Adoption support fund for special guardians

Information about the adoption support fund for kinship carers who are special guardians, including how to apply who is eligible.

Most kinship carers who are special guardians can get financial support from the adoption support fund. The fund can help you pay for essential therapeutic services, such as creative therapies, life story work, family therapy and therapeutic short breaks.

Read government information on the Adoption Support Fund (GOV.UK)


The adoption support fund is available to most children being raised under a special guardianship order (SGO). This also includes children up to and including the age of 21, or 25 with an education, health and care plan (EHC).

The child must also have been either looked after by children’s services:

  • immediately before an SGO was made
  • immediately before an SGO was made that then changed to an adoption order, or the other way around
  • immediately before living under a residence order or child arrangement order (CAO) while a potential special guardian could be assessed

The child is still eligible if they were previously looked after by children’s services and any of the arrangements described above have broken down, regardless of any reconciliation plans.

In terms of location, the adoption support fund is only available for children who:

  • are living (placed) with a family in England while waiting for adoption
  • were adopted from children’s services care in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and live in England
  • were adopted from abroad and live in England with a recognised adoption status

Contact your local children’s services department if you are not sure whether the child you care for is eligible.

Find your local council (GOV.UK)

How to apply

The children’s services department that placed the child with you is responsible for applying to the adoption support fund within 3 months of assessing your family’s needs.

First, you need to ask children’s services for an assessment to get support. You may need to ask the adoption and permanence team, family and friends care designated officer, or a different department. If you are not sure who to ask, the social worker who helped you get the SGO may be able to help.

You can also ask for your local children’s services’ family and friends care policy, which you can often find online. It should tell you the name and contact details for the person who has overall responsibility for family and friend carers.

The children’s services department that placed the child with you is responsible for assessing your support needs for up to three years. After that, it becomes the responsibility of the children’s services department where you live.

What the adoption support fund pays for

You can use financial support from the adoption support fund to pay for:

  • creative therapies, such as art, music, drama and play therapy
  • extensive therapeutic life story work to help the young person understand and cope with their past trauma and difficulties
  • family therapy to build attachment and improve the relationship between you and the child you care for
  • psychotherapy (or talking therapy) for your child
  • sensory integration therapy or sensory attachment therapy
  • therapeutic parenting training for special guardians
  • therapeutic short breaks

The adoption support fund will also pay for specialist assessments that lead to a therapeutic support plan for your family. The assessments are carried out by qualified clinicians and must be detailed and focused on trauma and attachment.

The adoption support fund cannot be used for standalone assessments for single conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder, foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, autism, sensory integration, unless they are part of a wider specialist assessment.

And funding should help your child have:

  • better relationships with friends, family members, teachers, and school staff
  • better engagement with learning
  • better emotional and behaviour management
  • more confidence and ability to enjoy a positive family life and social relationships

A social worker from children’s services will talk to you about who can provide the types of service that you need and which provider you would prefer.

How much funding is available?

The adoption support fund has two fair access limits.

  • Up to £2,500 per child per year for a specialist assessment.
  • Up to £5,000 per child per year for therapy.

Most applications to the adoption support fund will be below these limits. If you are asking for funding above these limits, children’s services must confirm that it will match-fund any amount over the limit, and that one or more of the following apply.

  • There is a high risk of your SGO breaking down without the extra funding.
  • Children’s services is dealing with an unusually high number of complex cases that it cannot afford to fund without additional support.
  • There is a lack of available, affordable therapeutic support, which means more funding is needed.

How to appeal

You will not be able to contact the adoption support fund directly.

If you disagree with children’s services’ assessment of your needs, you will need to go through its appeals process. Once the assessment is complete, children’s services should tell you about the outcome in writing and must let you know how long you have to appeal the decision (28 days is recommended good practice).

Children’s services cannot make a final decision until the deadline for appealing has passed, or you have told them you are happy with the proposed decision.

Support from Kinship

Here at Kinship, we offer a range of free support for all kinship carers, including workshops, online advice and information, and peer support groups.

Contact our advice service to speak to an adviser or book an appointment.