Can I get a special guardianship order for my son amended or removed?

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JS123
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Joined: Sat Dec 09, 2017 11:21 pm

Can I get a special guardianship order for my son amended or removed?

Post by JS123 » Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:32 am

My story, like most, is complicated so please bear with me.

My name is X and my partner is Y. I need advice regarding a Special Guardianship Order that was granted to Y’s Grandmother in June 2016. Everything was going OK but we have recently been informed through family friends that my son is living with Y's Auntie (her Grans Daughter) as HER son, We need to know if this is allowed and if not know our rights and options.

Gran changed the contact from monthly to bi-monthly as soon as the SGO was granted. We pleaded with her for twice a month or even once a month but she said no and overruled us.

We have been to every contact and had a great time with our Son on every occasion but several times when my partner has messaged her Gran for details of the next contact she has ignored it, only to message us a day before and say contact is tomorrow at 10am. I am sure she does this hoping we already have plans or don’t make arrangements in time. One time she messaged us out of the blue saying we had missed contact, we told her she never told us it was contact but she said she did (all of our conversations are through Facebook, the messages are logged and she didn’t ) but we said ok and we had to wait another 2 months to see him meaning we hadn’t seen him for 4 months. We have asked to have contact at different locations, but Gran said no. We send her a message a couple of times a month to check in on our Son and see if he is ok but 3/4 of these messages get ignored. We have learned to live with this but still message her regardless so we can show our son when he is older, how much we tried but we would love to be more involved and to see him more.

At the last contact 2 months ago Gran brought her daughter, who is my partners auntie, with her. She was very weird with us, didn’t say hello or let on and gave us dirty looks throughout the contact. My son was also different with my partner, very distant and was calling her Y not mummy as usual, what upset us more was hearing him call my partners auntie mummy several times, nobody corrected him.

I thought nothing of all of that at the time but 6 weeks later somebody I do not know sent My partner an anonymous message on Facebook telling her my Son was living with her Auntie and being brought up as her son and they were disgusted that my family were keeping it a secret so they had to speak out. They also sent 20+ pictures of her auntie and baby taken from her aunties Facebook profile. In one of them my son was pointing a water pistol at her and she wrote “shooting his mamma” underneath it. There were several others of them together with captions like ‘me and my boy against the world’ and ‘just you and me son’. After reading them my partner cried for days, it tore her to shreds. Since then several people including a family member and friends of the family have confirmed that he lives with my auntie, which is not what the judge ordered. I haven’t been consulted and if it proves to be true then surely it is a breach of the order.

My partner messaged her gran very calmly and politely asking if baby lived with her auntie, she also sent her gran the Screenshots and asked why she is allowing her daughter to tell everybody that he is her son and put things like that all over social media. Gran said her auntie has him a few times a week to give her a bit of respite and that they have formed a bond, baby needs that, and it is healthy. I then stepped in and told Gran that baby can have a strong bond with his great auntie, we understand that baby will get confused because he is young, the issue is her Daughter is telling everybody that she is his Mum and posting it all over social media which she shouldn’t, it will confuse him long term. One of the reasons we agreed to a SGO is to maintain ties with our son, not so they can replace us. Her reply was ‘what more do you want me to say’. I believe my son is living with the SG’s daughter but have no proof. An hour after my partner asked Gran about where our son lived her Auntie deleted her entire Facebook account and made a new one, blocking all of us and turning every single privacy feature on so nobody can see it, every picture has disappeared, it is very suspicious behaviour for somebody who is innocent and makes me believe that my son is living with my partners auntie as her son.
My partner also asked gran now its been over 18 months could we please have more frequent contact, she said no as it would confuse him…… confuse him how ? by letting him realise who his parents are and letting him form a bond with his biological parents ? he is confused now thinking his great auntie is his mummy !! I wanted to ask what she meant by ‘confused’ but my partner didn’t want to anger her gran through fear of her stopping all contact.

We feel so powerless and like she will try and stop him seeing us if we dare to question her further. When baby got took we were in a total different situation than we are now. We smoked a lot of weed, my best friend for over 20 years (more like a brother) and also my official carer was convicted of having a fling with a 15 year old boy and they made it sound like we would put my son in danger because we associate with him, he was made out to be Jimmy Savile and we dared not speak up through fear of them thinking we were OK with what he did. We are not OK with it but we know what happened and it was an isolated incident over a 3 week period over 5 years ago and he has never been in trouble for anything like that before it happened or since it’s happened. The boy lied to us all that he was 17 and we had no reason to think he was lying but we couldn’t say this in the hearing because our (rubbish) legal team said they would think we were defending what he did.

We should have done more to prove we are capable parents, but at the time we didn’t. We both have learning difficulties and my partner has Adult ADHD, the medication we were on for depression along with the cannabis gave us little motivation and definitely had an effect on her thinking capabilities and our legal team didn’t explain things on a level which we could understand. We have now made great progress, my partner volunteers at the local shelter, we have a nice flat, are drug free and have been saving, managing our finances well and going on regular holidays abroad. We dream of bringing our son with us one day but don’t know where to start.

Can you please tell me if I should bring it to the attention of the courts that my son may be living somewhere else without anybody’s permission or would that just cause trouble. Can her gran stop all contact if she wanted to and if she did what could I do about it and the big question is will I ever be able to get my Son home with me? what would I need to do for it to constitute a ‘significant change’, is this at all possible or am I dreaming? please please help us

Edited by Suzie in accordance with forum rules to maintain confidentiality

JS123
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Dec 09, 2017 11:21 pm

Re: Can I get a special guardianship order for my son amended or removed?

Post by JS123 » Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:25 pm

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Last edited by JS123 on Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: Can I get a special guardianship order for my son amended or removed?

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Wed Dec 20, 2017 2:39 pm

Dear JS123

Welcome to the parent’s forum.

Your son is subject to a Special Guardianship Order to his grandmother. This means grandmother will have “enhanced parental responsibility” to make decisions about him such as schooling and where he lives, without having to consult you.
So yes, technically, it is legal for her to place your son with his aunt without consulting you.

However, is it in his best interests to be living there? As you say, grandmother was assessed to care for him but now he appears to be living with his aunt. Do you know whether aunt would have passed an assessment? Was she assessed during the care proceedings?
Aunt does not have legal parental responsibility to make decisions about your son such as taking him to the doctors.

I suggest you contact children services and let the social worker know what is happening. That the placement appears to have broken down and he is living with aunt instead of grandmother. Given the difficulties around contact, you could also ask for an "assessment for support " to see what support could be offered to you and the special guardian to help contact work better.
Here is our advice sheet about special guardianship orders. See page 16 about asking for an assessment.

You want to know whether your son could ever come back and live with you.
Do you have a copy of the courts written judgment so you can see why, at the time, it was decided that you could not look after your son. You say that there have been changes in your life. You would have to show the court that there has been substantial changes since the special guardianship order was made and also that it is in the best interests of your son to come home.
Given the recent changes, ( to where your son is living as well as the improvements you have made) why don’t you speak to your solicitor (who will know your case) about whether here may be a chance of your son coming home to you.
Or call our advice line on 0808 801 0366.


Best wishes,

Suzie

JS123
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Dec 09, 2017 11:21 pm

Re: Can I get a special guardianship order for my son amended or removed?

Post by JS123 » Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:46 am

Thank you so much for the advice Suze.

The reason SGO was granted because me and my partner used to argue and when we did we would both shout and this wasn't good for baby, our home wasn't fit for a child (undecorated, no carpet in living room), our choice of friends was questioned and they said our friends could be a danger to him and we had bad judgement, we tested positive for cannabis and told them lies. (said we quit cannabis and said we no longer associated with 2 people they asked us to stay away from). I agree with them that they were justified in taking baby and it gave us a burning desire to change.

I have been through all of the paperwork and auntie has never been assessed as a carer or anything to baby. Gran maintains he stays there 3 nights a week. What bothers me the most is her Auntie is telling people and putting it on social media that she is his mother, is she actually allowed to do this ??

We have now addressed every concern the Court had apart from 1, my carer/best friends conviction. I have personally seen his risk assessments and it clearly says he is low risk to children and has been assessed as being low for years now. But he has already said if SS deemed him a risk then he would stay away from baby. What they don't understand is he has been a friend of mine and my main support network for all of my adult life. When he went to prison my life went down hill, SS didn't care and other agencies wouldn't touch us once baby was put in Grans care. He is the only one who cares about us and helps us. He has literally worked tirelessly to help me back on my feet. He decorated my house, assembled everything, laid the carpet, he built us wardrobes, he is there for us every single day even though he works as well. I can't fault him and apart from that 6 week period in 2012 he has been a law abiding citizen all of his life.

We sent a very nice letter to her Gran yesterday officially asking if we could up contact to once a month and asking her politely to put a stop to her Daughter calling herself his Mother. We asked her to attend mediation and told her if her answer was no no no then we would be forced to seek a "child arrangement order" and a "prohibited Steps Order". We told her we'd much much rather compromise for baby's sake. Her response was to tell us no she then rang my partner and threatened that "if we went down that road then she would put him back in care and then we would never see him again" I was gobsmacked that she went there and it made me speechless, I could only say 'ok' and she hung up on me.

I do not have a Solicitor yet but have spoken to a few for advice. I have filled in the relevant forms for mediation and emailed them back earlier today. Hopefully once she has thought about it she will agree to come to mediation and we can come to a compromise. If not then we will have to see if legal aid would cover us to get a solicitor to apply for a "child arrangement order" and a "prohibited steps order". If we can't get legal aid them we will put in a c100 ourselves and ask for a Mckenzie friend to help us. Is this possible?

Thank you for all your help.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: Can I get a special guardianship order for my son amended or removed?

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:40 pm

Hello JS123

Thank you for your further post.

I see that you accept that children’s services were right to reach the conclusion that it was not safe for your baby to be in an environment where there was a lot of arguments and also not an appropriate place for him or her to live. It shows insight on your part that you understand the concerns that existed at the time your baby was removed.

As stated in the previous post, it was the grandmother who was assessed to be the special guardian, so if he is now living with auntie that is not right. Was auntie named as part of the grandmother’s support network during the assessment? It was suggested that you discuss your concerns with children’s services. Have you done so? If yes, what was their response, if no then I suggest you bring your concerns to their attention?

What you are seeking to do to have your son returned to your care would be to ask the court to discharge the special guardianship order and make a child arrangement order in favour of your partner and you. In order to make this application you will need leave (permission) from the court.

You have taken the right step in seeking mediation but have you also considered asking the court to make a child arrangement order for contact with your son. The court can order specified contact. If the special guardian objected she would have to give reasons to the court as to why this should not happen.

However, you are clear in your post that you have both turned yourselves around and addressed the concerns that existed at the time of the care proceedings, so wish to have your son in your care. Despite what your partner’s grandmother has said it would not be her decision but ultimately the court who would decide what is in your son’s best interests and where he should be placed. The court will of course be guided by the recommendations made by children’s services and the children’s guardian who would be parties to your application.

From your post, the one thing you have not been able to achieve is excluding your long term friend (a registered sex offender) from your life. This is likely to be an important factor for the court when considering the best interest of your son. You state that you have seen a risk assessment of your friend, you do not say who carried out this assessment. Children’s services may not accept that assessment, and may be concerned about why you do not see your friend as a possible risk to your child. They might want to carry out their own risk assessment or the court could ask for this to be done. In your earlier post you state that your friend had not done anything of the kind before or since. It is not clear how you can be sure of this. Your friend is willing to stay away if he is deemed a risk, how will you be able to manage this if he is such an integral part of your life?

Going to mediation with the special guardian may well be the best way to resolve the issues between you regarding contact and other issues.

Legal aid may not be available but you are able to go to court as a litigant in person.

Please see our advice sheet about what special guardianship means for birth parents

You may wish to discuss matters in more detail and, if so, please telephone our advice line on 0808 801 0366. The advice line is open from 9.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays).

I hope you find this helpful.

Best wishes

Suzie

JS123
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Dec 09, 2017 11:21 pm

Re: Can I get a special guardianship order for my son amended or removed?

Post by JS123 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 12:41 am

Hi Suzie

We can not prove conclusively that our Son is living with her Auntie and her Gran will not admit it. We have considered sitting outside her Aunties in the car and filming every day for a full week but that is like stalking and we don't want to get into any trouble. She has covered her back by saying he stays there a few nights a week but even then he is being passed between them, it will confuse him, he needs a permanent home it’s not normal. Her Auntie is named as “a person he may come into contact with“ but no assessments have been done on her or her property.

When we told her Gran that we would like more contact and would like to go to mediation she rang my partner through Facebook and threatened that if we carried on hassling her then she would put him back into care so he gets adopted and we would never see him again. They are the actual words she used and she is vile for saying that. We have this on a call recording and it has tortured us but don’t want to involve children's services in case she carries out this threat.

We were told we must do mediation first and get them to sign a form before we can apply to the court for a child arrangement order or to discharge the SGO. We sent all the forms off to mediation before Christmas, they are not back in the office until Monday 8th so I will chase it up then. I doubt her Gran will agree to it. Her reason for not letting us have more contact is “it will confuse him”. Pathetic reason if you ask me. I have a horrible feeling that a Court will side with her Gran though because he has been with them for 2 years now and they will say he is settled. Her Gran is in her late 60s and is apparently not in good health, she looks ill. I have been told that this is why he is living with the Auntie. I am so appreciative of her Gran taking our son in to stop him being adopted but he is still our son but she thinks and acts like she has adopted him. This makes us bitter and want to take him back from her.

The assessments that we have seen for my friend are an "OASys risk assessment" which is done by the prison and probation service. This states that he is at low risk of reoffending and that he was ineligible for the “sex offenders treatment programme” because his risk and need scores were too low. We have also seen an ARMS assessment which is a very detailed assessment done by the Police, Public Protection Unit and Course Facilitators. It specifically states that the assessor believes that he “has no sexual attraction to children”. If you Google these types of assessments you will see they are the most detailed and comprehensive assessments available. I have grown up with this guy, we have been best mates for nearly 20 years and he is more like a brother than my actual family. It was a one off stupid mistake he made which lasted for a period of a few weeks when he was 24. Obviously due to his conviction I would never leave him alone with my son because it could be a potential risk and I believe that is a sufficient safeguard. He is not a paedophile, his victim was 15yrs 9months old and told us all he was over 16. He is 22 now and they are both still friends. I don’t defend what he did but I won’t have people paint him as Jimmy Savile when he is not !! He is allowed near his God son (4), his young cousins (1,6,8,15) and other children and nothing is said so why is it such a big deal with us !! Turning our back on him is almost out of the question but if it was decided that he wasn’t allowed near baby then we would respect that and keep him away. It would be a lot harder for us because he is such a big part of our life and gives us so much help and support but our Son comes first and we will do whatever it takes. Also I am sure that my friend has never done anything like that before or since because I have known him and seen him most days for the last 20 years and I have seen his enhanced DBS check and he is NOT barred from working with children. If he was too low risk to do a “sex offenders treatment programme” and too low risk to be included on the DBS children’s barred register then he can’t be that much of a risk surely. In my eyes people can’t simply condemn him without a chance of redemption. He has said he would comply with any assessment the Court or CS wished to carry out on him.

I have learning difficulties and my partner also has mild learning difficulties and ADHD. Without my friends help we wouldn’t be able to write such detailed letters and look into things and understand everything like we are doing. If we had to represent ourselves in Court I would need my friend to be our “McKenzie friend” do you have any advise on this ? I can’t afford a solicitor and nobody else will help us. If we start mediation do we get access to free legal advice, I read somewhere that we would?

Thank you Suzie for your time, you don’t understand how much we appreciate it.

JS123
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Dec 09, 2017 11:21 pm

Re: Can I get a special guardianship order for my son amended or removed?

Post by JS123 » Thu Feb 01, 2018 8:17 pm

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: Can I get a special guardianship order for my son amended or removed?

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:06 pm

Dear JS123

Thank you for your further post and apologies for not responding to you before now.

You have provided a lot of information in your post. I have already responded to some of the issues in my previous response earlier in January. In that post I suggested what your legal options might be e.g. to apply for a child arrangement order for contact or to ask the court’s permission to apply to end the SGO /make a child arrangements order. Maybe have a look back at that post and in particular our advice sheet Special Guardianship: What does it mean for birth parents?

It is possible to end a SGO but it is not an easy thing for a parent to do. Before you can even apply you have to get the court’s permission – this is based on the court accepting that there has been a significant change of circumstances since the SGO was made and considering the child’s welfare and the parent’s chance of success in applying to end the court order.

You have clearly worked hard to make many changes and are missing your son and finding the current situation very hard.

You are reluctant to contact children’s services about the concerns you have about your son’s current situation and the recent difficult conversation you have had with his special guardian. I would still suggest that this is worth doing as children’s services have a role in supporting all affected by special guardianship including you and your partner as parents, your son and the special guardian. A social worker may be able to provide further support to all of you if they assess this to be needed but they cannot help if they are not aware of the situation.

You mentioned that you have already begun the process of applying for mediation and were going to chase this up when you last posted. I hope that is now moving forward for you. You ask about help with the cost of mediation. You can find out more about checking if you are eligible for legal aid for mediation by looking at Child Law Advice’s website information on what is the cost of mediation.

If you do go ahead with a court application I would not recommend that you ask your friend to be your McKenzie friend as he is a person with a conviction for a sexual offence against a child and this has already been identified by the family court as a risk in relation to your son. It is also the outstanding court concern that you note.

You describe in great detail the risk assessments your friend has had and you do not think that he poses any risk. However, I would expect that children’s services and the court would need to carry out their own specific assessment in relation to any potential risk and also looking at how able you and your partner are to keep your son safe and to manage any risks. Children’s services may also be worried that you and your partner may be particularly vulnerable if your friend is heavily involved in helping you.

It might be a good idea for you to have a look at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation’s stop-it-now website as they work with anyone affected in any way by child sexual abuse.

Have you also looked into whether or not you can access any advocacy services as parents with learning difficulties? An advocate might be able to help you work with children’s services if need be or work with legal or other advisers if you are making a court application.

You could check the local adult social care department in the council area where you live to find out what is available.

Depending on where you live, you might be able to get some advocacy from the Elfrida Society or Advocacy for All.

The Transparency Project has produced McKenzie’s friends : A Litigant’s Guide which includes a link to the court’s guidance too.

You and/or your partner can get private law advice by phone about mediation and private law applications from organisations such as Child Law Advice and Rights of Women.

If you do have to go to court without a solicitor you may be able to get some support about the process from the Personal Support Unit.

I hope this is helpful and that you manage to work things out safely for your son.

Best wishes

Suzie

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