing. This order allows a special guardian to remove a child from the UK for up to three months without consent of others with Parental Responsibility or the leave of the court. The court can give permission for the child to be taken out of the jurisdiction for longer than three months. On making a special guardianship order, the court may give leave for the child to be known by a new surname.

Contact Us

Call our Child Care Helpline on 01924 431 774 or email to book a free information session at any of our offices.

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