This article uses the concept of 'the social investment state' to understand key aspects of New Labour's policies in relation to welfare reform. It argues that 'investing in children' and creating 'responsible parents' are vital features of many of the policies and service initiatives which have emerged since 1997. Such features have considerable implications for policies and practices in the arena of family support. The article goes on to outline aspects of an important critique of the social investment state which has emerged from those engaged in research and policy analysis who argue for a 'political ethics of care'. It argues that this perspective offers important possibilities to family support advocates not only for critique, but also for articulating much needed policy alternatives to those currently being promoted by New Labour. It also signposts the importance of conducting ongoing research into the meanings which are being attached by individuals to complex and contested terms such as 'family' and 'support'.