anyone know anything about special guardianship?

(15 Posts)
madmomma Tue 20-Sep-11 23:31:37

Can't disclose too much for obv reasons, but if someone were seeking special guardianship of a foster child, and it had been established that granting the SG was in the best interests of the child, and it was only objected to on the grounds that the carer wanted help facilitating contact, would a judge consider ordering a LA to put some ongoing support in place for the special guardian? I know normally the SG would handle all contact arrangements and the LA would be completely uninvolved, but there are problems with this due to the parent's severe mental health problems. Sorry it's such an involved question.

ChooChooWowWow Thu 22-Sep-11 13:39:09

I have been asked to consider a SG for my two foster dc. The LA would still be organising contact if we go ahead because of issues of extreme violence from the parents at previous contacts. I also know of two other families with SGs in place where the LA organises and supervises the contact. One of my dc is adopted and has direct contact with one parent. The LA used to organise supervision for that, although we do it now .
So it is possible. Is it the LA who are objecting?. If so that really surprises me as ours will move mountains to support carers taking out SGs if only because it saves them so much money.

madmomma Thu 22-Sep-11 15:45:19

That's helpful to know choochoo; thanks. Yes the LA think SG means they get to completely duck out altogether. The foster carer has had such a terrible time with the Mother - as she used to be part of the family, that she would find having to deal with her when she's unwell very traumatic and stressful. They don't want to handle the Mother because she's very demanding. I'm not sure that the SG would save the LA money: The foster carer would get the same amount of money; just in a different way.

If the child has previously been on a 'child in need' or CP plan, the awarding a SGO doesn't change that, it is the whole plan that decides who is responsible for overseeing contact.

The birth parent will still be assessed unless things have changed dramatically. It is individual, as there is so much scope in CP/CIN but unless a child is adopted and contact to be by letterbox only, then the LA should not be 'bowing out' of the process.

MurunBuchstansangur Sat 24-Sep-11 16:27:24

IME the LA did supervise contact under special guardianship. Eventually the court ordered no more contact.

madmomma Sat 24-Sep-11 19:17:29

very encouraging. Thanks v much

NanaNina Tue 27-Sep-11 00:23:00

Have had 25 years experience of sw and tm mgr in children's services for a LA. Also had 5 years experience working independently and assessing people for SGOs.

The issue of contact has to be addressed by the assessing social worker. They have to ask the birth parents for their views on frequency of contact etc. and the prospective SGs. Contact has to be (as I'm sure you all know) based on the best interests of the child and much depends on the age of the child and how long they have lived with birth family etc. The assessing sw has to make a recommendation in her SGO report to the court on the frequency of contact (most judges like it to be x 6 per year or quarterly) and where it is to take place.

The assessing sw also has to complete an assessment of any needs that the SGs may have in the present or the future (including financial needs) and judges will not hear SGO hearings unless the assessment of need is completed.

HoweverI am surprised to hear some of you say that LAs will facilitate contact after the SGO has been made, as they no longer have Parental Responsibility for the child, as this is transferred to the holders of the SGO. It is possible to ask for a 1 year Supervision Order attached to a SGO and I am wondering if they are facilitating contact under the terms of the Supervision Order for 1 year. Most of the assessments I undertook the SGs were left to sort out contact for themselves, though the judge always makes an order on frequency.

Madmomma - I am a little concerned that you say the LA will not save money as the SGs will get the same as the foster carer just in a different way. I may have misunderstood you but whereas fostering allowances are mandatory, finance for SG is not. The SGO Regs state that if a child has been looked after by the LA (which is almost always the case) then the LA must continue to pay allowances for 2 years. IME this isn't made clear to the prospective SGs and they have been led to believe in many cases that they will continue to get the same as fostering allowances and this is not so. The only thing is that in the Regs it does state that no SG placement should break down for financial reasons.

I think LAs do quite rightly perceive that they will "bow out" following the making of an order unless they have asked and been granted a 1 year Supervision Order. They have no mandate to be involved as they do not hold PR.

Birdsgotafly - I don't understand your post. By definition all children will have been subject to a CP plan as they have all been removed from birthparents for one reason or another. I don't know what you mean "that it is the whole plan that decides who is responsible for overseeing contact" and this is not the case. You say SG doesn't change anything but it fundamentally changes things. The birth parents will have been assessed and will have been found unfit to keep their child/ren safe from suffering significant harm, and the LA will be going to court for an Order to safeguard the child's future. If the child is to be fostered, then the LA will be requesting a Care Order, if adoption is the plan, then the LA will be requesting a Placement Order, and in some cases there will be agreement between the LA that a SGO is the best way to protect the child's future and then the specific SG report will be made available to the Judge who will then decide which Order he/she will make. As I said above the issue of contact has to be addressed by the assessing social worker and made clear in the SG report (which is extremely comprehensive)

I find you second para very muddled as you state that "unless a child is adopted and having contact via the Letter Box" than the LA should not bow out. IF a child is adopted and having contact via the Letter Box then the LA do bow out. The only way they can be involved is if the adoptors ask for post-adoption support, and it is contained in the Adoption Regs that post adoption must be made available.

SGO take the PR away from the LA and transfers it to the SGs. The birth family have very limited PR (the SGs cannot change the child's surname without their consent, cannot take the child out of the country for more than 3 months without their consent and cannot apply for an Adoption Order without their consent) Other than that the PR is invested in the SGs. At the risk of repeating myself, LAs have every right to "bow out" as they no longer have PR - they can be involved in facilitating contact (and I think this is only if there is a Supervision Order attached to the SGO) but I may be wrong.

Sorry to have gone on so long but I have found that many sws don't really ensure that foster carers who are considering SGOs fully understand the differences between being carers and SGs. It is in the interest of the LA to encourage carers to apply for SGOs because the case can be closed as they have no mandate to be further involved, other than under the terms of a Supervision Order. However from some of the posts, some sws seem to be overseeing contact after the Order has been made. I think anyone considering an SGO should really make sure that they know the difference, especially in relation to finance. I assessed one family where the sw had told her that she would get the same as the fostering allowance without saying that this is only for 2 years. When I queried this with the sw she said the family would definitely get the same as fostering allowances, as did her manager. I had to go through the Regs with them before they understood that it would only be for 2 years.

The assessing sw should give anyone considering SG (and the LA are in agreement, which is a pre-requisite) a booklet explaining what it means to the applicants of the SGO.

Not sure if this has helped or confused you Madmomma!! Feel free to PM me if necessary and I will do my best to help

madmomma Tue 27-Sep-11 19:19:00

Gosh that is different to what the potential SG has been told (although I'm sure she'll still go for it). I'll pass on all the info, and I really appreciate you taking the time to post here. May well PM you soon Nananina; thanks for the offer.

fostermumtomany Fri 30-Sep-11 02:31:28

nananina is spot on again!
our last lo was originally recommended by the sw to be placed on a sgo and the new parents were requesting adoption, the sw would not recommend that so they went down the route of sg. they were told they would receive financial assitance but this would not be anywhere near the fostering rates, they were told they would recieve a maximum of 15% of the fa. they were also told that contact would be down to them as they would hold majority pr and birth parents would retain a small percentage, it was put to them in a 85%-15% ratio, and as such the ss would have no pr and have no part in facilitating contact.
as it turns out the childs guardian decided that adoption would be the best for the child and the judge agreed. now the judge also ordered that contact be maintained as the lo had a sister living with maternal grandparents, so contact was arranged for new parents to facilitate contact at their house once every six weeks, they were not happy with that and requested a contact centre instead, the judge agreed and it was put in place. the contact was to be supervised by a worker in the centre. whilst ss were told to make arrangements, they were also told that once arrangements were in place, they were to 'bow out' and leave all future arrangements to the adopters. it has worked well.
with regards to sg, would you not prefer a residency order or are you seeking sg?

nananina, do you know how long sg has been around for as my mum was asking, she has my neice on a ro and shares pr 50/50 with my brother, however he is proving to be (for want of a better word) a bit of an ass and his daughter (now 15) does not wish to see him anymore and has felt this way for several years, he wont accept this and keeps harping on about how he is allowed to cos he has 50% pr blah blah blah, so my mum would like to look into sg but had never heard of it until i mentioned it, she wondered whether it was around back in 1996 and if so why they were not offered this option. could you answer that for me so i can tell her and also (sorry i know im a pain and have totally hijacked the op) is it possible to change from a ro to a sgo?
thanks and sorry madmomma for hijacking but you never know the answer nananina gives might come in handy for you as well at some point!
(hope you dont think im being rude asking q's on your post!

NanaNina Sat 01-Oct-11 20:00:59

SGOs are relatively new legislation and came into effect in Jan 2006. To be honest given that the girl in question here is 15, I don't think social workers are going to agree to an application from your mum for a SGO and she would need their agreement. I don't think it's appropriate either, because I can't see how it would change things. Your brother would still be awarded contact to his daughter and by the time this all went to court the girl would be more than likely 16 or older. I am not 100% sure (so check this out) but I think ROs end at 16 anyway.

I think that given a couple of years (or less) the girl herself is going to be able to tell her father that she doesn't want to see him, or always have something on when he wants to see her. This is what usually happens, and there will be nothing your brother can do about it. No court is going to make a Contact Order for a girl of 16, even though legally she is minor until 18.

Just a quick word on the difference between ROs and SGOs - both are routes to permanency and LAs like ROs better because there is less work involved in the assessment and if the order is granted they can then close the case - and the holders of the RO are left to sort out contact etc. Allowances are discretionary and can be reduced or stopped at any time.

SGOs involve a very comprehensive assessment but more importantly the LA has to carry out an assessment of need of the applicants (including financial assistance) and no judge will hear an SGO without the assessment of need. Also there is the possibility of attaching a Supervision Order for 1 year to an SGO to ensure things like contact are sorted out. I have made the point that LAs only have a duty to pay allowances for a child previously looked after for 2 years but it does state in the Regs that "no SG placement should break down for financial reasons" which I think is really important. Because the legislation is relatively new I don't know of any precedent that has been set regarding payments beyond 2 years. I'm sure if you contact Fostering Networks or British Agencies for Fostering & Adoption (BAAF) they will know. You can get the details via google.

Hope that helps.

madmomma Sat 01-Oct-11 20:33:50

No worries at all fostermum x

jillybabes Mon 25-Mar-13 21:26:49

Need advice urgently .. My Grandchildren have been in LA care for a year and are finally coming to live with us Good Friday. We have just about completed our Foster Care assessment the court Gaurdian asked for with a view to becoming SGO`s on final court orders in July .
I have had to give up 3 days work to accomodate childcare along with my partner with a substancial loss of earnings and have been told we would get a Foster Care allowance starting from when the children come to us, so in terms we wouldn`t be any worse off . We have had no indepth information to help us understand the differences of FC or SGO and feel extremely confused and stressed by it all .
1. Would we be more financially secure long term as FC or SGO`s ?
2. How long are the payments made for ?
3. Do we qualify for Legal Aid for a family solicitor to help with our concearns , we need advice ?
4. The children will be here Good Friday and we still have`nt got a school place for them as the LEA here in Linccolnshire say they are over subscribed at the prefered choice of school even though it would be beneficial to the children being able to attend as LAC, and the childrens LA at the moment is in West Yorkshire .
We would appreciate any advice .. Thanx

NanaNina Thu 04-Apr-13 21:07:52

Only just picked this up JB - just want to check I have this right. From what you say you were assessed as kinship carers for yr gr/chdrn on a permanent basis. You say you have "just about finished the assessment" - does this mean that you have not yet been approved by the LA Fostering Panel. Can I ask the ages of the children. What you have been told about fostering allowances is quite correct. LAs have different rules about paying kinship carers (as gr/prts this is what you are of course) However they have a duty to pay you a Fostering Allowance for the day to day care of the children. Non kinship carers get a "fee" on top of the allowance in most cases.

Each child in the care system has to have a care plan and I am assuming that the LA care plan is for the children to be fostered by you on a permanent basis. It seems you have been thrown into a panic by the guardian mentioning SGO, but please try not to get too stressed about this. You may have the information that you need by now, but in case you haven't I will outline the difference between FC and SGO.

Permanent FC means that the children will live with you on a permanent basis, but the Parental Responsibility (PR) for the children will remain with the LA. There will be 6 monthly reviews by the LA to ensure all is well, and if you are in need of support/advice the LA fostering sw should be able to assist. The allowances (though possibly less than non-kinship carers) is mandatory i.e. it has to be paid and cannot be changed or stopped. These allowances continue until the children are 18.

SGO means that the children live with you on a permanent basis and the PR is granted to you. You will not have any further contact with the LA (although sometimes a 1 year Supervision Order can be attached to an SGO) to ensure things like contact are sorted out. However after this you are on your own, and will not be able to call upon the help of the LA as you would with fostering. Finances: As far as I am aware the LA only have to pay SGO allowances for 2 years, and after theat they cease. However there is a clause in the SGO Regs that says "no placement should break down for financial reasons" BUT you would have to issue judicial review proceedings if the LA did not pay and you needed the money. As legal aid won't be available you would have to pay any solicitors costs yourselves.
NB do check this out about funding under SGOs because I have heard that LAs are having to agree to pay the allowances under SGOs the same as they do with FCs but to be honest I don't think this is the case.

To answer your Qs - you would be more secure financially being approved as permanent kinship carers (as explained above)

As already stated payments would continue till children 18 so long as their permanent home remained with you.

Re: legal advice. Legal aid is not going to be available for cases like yours, but I don't know when that comes in - could be in already or very soon. However I don't think you need legal advice, and I will explain why below

Re: school placements: The placing LA should have sorted this out because the children are in their care. Sorry but all I can advise is that you press the LA to assist you in finding school placements in schools that are as near to your home as possible. It's difficult because I don't know the ages of the children.

The important thing that must know is that the you as the grandprts of the children decide whether you want to care for them on the basis of permanent fostering or an SGO. The LA sometimes gives carers the impression that it is them (the LA) who apply for the SGO but it isn't. You are the ones that have to apply to do this IF that is what you want to do. You don't really need a solicitor to do this. You have to write to the LA giving them 3 months notice of your intention toapply for an SGO, and after that if the LA are in agreement, they will carry out the comprehensive assessment. The only reason people in this situation need a solicitor is if they want an SGO and the LA don't agree.

The guardian was probably just "floating" the issue to see how you felt about it. She/he should however have explained fully the differences between FC and SGO to you.

SO please don't be distressed. The important thing is that you are giving your grandchildren a stable loving home. Don't let the guardian or the LA "bully" you into applying for a SGO unless that is what you want. Sorry "bully" is a bit srong, but I have seen it done. They will say (with some justification) that children should not spend the majority of their lives in the care system but what they don't say is that it is much cheaper for them, because they can close the case and save on social work time, allowances and support for yourselves.

My advice, given what you have said is to stick to permanent foster care. There will be nothing to stop you applying for an SGO in the future if this is what you think will be best. If you decide you want to foster you will be approved by the LA fostering panel (and yes they might ask about SGO) but stick to your guns. Then at the final hearing in JUly the LA will ask the Judge to make a Care Order on the children with a plan of permanent kinship foster care. You won't need to attend the hearing.

IF you decide to go the SGO route, the assessment will form part of the documents that the judge will see at the final hearing in July. If he/she agrees that you are suitable (and they almost always go along with the sw's recommendation) he will an SGO in your favour.

Finally, there are sites you can go on for info - British Agencies for Fostering & Adoption (BAAF) or Fostering Network. However I think it is the duty of the children's social worker to explain the difference to you. It isn't fair to put you into this position.

Hope that helps. Happy to help further if necessary

jillybabes Fri 05-Apr-13 21:47:42

Hi and thanks NanaNina for your reply and help with our concerns . It has given us much to think about and made the various roles (FC or SGO ) a lilttle easier to understand. We have a lady from the fostering team coming to see us next Friday and because of your reply we will be able to ask more questions and hopefully get our head round all that it entails . The children are 6yrs , 3yrs and 2yrs and as of today Friday 05 April , we still have no school or nursery for the two eldest to go to after the Easter hols . We have spoken to the children's solicitor and the court guardian in this respect and have been told to leave this with them so fingers crossed ...

NanaNina Sat 06-Apr-13 18:56:03

Hi JB - Coo these children are very young and you are going to have your hands full! Given that they are so young, I suspect that the LA may well be encouraging you to apply for SGOs. Although you say you have been assessed as foster carers. The assessment for SGO is different from the fostering one. I think you need to be clear what exactly they have assessed you for, and you can talk this over next week with the fostering sw. I am wondering if they have assessed you as short term carers, so that they can place the children with you.

It is really the job of the children's social worker (not the guardian or solicitor) to sort out the school and nursery places. Ideally this should have been done before the children were placed and should be done jointly with the sw and yourself. Is there any way you can find out about nurseries. The 3 year old will be entitled to 2.5 hours per day without any cost won't she.

The other complication is that the children are being moved a significant distance from the placing Authority in W. Yorkshire, to you in Lincolnshire. Sometimes in these cases the authority where the child is living will agree to take over the case, and offer support and advice under the terms of the Fostering Regulations. However most LAs aren't keen on this at all, as they have enough to do with their own LAC.

Did the children have to move in a hurry for some reason. I think it is really unfair for the children to move in before school and nursery places were sorted, and no one explaining to you the difference between short term fostering/permanent fostering and SGOs. I know I didn't mention short term fostering before, but it has just occurred to me that they might have assessed you for short term, and then encourage you to apply for SGOs. It's been handled very badly in my view and I think you should be assertive and find out on what basis the children have been placed with you.

Also I think you need to contact the children's social worker in W.Yorks and express your concern that the school you want the 6 year old to go to is over subscribed and so assist you in finding another one, or contacting your preferred school to see if they will take the child because is is Looked After. Mind I don't think this is going t carry much weight, and I do know that there is a shortage of primary school places up and down the country. The 3 year old really needs to go to the nursery that "feeds" the primary school doesn't she/he.

Are there any contact issues that need sorting. I appreciate it is always difficult for kinship carers, so please PM me if there are any issues that you don't want on an open forum.

I do have 30 years experience as a sw and tm mgr for a Fostering & Adoption team, but am now retired.

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