A Relationship based approach to engaging involuntary clients:


The contribution of recognition theory. Author: Danielle Turney
Child and Family Social Work, 2012.


Annotated Bibliography of a Journal Article

Turney, D. (2012). A Relationship-based approach to engaging involuntary clients: The contribution of recognition theory. Child and Family Social Work, 17, 149–159.

            This journal article focuses on engaging families in situations where one of the children is at risk of harm. Turney (2012) argues for the adoption of a relationship-based approach when dealing with ‘involuntary clients’ of child protection services. The paper goes on to give a detailed explanation of the relation-based theory and how it facilitates desirable outcomes, including recognition, respect and reciprocity. In terms of recognition, this theory allows for separation and differentiation as a child develops his/ her own identity with respect to the current surroundings. The element of respect is addressed using the use of power to enforce consequences of the failure or refusal to recognize authority while reciprocity is the principle of give-and-take in relationships. One party gives something of themselves in expectation for something else in return. The author also provides a comprehensive description of the challenges and dilemmas that come with trying to handle parents that do not want to be helped. She places particular emphasis on the question of ethics and morality when it comes to the application of this approach, but nullifies it with the assertion that the relationship-based approach can provide a client with the experience of being valued and recognized as an individual.


            The findings of this research support the argument that the relationship-based approach can be used to effectively handle involuntary and even difficult clients in social work. The parents of a child can either enhance or block access to him/her and choose whether or not to provide useful information regarding family history and current situation. By creating a rapport and establishing trust with these parents, the social workers are able to quickly ease up the situation and by extension, to obtain all the necessary information within the safety and confines of the established relationship. Besides, the methodology used is appropriate for this kind of paper as the author begins by first familiarizing the reader with the concept and citing previous studies done in this files before setting out to justify the need for her research. Finally, an analysis of the challenges or difficulties that may be encountered in implementing the said approach are discussed.


            Going by an appraisal of the skill set and experience of the author as well as the academic institutions involved, this research paper is a credible source of information and an authority on issues related to engagement with involuntary clients. Danielle Turney (Ph.D., University of London, 1994) is a certified social worker, having worked in local authorities with children and families. Moreover, she has taught qualifying and post-qualifying social work programs at the University of London, Open University and currently at Bristol University, where she is a senior lecturer in social work and Director of the Master of Science program in advanced social work with children and families.

             This journal article portrays a sophisticated level of analysis with facts being presented clearly and concisely as well as concepts being explained and expounded on fairly well whenever necessary. Moreover, it lacks any obvious grammatical errors or misrepresentation of facts. However, it is somewhat deficient in terms of a critical view of the subject matter – the use of the relationship-based theory when dealing with involuntary clients. The writer is greatly skewed towards highlighting only the positive effects of using this approach when faced with difficult clients while neglecting the long-term effects of trying to establish relationships with every difficult client the social worker encounters. Undoubtedly, the approach may result in unnecessary attachment to clients in addition to creating vested interests at the expense of professionalism (Daniel, 2005). Establishing trust and a safe space with children solely for the purpose of obtaining information or ‘treating’ them as opposed to creating lifetime relationships may make them feel manipulated and short-changed in the long run.

            Overall, though, this journal article is a well-structured, properly-researched and professionally presented. It is sure to create intellectual interest in the topic and spark further research in the socio-psychological field of relationship-based social work in relation to social workers’ efforts to handle involuntary clients.


Daniel, G. (2005). Thinking in and out of the ‘frame’: Applying systemic ideas to social work with children. Psycho-analytic Theory for Social Work: Thinking under Fire, 59-71.

Hennessey, R. (2011). Relationship skills in social work. Boston, MA: Sage Publications.

Turney, D. (2012). A Relationship based approach to engaging involuntary clients: The contribution of recognition theory. Child and Family Social Work, 17, 149–159.

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