How can special guardians and kinship carers be better supported to provide safe and stable homes for children?
By bringing together existing evidence on the use and effectiveness of special guardianship orders, our aim is to inform guidance and best practice on the way the family justice system prepares and supports kinship carers for this life-changing responsibility.
Why we need research into special guardianship and kinship care
Research shows that special guardianship orders (SGOs) provide children with a safe, permanent home with family members when the court decides they cannot live with their birth parents.
The use of SGOs—where one or more individuals, usually family members, are given parental responsibility for a child who cannot live with their birth parents—is increasing. Over 21,000 children have been placed with special guardians following care proceedings since 2010/11.
As the proportion of SGOs has risen, so the proportion of placement orders paving the way for adoption fell between 2010/11 and 2016/17. This shift is one of the most significant trends in child placement in recent years.
But local authorities and the courts face major challenges in providing special guardians with adequate preparation and support, leading to avoidable and significant stress that is potentially damaging to children’s futures.
What we are doing
Nuffield FJO commissioned a review in response to the Court of Appeal’s call for authoritative, evidence-based guidance for the use of SGOs. It was led by Dr John Simmonds from CoramBAAF and Professor Judith Harwin from Lancaster University.
The review was used to inform the Public Law Working Group’s recommendations (PDF) to achieve best practice in the child protection and family justice systems within special guardianship, published in June 2020.
Explore our research on special guardianship and kinship care