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Special Guardianship and Adoption: The Changing Landscape

By Hilka Hollmann

There has been a lot of publicity in recent weeks about the fall in adoptions and rise of placements within family under Special Guardianship orders. The law is clear: children should grow up within their families if possible and feasible. If they cannot live with their parents, explore family first before adoption is considered, and don’t drag out the process. The recent figures reflect this. A child’s long-term placement has to be right for that child. The ambits of an adoption assessment and a Special Guardianship assessment are almost identical and should be equally rigorous. Support is available for both until a child is 18 or even beyond; and it is absolutely vital that proper support is in place. That, however, tends to depend on what a Local Authority is prepared to offer rather than the type of order although the law imposes obligations on a Local Authority to provide support services. Without proper support, including therapy for a child who has experienced trauma, professional guidance for their carer on  how to therapeutically parent and financial assistance where needed, a placement may come under stress and break down which will be devastating for the child and his or her family. It is therefore equally vital that prospective adopters and special guardians get expert legal advice early on about what they can ask for and assistance in securing what is required to support them to meet the child’s identified needs.

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