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Adoption and Special Guardianship

A Permanency Handbook


Brings together the law and procedure relating adoption with special guardianship

Paperback i

Book printed softcover

The concept of special guardianship was introduced by the Adoption and Children Act 2002. Special guardianship orders are private law orders which give a special guardian parental responsibility for the child concerned. They provide permanence and security for those children for whom adoption is not suitable but who cannot live with their birth parents. The basic legal links between the child and his birth family are preserved. In contested cases, courts are often faced with one key question: should a child remain in care as a foster child or be made the subject of a special guardianship order or be adopted?

Adoption and Special Guardianship: A Permanency Handbook brings together, for the first time in a single volume, the law and procedure relating to adoption with that of special guardianship.

This unique work examines recent case-law, alongside the policy that underpins the legislation, including socio-legal research on how the law operates and social research on the needs of children. Adoption and Special Guardianship: A Permanency Handbook also examines the fundamental and common issues concerning the importance of the child's relationship with his birth family, contact with them after the order is made, and the impact on the child of remaining in care.
  • A New Approach to Adoption: Adoption and Children Act 2002
  • Adoption
  • Placement Orders and Parental Consent
  • International Aspects of Adoption
  • Special Guardianship Orders
  • The Welfare Test and Human Rights
  • Regulation of Adoption
  • Assessment - Adoption
  • Support - Adoption
  • Assessment - Special Guardianship
  • Support - Special Guardianship
  • The Importance of the Birth Family
  • Contact
  • Permanency and Step-parents
  • The Child in Care
  • Making the Choice
  • Procedure: Adoption
  • Procedure: Special Guardianship
  • Appeals
  • Costs


  • Statutory material
  • Procedural Rules
  • Adoption Circular LAC(98)20
  • The Adoption Act 1976
  • Useful Addresses
"a highly valuable harvesting of the questions and some of the answers to them that have arisen in this area of child law in the 4 years since the Adoption and Children Act 2002 was implemented"
Family Law

"readers will not be disappointed ... an essential addition to every family lawyer's library ... the balanced text offers valuable insight ... I am in no doubt that the author's views will be cited on the hearing of future appeals"
From the foreword by The Rt Hon Lord Justice Thorpe

"worth every single penny ... author writes with clear authority ... explains the political considerations and offers comprehensive case studies/case precedents ... useful appendices as well as some helpful addresses"
Professional Social Work

"This book is comprehensive, well laid out and would be of real benefit to anyone practising in this area.. This is a complete point of reference for the busy practitioner"
ALC 'click here for a full review'
With the enactment of the Children Act 1989 the two streams of the law applying to the private care of children and to their protection and care by the state in the form of local authority social services departments came together.

The law relating to the adoption of children had flowed as a separate stream but after the Adoption Act 1976 it had edged nearer to that of state care and in some places it was difficult to tell where one ended and the other began. Now, with the advent of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, there is a unified river contained within a strong statutory structure.

The simplicity of the old law has been lost and necessarily so. Children in need of a permanent home to replace that which they had with their birth family often have complex needs which require careful assessment and support. Not least of these may be a need to maintain links with their birth family, perhaps their parents, brothers and sisters or other family members. Sometimes such a home can be within the extended family and the creation of special guardianship has enabled it to be given a legal status which avoids the disadvantages of adoption with its exclusive nature and residence orders which may be too prone to allowing further litigation by parents.

I hope that the Handbook will provide practitioners with a model of the law and practice of all areas of the law concerned with securing permanency for children who are unable to live with their parents.

The law is stated as at 6 July 2009.

I am very grateful to Lord Justice Thorpe for agreeing to write a Foreword to the Handbook and taking time from his duties both in the Court of Appeal and as the Head of International Family Justice to do so.

Greg Woodgate and Gillian Wright at Jordans and my wife, Marlene, did not think that writing the Handbook would take me so long. I thank them for their encouragement, support and patience.

During the years I have worked in family law, I have been fortunate to be helped by the experience, wisdom, courage and humanity shown by many social workers. They seldom receive the acknowledgement they deserve. So, representing them all, Gail, Laura, Patricia, Peter, Jeffrey, Liz, Dewi, Ann, David, Tudor, Maria and Derys, thank you very much.
His Honour Judge John Mitchell
July 2009
This government has now been in power for well over a decade during which its approach to family law reform has been ambivalent. It can claim credit for significant reforms in the field of civil partnership and gender recognition.
However, those achievements were compelled by human rights considerations and the repeated criticism of the Strasbourg Court.

Thus the statutory reform for which I would give this government greatest credit is the Adoption and Children Act 2002, the creation of which resulted in part from the intervention of the Prime Minister. It is perhaps, not unduly cynical to observe that the evolution of our family law is particularly dependent on political considerations and political judgement. Certainly political advantage motivated the reforms but that does not detract from the outcome, a modernised code that was designed to achieve and which is already achieving better outcomes for children.

John Mitchell has already established a high reputation as a shrewd guide and commentator in the field of child law. It is natural that he should extend his range into adoption and special guardianship. There is a wide potential readership awaiting his guidance. His readers will not be disappointed. He has produced a comprehensive and clear survey of this exceptionally important topic. The opening chapter sets the scene admirably and promises the reader not just a recitation of the statutory provisions but a broader socio-legal understanding of the origins and objectives of the legislation.

In the relatively brief period since its commencement the construction and application of the statute has frequently troubled the Court of Appeal. Aspects of the accompanying regulations have given rise to practical difficulties which
we have sought to resolve without the need for rule change. All this and so much more, John Mitchell cogently explains.

I accepted John Mitchell’s invitation to write this foreword with enthusiasm. I am in no doubt that this is an essential addition to every family lawyer’s library.
Its publication is perfectly timed. Early experience of the operation of the statute is essential for any assessment of its strengths and possible shortcomings. The balanced text offers valuable insights and I am in no doubt that the author’s views will be regularly cited on the hearing of future appeals.
The Rt Hon Lord Justice Thorpe

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