Building Relationships with Children and Families

'The relationship… is the boat in which we travel together towards agreed and desired destinations… The quality of the interaction, the trust and understanding… act as a vital thread… that opens up the possibility for defenses to be lowered, for the truth to be faced, for doubts and fears to be worked through and change to be integrated and embraced.'

(Trevithick 2005)

Knowledge Briefing – Practising relationship-based social work

This knowledge briefing is written specifically for practice supervisors. It includes key messages from research and practice evidence about:

  • The key principles of relationship-based practice and why it is relevant in child and family social work.
  • Why attending to the quality, impact and influence of relationships with children and families should be a central element of discussions in one to one and group supervisions.
  • What practice supervisors need to know and do to embed relationship-based practice in their teams.

Challenge questions and reflective prompts are included to help you consider how you might use these ideas in your role as practice supervisor.

Movie icon What is relationship-based practice?

Professor Gillian Ruch explains what relationship-based practice is and why it is so important for practice supervisors to model this approach with the staff they supervise.


How relationship-based are you?

The concept of relationship-based practice is widely used in social work. It can, however, be challenging at times to translate concepts (such as relationship-based practice) into practice without some guidance. This tool, developed by Professor Ruch to accompany the film, prompts you to think about what the core principles of relationship-based practice are.

We have also provided a similar tool which you can use as a discussion prompt or self-reflection exercise asking your supervisees to consider what relationship- based practice looks like when demonstrated in practice with children and families.

Movie icon Building relationships with children and young people

Author and trainer Jenny Molloy has worked with many social workers in her life; both as a young child living at home with her family and as a child looked after. Jenny draws on these experiences to talk about the importance of social workers taking the time to listen, connect and understand the experiences of children and young people.

You can listen to another podcast by Jenny on a different topic in - ' Understanding the Lived Experience of Children and Families' section of this website.

Jenny Molloy tweets as @HackneyChild.

You can read more about her childhood experiences here.

Movie icon Hearing from children and young people

Feedback from children and young people was used to develop this film in which they talk about the importance of having a supportive and consistent relationship with a social worker. The film was commissioned for PSDP.

Movie icon Paying attention to rich words in supervision

‘Rich’ words communicate an underlying state of mind, emotion or story. They can help us understand complex and challenging feelings which may arise in practice. Feelings which can get in the way of practitioners building effective relationships with children and families. This film introduces the positioning compass and shows you how you can use this to explore with your supervisee what stories or emotions might be being communicated through ‘rich’ words in supervision discussions.

The positioning compass

This tool gives you information about the positioning compass with prompt questions and guidance about how to use this.