Ghanaian social workers practise in a poly-ethnic nation comprising a multitude of different indigenous cultural practices and a modern urban sector largely divorced from a rural population adhering to customary law. This qualitative study explores how Ghanaian practitioners negotiate the contradictions between child welfare legislation and customary law. Data were gathered from semi-structured interviews with 36 qualified social workers employed by the Department of Social Welfare and thematically analysed. The study found that legislative provision normalizes nuclear family forms and runs counter to customary law. Social workers are shown to struggle with the ethical dilemmas the law poses without being able to resolve them in a manner consonant with Ghanian workers' code of practice. The study makes recommendations for social changes to policy, practice and training.