Special guardianship

Special guardianship is a legal option intended to provide permanence for children where adoption is not appropriate.

Special guardianship is a way of providing parental responsibility for that child. Unlike adoption, the parents are still legally the child's parents but their parental responsibility is extremely limited.

The intention is for the special guardian to have clear responsibility for all day to day decisions about caring for the child or young person and for taking any other decisions about their upbringing, like their education, without needing to consult the birth parents in all but a few circumstances.

Benefits for the child

  • a form of stability without legally separating the child from their parents
  • the chance to build a firm foundation for a lifelong permanent relationship
  • the opportunity to remain within their extended family network

Who can apply to be a special guardian

  • must be 18 years old or older
  • a family member or friend
  • unrelated foster carers
  • anyone who already has a residence order for the child
  • anyone who is already a testamentary guardian for the child
  • special guardians do not need to be married
  • birth parents cannot become special guardians
  • a local authority cannot apply for special guardianship

Page last updated: 31 August 2017