It is widely acknowledged that there are significant benefits when statutory child protection agencies and parents are able to engage cooperatively with one another to ensure the well-being of children. Despite promising innovations there are ongoing concerns that the current child protection model alienates and confuses many parents. It is hypothesized that a significant reason for this is that statutory agencies have become reliant on formalistic assessment, and as a consequence interactions with parents have become dominated by a focus on assessment-compliance. A qualitative study of 40 parents who had recently been investigated in Australia is reported. The analysis suggests that many parents find characteristics of assessment processes intrusive and that this undermines engagement. It is concluded that there should be greater debate about the role that assessment plays in child protection practice.