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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

Family Law , 08 MAR 2016

Considering the case for parity in policy and practice between adoption and special guardianship: findings from a population wide study

Considering the case for parity in policy and practice between adoption and special guardianship: findings from a population wide study
Professor Judith Harwin, Dr Melanie Palmer and Dr Stephen Swift, Brunel University London
Dr Bachar Alrouh and Professor Karen Broadhurst, University of Lancaster

Recent government announcements to amend special guardianship and adoption legislation and increase levels of support provide the context to this article. It reports findings from a two phase national study of supervision orders and special guardianship funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Using population-wide data from the Cafcass database, we report on the volume and trends in the use of special guardianship orders (SGOs) between April 2010 and March 2015 and compare the pattern of use to five other legal permanency options. 

For the first time ever, the national data show that there is a near convergence in the percentage of children subject to SGOs and placement orders. The national results also show that use of supervision orders attached to SGOs has more than doubled in just 5 years. However, an attached supervision order was less likely to be made for infants.

We conclude that special guardianship now appears to be perceived by courts and local authorities as a valid, widely used and important alternative to the adoption route however young the child. These national findings raise a wider question of whether policy, practice and support infrastructures should be aligned for both permanency options to maximise effective use of both options.


The full version of this article appears in the February 2016 issue of Family Law.

Online subscribers can access the full version of the article here.

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