SGO advice

ELD2017
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 8:35 am

SGO advice

Postby ELD2017 » Thu May 18, 2017 4:30 pm

Hi Everyone,

I'm new to this forum but have found it highly informative. Ive had my grandson with me since he was two, he is now almost 8. Firstly through Kinship Foster Care then SGO from 2013.

My question is, quite simply -

Does anyone know what constitutes a 'significant change in circumstances' in order for an SGO to be overturned?

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ied53
Posts: 2102
Joined: Fri Aug 18, 2006 11:26 pm

Re: SGO advice

Postby ied53 » Thu May 18, 2017 11:50 pm

We were advised it would be a change of lifestyle to what is accepted as doing things right for a sustained period to evidence that it was real rather than for show. We were also advised that even then it would be scrutinised as it would mean uprooting a child who was settled and thriving,
Irene
Grandparent carer in Lincolnshire
Tough times never last tough people do

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 432
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: SGO advice

Postby Suzie, FRG Adviser » Fri May 19, 2017 3:21 pm

Dear ELD2017

Thank you for your post and welcome to the Family and Friends Carers’ discussion board.

Your grandson is now 8 years old and has been in your care for a significant period of time and I assume that he is settled with you in the only home he has known. You have not stated who may be seeking to discharge the order.

In response to your question regarding what constitutes significant change’, this depends on the issues that were of concern at the time your grandson came into your care. For example, if his parents were misusing drugs or alcohol and are no longer dependent on either of these. If there was domestic violence in the home and there has been a lengthy separation and courses and programmes taken to address this behaviour.

If a parent decides to apply to discharge a special guardianship order he or she will need to have leave (permission) from the court to make the application. It will be for the court to consider whether it would be in your grandson’s best interests for the order to be discharged. This decision would be made after the court considers evidence any changes and balancing this with your grandson’s settled home and his needs.

Should you wish to apply to discharge the order because your own circumstances have changed then, I think, an inability to continue to provide a safe home environment is likely to be a significant change in circumstances.

I have included a copy of our advice sheet regarding special guardianship and what it means for birth parents.

An application to discharge a special guardianship would be a private law application and you may wish to seek advice from Coram Children’s Legal Centre (Child Law Advice) on 0300 330 5480.

If you wish to speak to an adviser about your position as a special guardian, you are free to telephone our advice line on 0808 801 0366. The advice line is open 9.30 to 3.00 p.m Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays).

I hope you find this helpful.

Best wishes

Suzie

ELD2017
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 8:35 am

Re: SGO advice

Postby ELD2017 » Tue May 23, 2017 11:29 am

Hello Everyone,

No care arrangement order was made as that was deemed to be too restrictive moving forward, instead a contact agreement was drawn up and agreed at the Court Hearing. Any increase in contact was left up to my discretion taking into account the best interests of the child. Contact has always been supervised. Supervision was first by Social Services and then was taken over by a family member and then by her partner.

At all times I believe that I have acted in the best interests of my grandson within the parameters of the framework of the information that I have had available at the time.

I think that it is fair to say that mum has always struggled to understand the concept of the SGO and what this means. She presented at Court with many different issues and a personality disorder which is one of the main reasons that her contact has always been supervised.

Contact had been increased, gradually - firstly from 3 hours to the whole day and then latterly from 9 times a year to 12 with three overnight stays per year, at the beginning of the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays.

Any reasonable request for my grandson to attend family get events and holidays has never been refused.

Mum had him overnight with partner supervising and at that time I felt that this would be nice for my grandson as mum has another child with the partner so my grandson was better able to bond with his sibling. An overnight contact was arranged but afterward my grandson was very unsettled and I was called into his school as he had been disruptive. I felt that at that time he was not able to cope emotionally with that level of contact but I said that I would review it periodically. I have always been open to the fact that people and circumstances can and do change and always perfectly willing to review things on a regular basis. Mum was not happy with my decision.

Mum continued to press for contact every other weekend for the whole weekend. This was refused on the basis of the original order as it was stated that contact this frequent would hamper his ability to settle in his permanent placement and identify with myself as his primary carer and have no adverse affect on the stability of his placement and also on the Local Authority view that too much contact would be detrimental to him due to the impact that her personality disorder can have on her behaviour and emotions. I also said that any future overnight contact would be at the beginning of a school holiday so that on returning home if there was any upset of emotions experienced by my grandson then he would have the rest of the holiday to settle again before returning to school and thus ensuring contact does not hamper his education.

Mum tends to think of her own feelings first as opposed to what is in the best interests of my grandson and his feelings or emotions. Mum wishes to co parent or sees herself as an absent parent as opposed to a parent who has contact because she put my grandson in care twice and then subsequently had him removed from her care under the category of risk of significant emotional abuse. Mum says that the more she sees him the better he will cope but I honestly believe this is what is best for her not for him.

Mum did not take this well and convened a meeting where she stated that she wished contact to either be increased to every other fortnight or else return to the original agreement of the three hours 9 times a year. She then confirmed this in a text message. Two weeks later she changed her mind. This was a red flag to me because having put my grandson in and out of care twice I saw this as something that she was/is likely to continue doing in the future, picking him up and putting him down when it suits her with no regard to how this affects him or the wider family. I again said no and she made a malicious referral to me to Social Services. This was checked out and found 'no case to answer' and no need for Social Services involvement. She was intending to return to court to overthrow the SGO but her partner contacted me and seemed very reasonable and responsible and so I agreed to still allow the 12 contacts a year.

I believe myself to be a very fair minded person and hold no malice or bad feelings toward her however, since that point I have begun to log and evidence things more. She split with the partner acrimoniously before Christmas but then they reconciled. I did monitor the situation at the time but was not aware of the full facts. At her last contact there I became aware of a number of what I consider serious safeguarding issues. Partner was being violent and abusive and she didn't safeguard and my grandson was present albeit in another room, which I still regard as emotional abuse as I do not feel it acceptable as a footprint is left from all abuse however witnessed. She didn't bring him home nor did she inform me of the true facts of what had happened.

When I became aware of the extent of the issues that had happened I told her that the contact was returning to the original agreement. The trust has been broken and I need to be very sure that this won't be happening again.

Mum again called Social Services who again contacted me and said no case to answer. They advised me to contact the police and log it as harassment which I did. I have a crime reference number. During the calls to police and social services it became evident that social services were unaware that she has had another child. I was asked to make a referral of the new child so they would be able to look into how she had been able to go under the radar with the new baby having had a child removed from her care. I did this.

She asked for CAFFCASS involvement, social services involvement, meetings with the school to all sit down and discuss whether she can have him returned to her or extra contact and wants to go back to Court to determine her extra contact. I refused because this was all done prior to my getting the SGO order in 2013 and I feel that she just needs to accept the order as it is.

Now she is intending to go to Court to discharge the original SGO and also apply for a care arrangements order, I know that she can do this.

She has arranged a meeting with the school to discuss things with them. The original order said that she was able to visit the school prior to his attending. And was also to be provided with end of year reports from myself via a dedicated email address. She was not meant to be able to go into the school but this was not clearly written in the original preamble so I can't really do much about that.

I have also since discovered from her father and step mother that the incident before Christmas was that he bashed her head into a cupboard but he did it as she was holding a knife. They have said that their focus is on my grandchild and will support me if it goes to court. As I've heard that I've now had to pass on that information to social services because I know that it is not up to me as an individual to decide whether or not abuse has taken place but to record and report. It is my understanding that their daughter was present at the time.

I have evidenced everything, texts, witnesses, diary, emails BUT

I am concerned that my grandson could be removed from my care or that she will be granted extra contacts and overnight stays that I feel are not in his best interests. I was led to believe by Social Services that having got the SGO it is extremely strong and that we would be able to move to having a normal life outside of the care system but this isn't happening. How likely is this?

She says that she has improved all her circumstances and she is now able to have him back.

Has anyone got any advice for me?

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 432
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: SGO advice

Postby Suzie, FRG Adviser » Fri May 26, 2017 1:49 pm

Dear ELD2017

Thank you for your further post and for giving more details to explain the situation that you are in relating to the special guardianship order, contact and your grandson’s mother.

It must be extremely frustrating for you to be going through these difficulties. I am sure you believed having the special guardianship order would mean everything would settle down into a workable pattern for you and your grandson.

You have set out clearly the concerns that you have for your grandson and the impact of increased contact on his wellbeing. As his special guardian it is your responsibility to make decisions regarding contact which you consider to be in his best interests.

From what you have said about contact and how your grandson’s mother views contact as for her benefit and to meet her needs, rather than consider the needs of her son. A special guardianship order does not allow her to co-parent, it is an order that gives the special guardian parental responsibility which can be exercised over and above that of the parent. In this regard, you have the legal right to override what the mother wants to happen if it is not in the child’s best interests.

Regarding the mother making an application to discharge the special guardianship order, she is entitled to do so, as explained in my earlier post. If she does make the application it will be for the judge to make the final decision, taking account of all the evidence and the objections that you will make to the court. The court’s main concern will be your grandson’s welfare and I think it unlikely that the judge will place a child into a situation where there is domestic abuse and it is a volatile environment.

Has the mother addressed the concerns that led to your grandson being removed from her care? She would have to show the court that she has made significant changes before she would be considered as a safe placement for your grandson. It would not be enough to say it she would have to show evidence to prove it.

From what you have said it appears that you have tried to work with the mother for the benefit of your grandson but, as you say, it is important that he is settled and know that you are his primary carer and his home is with you.

If the application to discharge the order is made, the court will ask the local authority to prepare a report and the Guardian who was involved in the care proceedings is likely to be involved in the case as well.

The contact that your grandson has with his mother will also be dependent on what the court considers is in his interests. From the information you have given regarding contact it appears that you are giving reasonable contact. Contact is for the benefit of the child not the parent.

I suggest that you contact the Coram Children’s Legal Centre as previously advised for advice in respect of the private law court proceedings should the mother make an application to the court.

I hope you find this helpful.

Best wishes

Suzie

ELD2017
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 8:35 am

Re: SGO advice

Postby ELD2017 » Mon May 29, 2017 10:21 am

Thank you so very much for your reply - it is most helpful, many thanks.


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