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‘She Made You Feel like There’s Hope’: Gaining a Better Understanding of How Children Negotiate Their Relationships with Social Workers from Their Own Accounts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Published18 Nov 2020

King's Authors


Recent years have seen a re-emergence of international interest in relationship-based social work. This article uses children’s accounts of their relationships with social workers to build on previous research to promote children’s safety and well-being. Interviews were undertaken with 111 children aged six- to eighteen-years old across ten different local authorities in England, as part of the evaluation of Munro, Turnell and Murphy’s Signs of Safety pilots within the Department for Education’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme. The interviews reveal four key findings: that children look for care and reciprocity in their relationships with social workers and this can be achieved through listening and small acts of kindness; that they are adept at recognising aspects of social workers’ verbal and non-verbal communications which indicate to the child whether they are listening and interested in them; that there are times in which children are particularly vulnerable especially if parents are resistant to engagement or children’s trust is broken; and that children actively use their agency to control their communication and engagement. The article concludes by highlighting children’s relational resilience and the importance of ensuring opportunities for children to develop new relationships with social workers when previous relationships have broken down.

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