Building relationships with family members

Building good relationships with families is crucial to creating an environment whereby issues can be identified, discussed in an open and honest way, and addressed restoratively. Good relationships with practitioners support the family to address these identified issues and safeguard all family members.  The following provides good practice guidance for practitioners: 
  • Learn to listen effectively, without judging.

  • Develop a culture whereby people can express their feelings.

  • Always listen to and respect children, young people and adult’s opinions.

  • Show respect

  • Work in partnership with the family, and communicate with other professionals who can help the family.  Don’t assume someone else is dealing with an issue.

  • Communicate openly and honestly.

  • Understand barriers people face.

  • Non-verbal behaviours can go a long way when it comes to communicating. Giving a smile can signal warmth and make a practitioner seem more approachable

  • Questions need to have a purpose and should not be based on your own personal curiosity about  an individual.  Always ask open questions that need a response. 

  • Be very clear about your role with all family members involved and the roles and responsibilities of family members. 


Work practice considerations 

We need to support families to become better equipped to solve their own problems and address the challenges they face. Working in this way, doing things with children, young people and families rather than to them or for them, is a technique known as restorative practice. As a practitioner, it is important to work restoratively whilst offering a persistent, assertive and challenging approach- looking at the family as a whole.  Practitioners can feel out of their comfort zone to challenge other family members, particularly when they are hard to engage. 

Difficulties in working with hard to engage parents and carers are a recurring theme within Serious Case Reviews (SCRs).  The 2005-07 analysis of SCRs published by Ofsted revealed that 75% of families were characterised as uncooperative which included hostility, avoidance, disguised compliance and/or ambivalence.


Key practice questions to reflect upon when meeting other family members: 

  • Are you ensuring you’re not colluding with the parents / carers by avoiding conflict, for example focusing on less contentious issues?

  • Are you filtering out negative information or minimising information in order to avoid raising concerns?

  • Are you afraid to confront family members about your concerns?

  • What message are you giving this family if you don't challenge?

  • Are you relieved when there is no answer at the door?

  • What might the child have been feeling as the door closed behind you?

If you have concerns about working with a parent or other family members always seek support from your supervisor.  

To learn more about working with hard to engage parents, click here for the LSCP Working with Hard to Engage Parents amd Carers course. 


Further information on Think Family Work Family

Documents available for you to print off