Engaging Families, Building Relationships: Strategies for Working Across Systems from a Social Exchange Perspective

  • Karen Rice Millersville University
  • Heather Girvin Millersville University
Keywords: Child welfare, engagement, helping relationship, social exchange theory, strengths-based perspective


In child welfare, the relationship between worker and client is viewed as the mechanism through which families may be engaged. Certain settings may complicate the development of a helping relationship and require workers to counter these pressures by developing more effective means of engaging families. Utilizing a social exchange framework, this qualitative study was conducted to explore interactions among parents and professionals in dependency court hearings. Findings revealed that a lack of reciprocity hinders the development of collaborative relationships that could support and assist families. Implications for social work practice are examined.

Author Biographies

Karen Rice, Millersville University
Department of Social Work Assistant Professor/Department Chairperson
Heather Girvin, Millersville University
Department of Social Work Assistant Professor