‘Known to services’ or ‘Known by professionals’: Relationality at the core of trauma-informed responses to extra-familial harm

Carlene Firmin, Kristine Langhoff, Roni Eyal-Lubling, Reima Ana Maglajlic, Michelle Lefevre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Efforts to shift from criminal justice to welfare-based responses to exploitation and other forms of extra-familial risks and harms, have centred relational approaches. In particular, the role that relationships between professionals and young people can play in providing a sense of safety as well as a route to wider support services when young people come to harm beyond their families is under consideration. In parallel, trauma-informed practice is increasingly promoted as a tool for creating service conditions in which relational practice can thrive. In this paper we present data from an institutional ethnography of two social care organisations in the UK which are endeavouring to adopt trauma-informed responses to extra-familial risks and harms. We use observation, focus group, and case file data collected in two time periods, to illustrate a relationship we identified between the nature and source of knowledge that guided professional responses, the ability of professionals to form relationships with young people affected by extra-familial risks and harms, and the capacity for their organisations to be trauma-informed. In doing so we trouble an established discourse in many social care organisations, that young people subject to intervention are ‘known-to-services’ and call for more responses in which young people are ‘known-by-professionals’ who are supporting them. Far from being a matter of semantics, we discuss how these two ways of knowing about young people, and the situations they face, potentially facilitate or undermine key pillars of trauma-informed practice, and the relational approaches that make such practice possible.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107595
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - May 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors


  • Adolescence
  • Exploitation
  • Extra-familial harm
  • Relational social work
  • Trauma-informed practice


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