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Adoption and Children Act 2002

Special Guardianship

18.The Government promised in the White Paper to develop a new legal option called ‘special guardianship’. This is intended to meet the needs of children for whom adoption is not appropriate, but who cannot return to their birth parents and could benefit from the permanence provided by a legally secure family placement. For example, some older children (who may, for instance, be being looked after in long term foster placements) do not wish to be adopted and have their legal relationship with their parents severed, but could benefit from greater security and permanence. Adoption may also not be the best option for some children being cared for on a permanent basis by members of their wider family. Some ethnic minority communities have religious or cultural difficulties with adoption in the form provided for in the law of England and Wales.

19.The Act amends the Children Act 1989 to provide for the new special guardianship order. It sets out who may apply for an order, the circumstances in which orders may be made and their nature and effect.  The intention is that, in order to provide the child with the stability he needs, the special guardian has clear responsibility for all the day to day decisions about caring for the child or young person and for taking the decisions about his upbringing. But, unlike adoption, there is the possibility of discharge or variation of the order, and the child’s legal relationship with his birth parents is not severed. They remain legally the child’s parents, though their ability to exercise their parental responsibility is limited. Special guardians will have access to a range of support services under procedures similar to those provided for adoption support.

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