Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs)

A grandma wraps her arms around her grandson. They are sitting on the sofa and smiling into the camera

What is a special guardian?

A special guardian is someone with long-term, legal responsibility for a child they already have a relationship with. It's an important, often rewarding role that provides a stable home life for a child to grow and develop.

How special guardianship works

A special guardianship order (SGO) can be the best option for a child when they are not able to live with their birth parents.  Only the Family Court can grant an SGO.

The process of becoming a special guardian includes an application and assessment, which the Trust can help you with as your local authority. The Family Court will then look at your suitability and the child's needs before deciding on making the order.

If you are granted an SGO, the child will permanently live with you. You will have parental responsibility until the child is 18 years old, so it's a long-term commitment.

What a special guardian does

As a special guardian, you are responsible for making all day-to-day decisions about the child’s care. You only need to consult their birth parents on significant decisions, such as changing their name, placing them for adoption or moving to another country.

Becoming a guardian is a life-changing event. It maybe you have never been a parent before or that your own children are now adults. On top of that, the child will have been through difficult experiences, which will likely bring added challenges for you both.

The good news is we can help you with all of this. Being a special guardian is about providing a safe, positive environment for the child to grow up in. You don't have to do it alone. Our team are here to support both you and your family.

Becoming a Special Guardian

Who can apply to be a Special Guardian?

You and anyone you’re applying with can apply if:

  • you’re already the child’s legal guardian
  • the child lives with you because of a child arrangements order
  • the child has lived with you for 3 of the past 5 years
  • you’re the child’s relative or a foster parent, and the child has been living with you for at least 1 year
  • you have the agreement of anyone named in a child arrangements order as someone who the child will live with
  • you have the agreement of all the people with parental responsibility for the child
  • you have the agreement of the local council, if the child is in care

If you do not fit one of these descriptions, you’ll need to ask the court’s permission to apply.


How assessment works

The family court will decide whether a person should become a special guardian or not.

You will undertake an assessment where you share information about yourself and how you would care for the child to help the court make its decision.

It's important that the court understand the child's story, including details about their family life and personal development. If the child is old enough, they will also want to know how they feel about the future and where they want to live.

Of course, the court will need information about you too. Before granting a special guardianship order (SGO), the court needs to make sure you can meet the child’s specific needs and support them into adulthood.

Assessment usually takes around 12 weeks though every child and family have their own specific circumstances. Someone in our Family and Friends Assessment Team will be there to support you from start to finish. You can ask them questions and share how you are feeling throughout.

The assessment process is a great time to work out if you and the child are likely to benefit from any support that we can help with in the future if an order is granted. This can include things like specialist therapies, support with schooling, and training on new skills amongst others.  If additional support is identified during the assessment the SGO support team may also become involved.