This article examines ‘care’ and ‘values’ in local self-help groups and voluntary organisations which mobilise around partnering and parenting. It finds that a shared identity based upon common experiences of misrecognition and stigma is the most significant element of involvement. This provides the basis for new knowledge, for challenging professional practice, and for alternative practices of care and support based on trust, reciprocity and mutual respect. However, sometimes it also contributes to forms of social closure. The article sets these findings in the context of New Labour policy on voluntary organisations, participation, and parenting and partnering.