Social Policy and Society

Themed Section on Family Minded Policy and Whole Family Practice

Investing in Children, Regulating Parents, Thinking Family: A Decade of Tensions and Contradictions

Kate Morrisa1 and Brid Featherstonea2

a1 Centre for Social Work, University of Nottingham, UK E-mail:

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.