In this article, we lament the effects of practice-distant research and associated policy initiatives on contemporary children's services in England. In the last decade, as a result of high profile inquiries into non-accidental child deaths, statutory children's social care services in the UK have been subject to a wide-reaching 'modernization' programme. We studied decision-making in the high blame environment of local authority children's services. Our research sought to examine the relationship between performance management and the impact of anticipated blame within the decision-making practices of those providing, supervising and managing these services. We show that systems and technologies can be developed which both assist the users in their daily work and achieve desired organizational goals, but without an ethnographically informed, practice-near approach, unsafe work regimes and practices can ensue.