Sister I mostly agree with your post, but just a few comments:
I think for a foster carer approved to keep the child on a permanent basis, then adoption is probably the best route to permanency. However adoption allowances are discretionary and not mandatory and they can be reduced or withdrawn at any time. As you probably know the LA now have a duty to offer post adoption support, but in my experience given the huge under resources of LA SSdepts, you are very unlikely to get this service. I didn't know that court fees for adoption were so high and if that is the case, then yes the LA may well have an invested interest in pushing SGOs. However there will be court fees attached to these Orders too.
You mention the child having to be "given back" because of lack of finance but there is in the SGO Regulations a sentence that says "no placement should break down because of lack of finance" and that is a very useful sentence because it could be used against the LA if necessary and if they didn't recognise this part of the law you would have to find a lawyer to go back to court for judidicial review but I don't somehow think that would be necessary because the LA lawyer would hardly want to go to court to argue that the LA were not keeping to the letter of the law!
Re: PR - you say you don't get rid of it, but it is much reduced and there are only 3 matters about which the birthparents have to be consulted:
1. You cannot change the child's surname without the bps cosent.
2. You cannot take the child out of the country for more than 3 months without bp's consent.
3. You cannot apply for an adoption order without the consent of the bps.
Also the birthparents cannot apply to discharge the SGO so that they have the child returned to them unless they have "leave of the court" which means that a Judge would have to be convinced that the circumstances of the bps had changed drastically from the time the Order was made. There would of course also be the important issue of the length of time the child had been with you and the forming of secure attachments etc. The SGO legislation is relatively new (Jan 2006) so there is unlikely to be any legal precedents set.
Re Contact. Yes this is a sticky one. The assessor of the SGO assessment has to deal with the issue of contact in the report, and the assessor should be considering the child's need for contact to inform their recommendation about frequency etc. I have completed many SGOs and the bps are of course asked for their views on contact and quite often they say somethinf daft like "every day" and the applicants for the SGO are of course also consulted, but again the assessing sw must have the courage of their convictions as too many of them ime second guess what the Judge will see as reasonable. IF it is a relative SGO (as most of them are ime) it will depend on the age of the child and his or her recall of her bparents. It's the child's right to contact not the right of the birthparents, but they find this too difficult a concept to understand in most cases.
The assessor of the SGO has to state if and why contact is deemed to be in the best interests of the child and this depends the age of the child and the r/ship with the bps and the applicants of the SGO. In some family situations the r/ship between the holders of the SGO and the birthmother/partner are quite good and it may be that contact is informal (though this would have to be spelled out in the SGO assessment) It is more usual for contact to be offered on a quarterly basis or x 6 per year and the usual reason is so that the child grows up knowing the identity of her birthparents, rather than someone pointing to someone in the street when the child is about 10 and saying "that's your real mom" - contact can also be indirect, by way of sending bps annual photos and updates etc. But yes I agree the holders of the SGO have to sort out contact themselves, although the LA can ask for a 1 year Supervision Order to go alongside the SGO to assist with contact arrangements.
Sherbear I think in your situation an SGO is probably the best route to permanency, given the family connections. However I think the guardian is misinformed. It is not a matter of "what the court will want" (that's the tail wagging the dog) the issue is what are the child's needs and how can they best be met in her best interests. Whether the guardian was genuinely misinformed or was pushing for SGO because of the court fees as Sister suggests, I don't know. However the guardian who is employed by CAFCASS and is independent of the LA SSD would not need to be bothered about court costs as it would not come from their budget. I would query this with the guardian and I am happy for you to share the information that I have given with her or him. It makes me really annoyed when people are given incorrect information and obviously accept it because they trust the social workers.
The other thing you might like to query with the child's sw and the guardian is the basis on which the child is placed with you now. I realise she is subject to a Care Order made in the court but a child can only be placed with a relative for 6 weeks, before that relative has to be approved as a foster carer, otherwise the placement is illegal (Children Act 1989) Mind I do have to say that many LA sws don't keep to the letter of the law and I have been asked to approve relatives for permanent foster care when the child has been there for 6 months and in some cases a number of years!
I think the LA plan is to keep the child with you on the basis of "family care" whilst they carry out the assessment of you as a Special Guardian for the child. It's quite a lengthy and comprehensive assessment and it isn't just a matter of the sw "writing the report" They also have to carry out an assessment of your needs including any initial financial needs i.e. purchasing baby equipment etc and any other need that you might have. The judge will not hear the case unless this Assessment of Need accompanies the SGO assessment. The other thing to bear in mind is that the application for the SGO has to be your application - it doesn't mean you have to do anything, but sometimes LAs give the impression that it is their application and it isn't.
I think the para about contact above will be helpful for you to read and think about and talk to the child's sw and guardian about.
Just another point on finance. Can I ask what they are paying you at the moment. The SGO Regs state that a LA should continue to pay fostering allowances for a period of 2 years. I have come across sws who have told applicants for SGOs that they will continue to pay through the child's childhood, but this is not necessarily the case. Payments for SGOs are discretionary and the Regs mention a period of 2 years. Maybe LAs do pay throughout the child's lifetime but I would query this too. Don't forget though the Regs state that "no SGO placement should break down because of lack of finance" - keep this in mind, you might need to use it one day!!
Have just re-read your post and see that you have good r/ships with the extended family and possibly the bm? so it may be that contact can be informal so long as the bm nor anyone in the extended family is allowed to have unsupervised contact. Not sure about SSs saying they will supervise contact. As I said the only way they have the authority to do this is if they request that the court make a 1 year Supervision Order, and sws are so overloaded with work, I would be cautious about any "offers" that are being made.
Just call me an old cynic!!!
You can get info on SGOs by putting it into Google or from "British Agencies for Fostering & Adoption" (BAAF) or Fostering Network.
Sorry post so long but happy to help further if necessary.
hello...my first post here
We are going to have an sgo in December for a little girl.
She is my foster sister's daughter.
She moved to our home 2 weeks ago on a continuation of her court order because ss had not written the special report that would have been required for the sgo to be issued at the last court date.
We get paid the sg allowance already.
If we had not had a special guardianship she would have been given up for adoption.We were advised by her court appointed guardian that the court would not wait for us to be approved for adoption as they would want permanency for her asap. We have been advised that we can apply to adopt her in a number of years time. I am seeing the guardian on Monday so will check when and how we can do it.
As regards to contact with the family and her birth mother. I am building relationship with the extended family but they are thrilled for any contact as it was us or no contact. The birth mother, well, I have known her since she was 5 and she is 19 now. SS said that are happy to supervise contact if that is what we want.
You are welcome to ask me any other questions.
Please be very cautiuos when considering an SGO. There's reasons why LAs push these on foster carers.
Please read all you can.
The do NOT remove PR
You will need to support contact yourself with the birth family - this is tough
You will not get professional support once you take the PR
If you take an SGO - talk to those who have one first - find those people and listen to them.
The harsh reality is that those with SGOs will sometimes be left with no choice to give the child back eventually as they are unable to cope - nothting to do with money - that will be the last of your worries - but it's because it doesnt get rid of the PR and you still need to consult with birth parents and facilitate contact yourself and this may be a huge emotional drain in some cases out of control.
Go straight for Adoption. These cost the LAs over £10,000 cort fees thats why they are telling fcs to go for SGOs, its a very watery, messy measure leaving the birth family the fcs and the child with no major stability.
Please dont just take my word for it research for yourself for the child's sake.
thank you as always...what a minefield and what a mess... I have pm'd you.. thank you again x x x
Hi BtheD - sorry only just seen this. For some reason I don't go on fostering as often as I used to. You could always PM me - no probs with that.
If you are granted an SGO you are no longer a foster carer. You hold PR for the child, and the birth parents have very limited rights.
1. You cannot change the child's surname without their consent
2. You cannot take the child out of the country for more than 3 months without their consent.
3. You cannot apply for an Adoption Order without their consent.
Also quite importantly the birth parents cannot seek to vary the SGO without "leave of the court" which means that the judge has to be satisified that the circumstances of the birthparents has dramatically changed since the making of the order, and if that is not the case, the matter cannot be brought back before the court.
Sorry I can't be as definite about the thorny question of finance. You are right in what you say, somewhere in the SGO Regs it states that if the child was previously in the care of the LA then fostering allowances should be paid for the 2 years following the making of the order. I'm honestly not sure if that constitutes a legal requirement, or whether it is just considered to be good practice. Similarily somewhere in the Regs it states that no placement should break down because of lack of finance. You may have heard these things from me. The thing is it would need a god trawl through the Regs, as I just have a memory of reading these points in a mass of paperwork related to SGOs. when I was working freelance some 3 years ago. I don't mean I imagined them but I would not like to be definite, because the words themselves (which obviously jumped out at me) need to be read in the context of the Regs and interpreted correctly.
The thing is as I'm sure you already know is that the only allowance that is mandatory is fostering allowances. Even IF the interpretation of the funding for 2 years after making an SGO is a legal requirement, there is nothing to say that funding will continue beyond this time. In fact given the state of LA budgets (thanks to this damn coalition) they are being forced to make cuts wherever they can, and anything disrectionary is going to be high on the list of cuts, when they are struggling to meet their statutory duties because of lack of funding.
It's all very well for social workers at the present time to reassure people that they will be funded for an SGO (and some of them don't actually know that the alowance is discretionary) but when backs are against walls, senior managers trying to balance the books, will be leaning heavily on middle managers to make cuts wherever it is possible. It is all very mercenary really but I don't blame the LAs, - they are being forced into making cuts.
You say the carers of the child's brother are getting allowances because of his health problems, but is this on the basis of the first 2 years after making the order.
You say you doubt the LA would go for long term fostering as the child is very young, but you also indicate that she too has health problems, which I imagine are severe to rule out adoption at this stage. However the ball is in your court in many ways - if you can only proceed on the basis of permanent foster care because of financial issues (which will be great) with a child with health difficulties, then I think it reasonable to put this to the social workers, stressing of course that this is nothing to do with lack of committment (I'm sure they already know that) but concern that you are able to meet the baby's needs throughout her lifetime. You can in the fullness of time if the health difficulties are manageable and your financial situation improves, apply for an SGO at some point in the future. I hate to be mercenary about this child that you love, but where else are they going to place her if you pull out. (I know you won't do this) but don't let the social workers know that. It is a bit of a game of cat and mouse I know, and I know you are a very principled person, but there is nothing wrong in talking this through with the social workers, stressing that you have agonised about this but are really concerned about lack of finance (if they start to re-assure you) you must say that you know any allowances are discretionary and if new managers come in, things can change. Don't let your heart over rule your head, because in fact you could be seen to be acting in the best interests of the child by ensuring that you have the finance available to cope with all the extra expense involved in the child's severe health problems.
Ask them to talk to their managers about it. They might say the Fostering Panel would not agree, and it is true (as I'm sure you know) that a positive recommendation has to be made by the Fostering Panel to the Agency decision maker (a senior manager) who makes the final decision. However I have seen decisions made by the panel over turned by the agency decision maker on more than one occasion. Also there is an appeals process and I can assure you that if this got as far as the members of the Social Services Committee they would go in your favour. Look lovely BtheD I know you don't want to go through all this sort of thing, I'm pretty sure it's not your style I know, but it may be useful for you to know.
OK -How important is finance going to be to you and your family to bring up this child with severe health problems for the rest of her life without any finance? This is looking at the worse case scenario. If the answer to that is very/extremely difficult then I think you must think twice about an SGO. and talk with the social workers about permanent foster care. OK another carer with an SGO gets allowances, but that doesn't mean that they could be decreased or stopped altogether.
On the issue of the wording about SGO placements should not break down because of financial issues, I honestly don't know how you would get your case into court and I think the only way would be by judicial review, for which you will need a lawyer and it would cost you, because as you may know from April 2013 this coalition is hacking 40% off the legal aid budget and barristers are staging demonstrations because of the lack of justice (and lack of their salaries of course) and judges are worried about courts turning into circuses because there will be no legal representation available for many many people in private law.
You could try contacting Adoption UK or BAAF to see if they have any useful advice, and you could ask the sws for a copy of the Regs so you could plough through and see if there is anything about funding. You could also consult a solicitor experienced in child care law to ask about the interpretation of the issues about funding in the SGO Regs, and once the child was no longer in the careof the LA and the PR was held by you, what would be the process for getting the case before the court if the LA stopped funding.
I hope I haven't confused you more - and whatever happens you aren't going to let the baby go, but try to see that pressing for permanent fostering with the possibility of applying for an SGO in the future is acting in the baby's best interests.
PM me if you like BtheD - I will have a scout around the net for something useful. Take care and remember you don't want the money for you, you wnat it so that you can ensure that the baby's health needs are met. Hate to be political again but DLA is being slashed and so if the LA say you will get that, (up to £300 per month) you should tell them that is by no means certain as hundreds of people (including children) are losing their DLA at this very moment in time. NNx
You're right Tulips... on every count... she's currently 6mths old but was 3mths premature...
Think we're gonna need lots of luck & a blinkin good lawyer!! x
Hope you manage to get funding to keep little one. It makes sense to keep her with you now she is settled and it is such a shame when decisions come down to money.
Is this LO prem or am I getting mixed up?
I doubt (??) LA would go for long term FC.. she'd still be 'on their books'... and is so very young.. I've heard LA's like SGO's as she is 'no longer in care'..
The care plan currently is for adoption, but they would jump at us doing an SGO as they have done a feasability study on adoption and doubt it would happen with so many questions marks over her health...
Her brother is with other carers on an SGO and they have financial support due to his health...
Keep advice coming... I'm going out of my mind in finding a way we can make this happen as I worship and adore her... I can't let her go, I just can't..
Nananina.. please come back from Ireland really really quickly too!!
Thanks everyone so far... x x
I too would go for a long term foster placement, not an SGO.
Tell me to mind my own but why do you want to change from being her fc?
You will still be a FC for any other children in your care, but if you have a SGO for this child you won't be her foster carer anymore.
In my experience it is really hard to get funding for SGOs and if you do it is short lived. I find it is often a way for the LA to keep the child with the FCs without the expense.
If you need the finances to support the child and want to keep her living with you long term, I would discuss keeping her as a long term foster placement rather than go for a SGO.
Looking for help & advice on SGO's.. I know NanaNina talks about them in great detail
We've been asked to become SGO's for our LO and we really want to - its just that finances are the issue ..
I've read that the regulations state 'an SGO shouldn't break down due to finances' and that financial support is basically agreed at the outset with the LA... although I've also read warnings that this is sometimes only 2 years... and not to believe any guarantees the LA may give you
Have any of you got financial support from your LA - if so for how long and did you really have to fight for it... I hope we have a good chance as there is a huge question mark over this LO's health and so we are taking on the unknown - hence why they don't think she'd be adopted..
Anyone know if you are still technically a Foster Carer when you have an SGO - (obviously if you continue to foster other LO's you will be)
Thanks in advance & hope you all enjoying the sunshine
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