SGO and care orders

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Rain
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:36 pm

SGO and care orders

Post by Rain » Mon Oct 26, 2020 10:02 pm

Hi everyone,

My niece has been taken into care and it’s been decided today by the judge that their is sufficient grounds to meet the threshold for a care order to be placed. They say my sister has neglected her daughter and a lot of stuff has been exaggerated but the judge has believed and gone ahead with a care order.

I originally wanted to apply for Special guardianship and told the social worker but due to problems with living with extended family I couldn’t do it. Moving on 3 months later I am moving out with my husband and kids and can now keep my niece. I told the social worker on Friday (23/10/2020) that I wish to apply and she said she would notify all the parties but there was no mention of this in the case today (26/10/2020). They don’t want to return my niece to her mum and her dad has backed away as he has his own family. I wanted to know if anyone has experience of this and if this was still possible now that a care order has been made. Any advice on how to deal the with social workers or what to do further ahead. I regret ever backing down before but I was helpless. Now I’m 100% wanting to do it and hope I haven’t missed the train. Would love for any advice as to what to expect and how to deal with the situation.

Thank you in advance.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 739
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: SGO and care orders

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Mon Dec 07, 2020 9:36 pm

Dear Rain,

Welcome to the Friends and Family Discussion Board.

Your post is about your niece, who has recently become subject to a Care Order and is therefore now a Looked After Child. During care proceedings, you initially felt you were unable to put yourself forward as a Special Guardian for your niece, however, this has now changed and you would like to know how you can go about caring for her.

As your niece’s aunty, you are entitled to apply to the Courts for a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) even though care proceedings have now concluded. In order to do this, you must have the consent of the children’s services department that is looking after your niece, or from everyone who has parental responsibility for her. If you are unable to do this, you will need to get permission from the Court.

It is important that you communicate with your niece’s social worker about your intention to apply for an SGO, and that you inform the Local Authority who initiated care proceedings in respect of your niece of this in writing. You must give Children’s Services 3 months’ notice before your intention to apply to the Court in order for them to undertake an assessment of your suitability as a Special Guardian. This assessment will inform the Courts’ decision. It is usually best to seek some legal advice before applying for a Special Guardianship Order. You can take a look at our SGO advice sheet (link) for more information on how you may be able to fund this, as well as for more information on the application process.

In the meantime, as your niece is now a Looked After Child, children’s services have a duty to place her with family and friends if this is in her best interests. Do you know what the Local Authority’s care plan for your niece was at the final hearing? If you are ready to begin caring for your niece, you can speak to the social worker and request that you be assessed as a kinship foster carer.
As your niece is a Looked After Child, Children’s services must assess you as a foster carer, however in some cases they are able to provide temporary approval so that your niece can live with you immediately. please see the advice sheet linked above for more information on this.

I hope you find this helpful but should you wish to speak to an adviser, please telephone our advice line on 0808 801 0366. The advice line is open from 9:00am to 3:00pm Monday to Friday.

Best Wishes,

Suzie.

Rain
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:36 pm

Re: SGO and care orders

Post by Rain » Thu May 06, 2021 4:02 pm

Thank you for your reply. I passed my IVA (found out indirectly almost 2 months ago) however I’m getting a really slow response back from the SW. They do not plan on giving her back to mum and would like for her to stay in foster care ( not sure why as I am happy to take her). What can I do now that I have passed and is there any other way I can take her in other than kinship on the basis I’ve passed my IVA as they don’t want to move her short term as I live in a different city? Thank you

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 739
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: SGO and care orders

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Thu May 20, 2021 10:48 am

Dear Rain

Thank you for your further post.

Plans for where a child lives/who they are cared for should always be kept under review. So, even though your niece is looked after in the care system by an unrelated carer, children’s services must regularly review this. As you, a family member who may be able to care for the child has come forward, children’s services must explore this fully.

It seems that children’s services have begun to do this by undertaking an initial viability assessment of you. It is good to hear that that it was positive. However, it is not right that you only found this out indirectly – you should have been informed and provided with a copy of the assessment when it was completed. Here is a link to our guide to viability assessments which sets out what should happen once it has been completed.

If you still have not received a copy of the assessment I would suggest that you ask for this urgently by contacting the social worker who completed it or their manager. As you are finding it difficult to get a reply from the social worker it may be best to put your request and any additional queries in writing to them both and also copying in your niece’s Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) as they are responsible for reviewing the care plans for your niece. If you don't know or can't find out their details ask the social worker to confirm that they have passed a copy of your letter onto the IRO.

When you have a positive viability assessment, then usually you will go on to have a full assessment. This normally takes a few months. It might be done by the same person who did the viability or it might be a new person. I think this is what you are expecting to happen but there has been a lengthy and unexplained delay.

Although children’s services current plan is for your niece to remain in foster care, this could be with you, as a kinship foster carer (if they assess and approve you). The process of being assessed as a kinship foster carer is fully set out in this advice sheet.

You and your niece would continue to be supported as she would still be a looked after child and you would be treated and paid in the same way as an unrelated foster carer. You would not have parental responsibility though.

The other way for you to care for your niece, as discussed in my previous response, would be for you to apply for a legal order for her such as a SGO. As explained then, you would still need to be assessed by children’s services as they have to provide a report to the court if you apply for this. You would have to get the court’s permission to apply if those with parental responsibility were not in agreement. Please do look back at my earlier reply as it contains some important pointers. Please see our kinship care arrangements resources and specifically our special guardianship advice.

Are you currently having contact with your niece? If not, it would be a good idea to ask that this be arranged; children’s services should be taking positive steps to promote contact, unless it is not in your niece’s best interests. Please see here for more information about this.

I think you should request that the social worker responds to your letter within a reasonable timescale of about 10 working days, providing a copy of your assessment, and clarifying whether they are willing to assess you as a kinship foster carer or support you if you apply for a court order to care for your niece. I understand that they are not wanting to move your niece from her placement to a short-term placement but I believe that what you are offering is a permanent home for your niece within her family.

If you don’t get a response or it is inadequate, you could consider making a formal complaint.

If you would like to talk things through with an adviser please ring our freephone advice line on 0808 8010366, the lines are open from 9.30 am to 3.00 pm.

With best wishes

Suzie

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