This paper focuses on the process of engaging with families where a child is at risk of harm, and considers a relationship-based approach to work with 'involuntary clients' of child protection services. Contextualizing the discussion within a broader understanding of the role and importance of relationship-based practice, a conceptual and ethical framework is outlined that can, it is suggested, support effective relationship-based work and moral decision-making with involuntary clients. Making use of psychoanalytic and more broadly psychodynamic insights, along with perspectives drawn from recognition theory, it is argued that relationship-based practice offers the potential for recognition, respect and reciprocity, and that these three aspects of relationship provide a foundation for ethical engagement with involuntary clients. However, such an approach is not without tensions, so the latter part of the paper considers some of the challenges and dilemmas that accompany the process of trying to engage parents who do not want to be 'worked with'.
- Ethical issues, Involuntary clients, Recognition theory, Relationship-based practice