The council hopes that changing the support policy for 'special guardians' will encourage more people to come forward.
Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs) can be imposed by a court where adoption is not suitable due to cultural difficulties or where children ‘retain a strong bonded relationship with their birth families but are not able to live with them’.
A special guardian is usually someone with a close relationship to the child, such as a family member, former foster carer or family friend.
The court order gives them day-to-day control in respect of decisions about a child, such as which school they go to, medical consent and authority to take abroad.
Telford & Wrekin councillors are set to consider their SGO support policy at a cabinet meeting this week.
“The only substantive change to the policy in this updated version is in respect of the financial support available to Special Guardians,” says a report to the cabinet members.
“It is proposed that Special Guardians will continue to receive financial support equivalent to both the foster carer fee (for former foster carers) and the child-related fostering allowance until the child reaches the age of 18 years old even if this is extends beyond the current two-year period.
“It is anticipated that, making this significant change to the financial support available will encourage foster carers to consider becoming Special Guardians as they will not face a financial disbenefit if they cease being a foster carer to become a Special Guardian instead.”
The council says that a review of adoption arrangements carried out in 2000, showed that adoption is not suitable for all children.
However, foster care does ‘not always provide a sense of security or permanence’ for the child or young person.
The council SGOs provide the permanence of a ‘forever family’ for a child by putting a legal arrangement in place which can only be revoked by a court agreement.
An SGO is considered more secure than a Child Arrangements Order because a parent cannot apply to discharge it unless they have the permission of the court.
However, a SGO does not end the legal relationship between a child and their parents that adoption does.
“This will enable the council to provide better long-term outcomes for children who are not able to live with their families by ensuring they have a forever family,” said the council’s cabinet report.
“This gives children the security of a long-term placement, so they know which adults they will live with and who will be responsible for them when they cannot live with their birth parents and, hopefully, with Special Guardians who were previously their foster carers and so also providing consistency.
“The success of this policy could result in a reduction in the number of foster carers available.
“However, this is mitigated by the continued recruitment activity for new foster carers. Additionally, an SGO will not be in the best interests of all children so it is not envisaged that all foster carers will move to become Special Guardians.”
The council states that this year nine SGOs have been granted in Telford & Wrekin and 24 assessments are ongoing.