a1 Centre for Social Work, University of Nottingham, UK E-mail: email@example.com
a2 National University of Ireland, Galway
This article describes the contested and underdeveloped backdrop to ‘“whole family” approaches’, whereby families with care and protection needs are caught in a conflicting set of policy and practice expectations concerning responsibility to care whilst being positioned as families that fail. Questions are raised about how supported families are to navigate their way through these permissive and punitive policies and practices. We suggest that there is an urgent need for more ‘bottom–up’ research informed by the ethic of care to develop the kinds of policies and practices that might make it more possible for them to do so.