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Leaving the door open for “tune ups”: Challenging notions of ending working relationships in family work

Child & Family Social Work

Published online on


The working relationship is considered a central feature of direct practice with human services clients. There are many challenges when it comes time to end a working relationship, yet limited guidance for workers on successful relationship ending. This paper aims to increase understanding of the process of the ending phase of the working relationship for parents and workers working with families where child neglect is an issue. The paper draws on data from a small‐scale qualitative Australian study of perceptions of parents, family workers, and supervisors involved in eight parent‐worker relationships. Using semistructured interviews, participants were asked to explore how they experienced the relationship. The findings illuminate important aspects about the ending phase of the relationship; in particular, challenging the idea that parents' returning to services for support is a sign that the service has not provided a successful intervention. The paper challenges social workers to consider recurring parent–worker relationships similar to other professional relationships where there are episodes of service but the relationship is there to be reactivated where needed.