Special guardianship

Every child needs a safe, secure home with people they can love and trust. Special guardianship is one way of providing this when children can’t live with their birth families and adoption isn’t suitable.

Special guardianship is a court order that gives a child permanent legal security in a family without giving them a new identity. Under a special guardianship order, links between the child and their birth family are maintained. However, special guardians have overriding parental responsibility to make day-to-day decisions concerning the welfare of the child or children.

If you are already looking after a child in care or someone you know is looking for an alternative to adoption, you may be interested in learning more. 

Who can be a special guardian?

  • special guardians must be 18 years old or older
  • special guardians can be a family member or friend, or other person with whom the child has lived for three of the last five years
  • a local authority foster carer who has looked after the child continuously for the last year can apply to be a special guardian
  • 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

For more about special guardianship including information about parental responsibilities, the process of becoming a special guardian, and support available, please see our leaflet.