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Child Arrangements Orders and Special Guardianship

Child Arrangements Order (CAO) - formerly Residence Order (RO)

The holder of a Child Arrangements Order shares parental responsibility jointly with other people who have parental responsibility (e.g. the birth parents).

When a Child Arrangements Order is made, a care order comes to an end. Therefore the child is no longer looked after.

In a Child Arrangements Order the child's birth parents retain parental responsibility as well as the right to consent or not to adoption. They can also apply through the courts for contact with the child, or a variation of the Child Arrangements Order.

Child Arrangements Order usually expire when the child turns 18. The family may have regular and frequent contact with their child.




"I almost cried when I heard the teacher say how well she was doing!"

- Julie, adoptive parent

Special Guardianship Order

A special guardian is responsible for the day to day decisions about caring for a child or young person, and his or her upbringing.

When a Special Guardianship Order is made, the holder is given parental responsibility. Any child previously looked after will cease to be looked after on the making of this order.

A special guardian may exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of all others with parental responsibility, apart from another special guardian. A special guardian can also appoint a guardian in the event of their death.

Special guardians can't change the child's surname, or move to live abroad for more than 3 months without the agreement of all others with parental responsibility or leave of the court.

Special guardians can't consent to the adoption of the child.

Under a special Guardianship Order the child's birth parents also retain parental responsibility. The birth parents will be limited in the way they can use their parental responsibility because a special guardian can use their responsibility to exclude that of the birth parents.

The parents also retain the right to consent or not to adopt, and may apply though the courts for contact with the child or for a variation of the Special Guardianship Order.

For a child who's subject to a Special Guardianship Order it's likely that there'll be more face to face contact than where a child has been adopted.

The child's parents are able to apply for a contact under under Section 8 or the Children Act 1989.

Find out more


You might like to read our Adoption and Permanence Support Statement of Purpose 2017-2018 (PDF, 539KB). This is a complete guide to all the services we provide and how we provide them to help all those affected by adoption to know what to expect of the service. The guide also provides information about Special Guardianship and Child Arrangement Order support services.


For more information or advice please contact the Permanence Support Team on 01473 265700.


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