Special Guardianship Support
Special Guardianship is a permanent arrangement which allows children to live with family and friends if they cannot live with their birth parents. This can minimise disruption and sometimes means that children keep having a relationship with their birth parents.
Many special guardianship families need some extra support at some point of their journey together. Some local authorities have chosen to provide this support in house, and others have commissioned ATV Permanence Support Team to offer this support on their behalf. We support Special Guardianship families linked with Oxfordshire, Swindon, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, West Berkshire and Wokingham. Support for Special Guardianship families is the responsibility of the placing authority (i.e. the area where your child lived before you became their special guardian) for the first three years after the Special Guardianship Order is made. After three years, support is the responsibility of the local authority where you and your child live now.
We provide support to Special Guardianship families in the following ways:
- Front Door – The ATV Permanence Support Team front door is the main point of contact for everyone contacting our team. Front Door operates every week day except Bank Holidays from 8:30-5 (8:30-4 on Fridays). Front Door can provide information about our services as well as connecting you to the Helpdesk, Social Worker or ATV service that you need. To contact the Front Door please call 01865 323121 or email ATV.Permanencesupport@oxfordshire.gov.uk
- Mailing List – We use a mailing list to keep subscribers up to date with events across the ATV area. We only send out a small number of emails each year, letting you know about upcoming social and training events. If you would like to join the mailing list please email ATV.Permanencesupport@oxfordshire.gov.uk with the subject line Join Mailing List and ask to be added.
- Helpdesk Contacting Helpdesk is the first step to accessing support from the Permanence Support team. The Helpdesk is operated by Social Workers who can offer specialist information, advice and support over the phone. They can answer your questions and talk through any issues that you are experiencing, providing advice and signposting. Helpdesk operates on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday between 10 and 4, and on Friday between 10 and 3. We aim to respond to all enquiries within 5 helpdesk days.
If you would like to access the Helpdesk, please contact the Front Door who will take some basic information about your inquiry and arrange for a Social Worker to contact you. You can email ATV.Permanencesupport@oxfordshire.gov.uk or call 01865 323121
- Assessment In more complex situations we may allocate a social worker to fully assess your family’s needs and put together a support plan which may include longer term support from the Permanence Support Team. If this is the support you feel you need, we ask that you still contact the Helpdesk to talk through your situation, so that we can ensure we are providing the right service for you and your family.
- Financial Assistance – The provision of any financial support for families with Special Guardianship Orders, including allowances or one-off payments, are the responsibility of the placing authority (where the child lived before the Special Guardianship Order). This support should be agreed before the order is made and be reviewed by the same local authority if/when needed. If a family wishes to request new financial support ATV workers may be able to signpost or support with this but the local authority will always have the responsibility to agree and provide this and to do any means testing necessary.
- Contact – Many children under Special Guardianship Orders continue to have contact with their birth parents and other relatives in one form or another. Children are often placed with extended family members or family friends, and so navigating a continuing relationship with relatives who may have previously posed a risk to the child is a very challenging part of being a Special Guardianship family. There are a number of ways in which the Permanence Support Team can support with contact. We can offer advice as part of a Helpdesk call or Assessment and Support Plan, discussing the complexities of your family’s situation and supporting you to make the best decision for your child. In some cases, we may support with contact in other ways, such as supporting young people approaching adulthood to consider whether contact with birth relatives is right for them, or conducting reviews if you feel that current contact arrangements no longer suit your family. We also operate the Letterbox service for all Local Authorities in ATV. This service is generally part of an adoption plan supervising written correspondence between placement and birth relatives, however in some cases this is the most suitable form of contact between birth parents and Special Guardians or children. For more information on Letterbox, please visit the Letterbox page of this website. If you are considering accessing any of these services, please contact the Helpdesk to discuss your situation further with a Social Worker.
- Adoption Support Fund –The Adoption Support Fund (ASF) provides funding to meet the therapeutic needs of some Special Guardianship Children up to and including the age of 21 (25 if the child remains in education or training with a current, annually reviewed EHCP). Only children who were Looked After by the Local Authority prior to the Special Guardianship Order being made are eligible for the ASF funding. This fund comes from national government and is currently guaranteed until March 2025. If you feel that this may be something that your child would benefit from accessing, the first step is for a Permanence Support Team Social Worker to complete an assessment of need. They would then be able to discuss therapeutic options, find suitable therapists and apply for funding. Please contact the Helpdesk to discuss your situation further with a Social Worker.
- Training – Being a special guardian to a child can sometimes bring challenges different from those of parenting birth children. Your child might have been through a worrying and uncertain time when they stopped living with their birth parents, and we can help you to find approaches and techniques to reassure your child and help them settle in their life with you.
The Permanence Support Team runs and commissions a number of courses and workshops for special guardians to help you to understand and manage some of the common challenges of parenting special guardianship children. Topics covered in courses we are currently running include building attachment between you and your child, managing anger and other strong feelings your child is showing, building structure and routine at home in a way your child can manage, and parenting using a PACE approach. These are run in rotation across the ATV area. Full information about upcoming courses and workshops can be found by logging in to the Adopter and Special Guardian area of our website, and are also advertised via the mailing list. If you are unsure whether a course is the right fit for you, please call the Helpdesk to discuss your needs further.
- Special Guardian Support Groups – Special Guardianship is not as widely known about as other care arrangements for children, which can sometimes leave special guardians wanting to talk to someone who understands and has experienced this for themselves. Some of the ATV local authorities run support groups for Special Guardians, and there are others running independently across the ATV area. If you are interested in finding out more, contact the Helpdesk and we can point you in the right direction.
- Social Events – The Permanence Support Team also runs a number of social events for Special Guardianship families in the ATV area. You don’t have to be accessing other support from us to come to these events, all families with a Special Guardianship child are welcome to attend. We run events such as days out and picnics every year, which are a great chance to meet other Special Guardianship families without having a particular agenda: they are just a chance for you and your children to have some fun! Upcoming events are publicised through the mailing list.
For more information about any of the services above, please call 01856 323121.
Please remember to check that you are eligible for ATV services before making contact with us. For Special Guardians living in Oxfordshire, Swindon, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, West Berks or Wokingham you are eligible for ATV Permanence Support Team services if you child was placed by one of those local authorities, or if you live here and your child’s Adoption Order was made by another local authority more than three years ago. If your child was adopted from one of these local authorities within the last three years, but you do not live there now, you can also be supported by the ATV Permanence Support Team.
Support for all affected by adoption
The Permanence Support Team run a helpdesk, where a social worker will be available to talk to adoptive parents and special guardians. You can contact us either by telephone, email or by writing to us. The adoption helpdesk is there to help us help you.
Call 01865 897981
If only a simple, one-off service is needed, this may be provided without a formal adoption support plan being drawn up. If, following assessment, there is a need for ongoing adoption support, we will draw up a plan of what services we propose to offer. The plan will be reviewed periodically.
Course costs are met by Adopt Thames Valley for adopters approved by us and/or for adopters resident in Oxfordshire where their children were adopted more than three years ago. View information of the training we offer.