Becoming and Being a Grandparent Special Guardian: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Mcgrath, Paul (2021) Becoming and Being a Grandparent Special Guardian: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Special guardianship orders (SGOs) are a legal order used in the family court as an outcome in both private and public law care proceedings. SGOs enable children who are unable to live with their parents to be permanently cared for by people they are connected to, giving parental responsibility to the child’s special guardians. However, although SGOs are now an accepted permanence option there is a lack of research and few studies have focused on the experiences of special guardians.

Children subject to SGOs have usually experienced trauma during their childhoods and they generally have similar needs to children in local authority care. Grandparents make up the largest cohort of special guardians and little is known about how their unique relationships with the children and the parents affects the role.

This interpretative phenomenological study examines the lived experiences of grandparent special guardians. Twenty-nine grandparent special guardians participated in 18 semi-structured interviews. Transcripts were analysed ideographically using the principles of interpretative phenomenological analysis.

The findings identified that the experiences of grandparent special guardians consisted of two stages, ‘becoming’ and ‘being’ grandparent special guardians. The ‘becoming’ stage involved: a transition in identity from grandparent to special guardian; changing relationships with both their grandchildren’s parents and local authorities; and the experience of support during the child protection and court processes. The ’being’ stage involved: the development of a special guardian identity and a new family identity; the management of complex relationships with the grandchildren’s parents alongside supporting the grandchildren to understand their relationships with their parents; and the availability of support and the potential barriers to accessing it.

The thesis concludes with recommendations for policy, practice, and future research, arguing that there are unique features of grandparent special guardship families, and a new approach is needed in planning and supporting this family type.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Social Work
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2022 10:53
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2022 10:53


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