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The Independent Guardian: a new approach to safeguarding

The Independent Guardian will herald a new approach to safeguarding for previously looked after children, that is more suited to the needs of families living with the impact of trauma, abuse and neglect. The safeguarding approach taken will be one of support, and of crisis prevention. In the event of a crisis occurring, the Independent Guardian will be informed and involved as soon as possible to oversee a critical response that enables families to survive the crisis. Families where children live on the edges of care need a swift critical response, which the current infrastructure does not adequately provide when the only requirement for a Local Authority is assessment. The Independent Guardian will support the child, wherever the child lives, and in the context of the child being part of a family. This approach will greatly benefit young people leaving care when children’s services are no longer involved.

Independent Guardians

Independent Guardians are people who have a specialist understanding of the support needs of permanent families, both children and parents.

Independent Guardians believe that children who have experienced early trauma and can’t live in their birth family, need stable and secure families, and families caring for traumatised children need support. Supporting the child means supporting the family.

An Independent Guardian is a guide, a signpost, an advocate and an instigator. This person may come from a range of professions and may have personal experience of Adoption or Kinship Care.

An Independent Guardian Service can make the difference for families to care for adopted children with a range of difficulties, preventing need to return to care, thus saving the subsequent care costs, helping to prevent introduction to crime, helping support children and young people with mental health problems and helping to enable adopted children to reach their education potential and become confident responsible and respectful young adults.

The Independent Guardian role will be to identify the resources, guidance and support each permanent family needs, taking into account the fact that no two families will be the same, and no one support system or therapy fits all families. An Independent Guardian will be a link between what is available and the families who need the support. The Independent Guardian will have an advisory role at multidisciplinary meetings called when an adoptive family are in crisis or if their child is in care. The Independent Guardian will have the role of making sure everything is considered to reunite a family where a child is admitted to care, voluntarily or by court order.

Independent Guardians can be managed by existing Voluntary Adoption Agencies, Registered Adoption Support Agencies or Regional Post Adoption Teams, but they will need to be independent of Children’s Services.

This expertise will include:

  • Knowledge of the law including:
    • Care sections,
    • Education plans for children EPAC
    • EHC Plans
    • Pupil premiums,
    • Contact orders
  • Understanding of issues relating to permanent families
    • The impact of trauma on an infant, and on the developing child – Birth Trauma and Developmental Trauma
    • The short and long term neurological effects of a toxic pre-birth environment on the child. FASD, Drug use and Domestic Violence. The language of babies.
    • Secondary trauma for parents and other members of the family
    • Recognition of ‘Blocked Care’
    • The need for an informal support network of people around a family
    • The need for adopters/special guardians/kinship carers to meet others in a similar role – people who do not make assumptions that ‘all children are like that’
    • The effect on a family of child on parent violence
    • That Developmental Trauma is not solved using behaviourist methods
    • The need for long term stabilising and integrating services for each family
    • The Therapies that work with the family to develop positive attachment patterns
  • Awareness of and links with:
    • Relevant Support Agencies in their area
    • Agencies offering assessments
    • Outdoor and Sporting Activities in their area which understand the needs of children suffering from Developmental Trauma or Complex Trauma.
    • National resources for Adoption and Special Guardian/Kinship Care Support
    • Independent specialist social workers
    • Clinical psychologists who are specialist in the field of PTSD, RAD, Developmental or Complex Trauma, Dissociation, Attachment difficulties. A psychologist who is not a specialist in this field can cause harm to the family.
    • Organisations which run conferences and training including current research.



An Independent Guardian will need to supplement his or her professional qualifications with specialist training before starting. A certificate for Independent Guardians may be devised. This would need to include courses that are level 3 or 4 in the following: (this is not an exhaustive list)

  • Child protection and safeguarding (renewed biannually)
  • Attachment and Brain development
  • Understanding Trauma
  • Secondary Trauma
  • Children’s Rights
  • Effects of Domestic Violence
  • Foetal Exposure to Alcohol
  • Multi-disciplinary Working
  • Attachment awareness in schools
  • Self-harming behaviours
  • Sexualised behaviours
  • Building Resilience

These courses are all available as e-learning courses through KCA. kca.training. They could be adapted to group learning.

Costs of setting up an Independent Guardian National Service

A 3 year salary for a project manager to set up the service and facilitate the training.  £120,000

Admin support salary for the project: £75,000

Equipment, support and travel costs £100,000

Publicity and advertising and Information £60,000

Training costs. £750 per Independent Guardian. For initial 50 AGs £37,500

Supervision for Independent Guardians £36,000

Draft total set up costs (to be scrutinised). £488,500*

We hope to gain support for this new role in children’s care from voluntary agencies and charities involved in adoption and kinship care support, and in making recommendations for social care. We hope the Adoption and Special Guardian Leadership Board and Regionalisation Boards will be fully supportive of this scheme and help us to bring this vitally important child and family support role into reality.

*It costs approximately £200k per year for just one child to be looked after in residential care, which many of our children need when they return to the care system, and far more for secure accomodation, which is often needed when they become destabilised and something goes wrong – they go missing/run away; they are targeted for grooming or by drug gangs; they become criminalised.