Terrorism, radicalisation and risk are contested terms — converging around particular children and young people in England to construct an emergent category of abuse — ‘childhood radicalisation’. With little practice-based research to date in this issue and expected responses via the state, social work needs to step up and engage with the present terrorism debates. In this paper, we argue against peremptorily defining this as a child protection issue. Rather, we think that more debate is needed about the role of social work and policy influences because social work can find itself unwittingly posing a risk to the very families we set out to help. Moreover, social workers might find themselves pawns in an ideologically driven moral panic without the benefit of debate about how we can make a contribution to families, and to this emerging practice issue. This paper offers some suggestions to bolster the confidence and skills needed in approaching this new practice issue. Social workers are themselves at risk of becoming the guardians of radicalisation risk work. This needs resisting if social work is to offer something complementary to the policing and securitisation needs of an anxious politic and ever-hovering media, hungry for sensationalised risk stories.