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The term guardian is used in two contexts within the child welfare system. The two definitions should not be confused.
The Children Act 1989 allows the courts to appoint an individual as a child’s ‘guardian’. This is referred to as a ‘testamentary guardian’. This person will have parental responsibility for a child. It does not happen often. It is most likely to occur when a child’s parents have died. The person who becomes guardian will have been appointed as the child’s guardian in the parent’s will.
When the term ‘guardian’ is used in care proceedings, it is shorthand for children’s guardian. A children’s guardian is an independent social worker appointed by the court. Their role is to look after a child’s best interests during legal proceedings.