Postprint of: Reimer, EC 2013, 'Relationship-based practice with families where child neglect is an issue: putting relationship development under the microscope', Australian Social Work, vol. 66, no. 3, pp.455-470.
Published version available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2013.814694
Child neglect is a persistent social issue in Australia, with factors that hinder efforts to intervene. Of particular concern are difficulties that have been raised regarding building working relationships with parents where child neglect is a concern. This article draws on findings of an Australian qualitative study that explored in depth multiple perspectives on the development of relationships between family workers and parents where neglect is a concern. It was found that the process of building trust, which was central to the establishment of the working relationship and increased parent willingness to engage in child-welfare related interventions, was something the parents in the study engaged in actively. They did this through testing workers’ trustworthiness and by attempting to reduce perceived power inequities between workers and themselves. It is argued that resistance to workers’ attempts to build relationships are a healthy protective response by parents to challenge the professional expectation they submissively build relationships with strangers who wield great influence over their lives, and the lives of others in their family. Implications for professionals include developing greater understanding of why parents might resist attempts to build working relationships, and using this knowledge to accommodate parents’ resistance where it arises.