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A Special Guardianship order is a private law order made under the Children Act 1989, for a child to live with an appointed ‘special guardian’ until they are 18. 

A Special Guardianship order is unlike adoption, in that it is not a lifelong order and it does not legally end the child’s relationship with their birth family. However, it is a very powerful, long-term order that gives the carer/special guardian a 51% share of parental responsibility meaning they have the final say on decisions about the child’s upbringing if a conflict arises between them and others who retain parental responsibility for the child. 

Special Guardianship orders will often be made at the end of care proceedings as an alternative to the child being placed into the care of children’s services. This means that the child and their special guardian will not get the same support that a fostering arrangement would provide; however the local authority is required to produce a special guardianship support plan which should set out what support, including financial support the special guardian is entitled to. In care proceedings the Child’s Guardian will want to make sure that everyone clearly understands the proposals under any support plan and that they are adequate to meet the child’s needs and ensure the special guardian/s are well supported in other ways to care for the child right through to adulthood. 

The Children’s Guardian will want to see what checks children’s services have done on the proposed special guardian and will want to see the child with the special guardian before approving a care plan for special guardianship. It is important that the Guardian shares the child’s wishes and feelings with the court (if the child is old enough to express them). For a lot of children, special guardianship can be an incredibly positive way of making sure they have a stable, long-term living arrangement without completely removing links to their birth parents.