Social work in South Africa has been heavily influenced by theories and models of practice from the United Kingdom and United States, despite repeated calls over the years for 'indigenous' approaches (Bar-On, 2003a; 2003b). Perhaps the most 'indigenous' model to emerge in South Africa is that of 'developmental social work', which is by far the most dominant social work approach referred to in contemporary South African social work literature. But what exactly is a 'developmental approach' and how might we enhance our understanding of this approach by drawing on contemporary social work theory? This is the question we address in this chapter. While our focus is on 'developmental social work', which is a unique form of social work practice developed in South Africa, our brief is to examine how contemporary social work theories might help us more effectively develop a critical approach to developmental social work practice. We believe that despite claims made about 'developmental social work', there is still little understanding of what this means in daily social work practice and there is even less critique of its effectiveness.