Where a parent is unable to care for their child, a Special Guardianship Order appoints a carer usually a relative to care for the child until they turn 18. Such order provides the child with a stable home with the child maintaining links with their family via contact.
To make an application you have to be over 18 and the list of people who can apply range from Guardian, Foster Parent, Relative, any person named in a Child Arrangement Order as the person with whom the child lives; or any person who has lived with the child for 3 out of the last 5 years.
You give the Local Authority three months notice of your intention to apply for such order and they will investigate and prepare a report on your suitability to become a Special Guardian and any allowance you may be entitled to.
Special Guardianship was introduced as an alternative to adoption which can be extreme. The parents still maintain their role in making decisions in the child’s life, for example, schooling, although as the main carer the Special Guardian can override those decisions.