The impact during the last 50 years of contrasting policies on the relationship between child care agencies and the parents of children in care makes for depressing reading. Swings between rescue and rehabilitation-centred work have led to professional practices which are very difficult to defend. At one extreme policies have led to the enforced emigration of children and, at the other, to the premature, dangerous and sometimes fatal return of children to families ill-equipped or ill-prepared to receive them.