The desire to prevent child deaths has had an enduring influence in shaping professional responses to children in this country from the 1870s onwards. In recent times the inquiry into the death of Maria Colwell (Secretary of State, 1974) represented a landmark in the reappearance of child abuse on the social welfare agenda. The procedures devised after the inquiry into her death have formed a blueprint for those still in use today. The emphasis present and past has been on setting up reliable procedures to identify children at risk and to maximise inter-professional coordination. Since that time a spate of public inquiries into other child deaths has ensured that child abuse remains high on the public agenda (DHSS, 1982; DOH, 1991) and child protection procedures have been successively revised in response to these inquiries. In the face of continuing uncertainty about how best to deal with high-risk situations, the response has been to increase the regulatory framework within which professionals work.