Special guardianship

Special guardianship is a court order which allows parental control over a child by individuals other than the parent.

Last updated: 10 October 2023

Next review: 10 October 2024

Special guardianship is a court order which allows parental control over a child by individuals other than the parent. They are usually made to members of the extended birth family or other significant people, such as a child’s long term foster carer.

A special guardianship order is needed when a child cannot remain in the care of their birth parent/s. It gives the child permanent legal security with the family that has parental responsibility. It strikes a balance between their need for a safe, stable, caring home throughout their childhood and maintaining strong links with their parents.

Parental responsibility

Parental responsibility is usually with birth parents. However, the special guardianship order also gives parental responsibility to the special guardian for the child.

This means that the special guardian shares parental responsibility with the child’s parents but is able to make all the decisions relating to the child and their day to day life without consulting the birth parents. This includes where the child will live or where they will go to school.

You can become a special guardian (kinship carer/family and friends carer) if:

  • the child is known to the local authority and you have been identified by the child’s parents as a possible carer for the child. You will need to be assessed on your ability to meet the long term needs of the child.
  • you are the child’s grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother or sister (including by half blood or civil partnership) or step parent and the child has lived with you for a year – you must be over 18 years old.
  • you are a local authority foster carer who has had the child placed with you for at least a year.
  • the child has been living with you for three out of the last five years.

Special Guardian support group

The group is for special guardians primarily living within the borough of Waltham Forest. We welcome prospective special guardians who are currently going through the assessment process.

The group meets every other month for two hours at a local venue.

The group is facilitated by two adoption and special guardian support social workers.

The group offers:

  • mutual support and a space to discuss common issues and matters of interest
  • guest speakers and workshops on topics identified by the group, such as
    your child’s contact with family and friends, understanding your child’s life-story, welfare and benefits advice
  • information and signposting to other appropriate services depending upon your need

If you are interested in joining, please let us know using the contact information below.

London Borough of Waltham Forest

Forest Road,
E17 4SU

Government funded early education

Two year old children adopted from local authority care or who left care under a special guardianship (SG) order, or child arrangements (CA) order (formally known as a residence order), will be entitled to 570 hours a year of free government funded early education. It’s usually taken as 15 hours over 38 weeks of the year.

Only child arrangement orders relating to their living arrangements immediately after they leave local authority care are eligible for free early education. Child Arrangements Orders in relation to other matters, such as contact, do not qualify.

There is strong evidence to show that good quality early education at the age of two supports children’s development. If you are a parent of an eligible child and you would like to take up the offer of a free place, please call the family information service on 020 8496 3000.

To find out more about becoming a special guardian, please call the special guardianship team on 020 8496 1592.