YOU may be wondering what an SGO actually is.
An SGO is a ‘Special Guardianship Order’
In Lehmans terms, my interpretation of Special Guardianship Orders is one of 3 options available to social services when a child can not be cared for by his or her parents – be it through ill-health, circumstances or being orphaned.
In Our situation, the child was under the care of the local authority once he was removed from his mother and a social services “Guardian” was appointed to the child. It was down to the local authority to find a temporary home initially and then a long term home for the child
The most common form that you would have heard of are fostering and adoption. Special Guardianship Orders sit in between the two but nearer the adoption end of things.
SGOs are normally found from within the family or friend circles of the child. In our situation, the baby is my great-nephew.
SGO’s are a court order that follow a hearing where welfare checks, social services reports and a number of other factors are considered.
A Special Guardianship Order will usually last until the child is 18 and usually comes with a 12 month care plan for the child – where social services are still involved.
The parent(s) are able to maintain contact with the child as they grow up unlike in adoption where, legally, the parents don’t have contact with their child until they are over 18 and only if the new adult wishes.
An SGO can potentially be overturned following a successful application to the courts from the birth mother / father should their circumstances improve and they are able to show they can parent the child safely with out physical or emotional risk to the child.
Fostering a child, you are provided with training, ongoing support, required paperwork / reports that must be complied with. Foster carers are compensated accordingly. Some foster agencies offer up to £600 a week! Applications for fostering can be a long, drawn out process where you have to be approved by a panel.
In our experience, with an SGO you don’t receive training, you have limited support and there is no paperwork, as such, to file. You can apply for a means tested ‘SGO allowance’. This is means tested annually and, I believe, varies depending on the local authority. We were told by our local authority that this was capped at around £120 per week if you are eligible. Obviously there are thorough checks on your suitability, background and family life amongst other things.
Below is an example of local authority rates which i am informed that the SGO allowance is based on which i found from a fostering information website. This amount differs to what we were told by our social worker at the time.
With an SGO you usually obtain majority parental responsibility for the child – so you can “parent” the child largely as you see fit [unlike in fostering where everything needs to be approved or acknowledged / noted].
The main things we CAN NOT do with a Special Guardianship Order is change the child’s name or take him out of the UK for more than three months at a time.
When you obtain an SGO the child may, or may not, have been placed with you previously. Baby H was removed from his mother at 3 weeks of age and moved into our home on an interim care order. This was limited to 6 months (Social Services have up to 6 months to bring a case to court following the removal of a child).
Whilst on the interim care order we only had partial parental responsibility and the child was under the care of social services and their guardian. Baby H was classed as a ‘Looked after Child’.
During this time we were not entitled to child benefit or qualify for tax credits for him. We received an allowance from the local authority.
On obtaining the SGO you are entitled to claim child benefit for the child and also have them added to any tax credit claim you may have.
That is a very basic overview of what my interpretation and understanding of what a Special Guardianship Order is from my experience.
Feel free to comment or ask questions in the comments section below.