The challenges of contemporary child welfare practice are well documented in many countries worldwide. The current study enhances this work by reporting the lived experiences of child welfare workers in Chile, who negotiate their practice in a strained political and organisational context. A qualitative methodology was used to understand the complexities of the survival strategies of these workers. Data were collected via multiple individual interviews and group workshop sessions with six workers of different Chilean National Service for Minors’ collaborating organisations. Through a constructivist grounded theory analysis, we identify three major complexities that shape and construct the strategies of survival that the Chilean child welfare workers deploy in a neo-liberalised labour context: (1) Surviving a violent labour context (precariousness and dehumanisation); (2) surviving labour ambiguities (fractures and resistance) and (3) surviving oneself (pain-filled and violence executors’ bodies). We discuss these findings in the context of the scholarly literature and offer implications for policy and macro practice to alter the work conditions of this professional field.