Children’s participation in decision-making remains a key focus of social work practice. Yet the protection and participation of children in our society remains a setting of tension for children, families and practitioners. Drawing on evidence from a retrospective qualitative study on Family Group Conferencing, this paper uses the lens of recognition theory to highlight the experiences of young people more broadly in the social work system. The study found social workers’ attitudes affected children and young people’s capacity to be ‘partners’ in decision-making. Feelings of misrecognition can create barriers for how children and young people perceive and interact with social work professionals. While small, this study sheds light on the experiences of young people’s struggles for recognition when involved in the social work system. Further research is needed on this topic to fully understand the implications of (mis)recognition in social work practice.