The purpose of this article is to critically reflect on recent developments and debates about child protection policy and practice in advanced Western societies, with particular reference to England. It includes a discussion of the scandal associated with the death of 'Baby Peter' and the political reactions to it, together with an analysis of the Munro Review of Child Protection. In the process it considers why the profession of social work is continually subject to criticism in child protection work but, at the same time, continues to be entrusted with playing the central role in it. It is argued that a major reason for this is that social work plays a key role in 'governing the family' in advanced Western societies where, while it is important that children are protected from 'significant harm', it is also important that the privacy of the family is not seen as being undermined. Social work expertise is key to maintaining this fine balance and mediating between the various tensions involved.