The real-world navigation of ethics-in-practice versus the bureaucracy of institutional ethics remains challenging. This is especially true for research with children and young people who may be considered vulnerable by the policies and procedures of ethics committees but agentic by researchers. Greater transparency is needed about how this tension is navigated in practice to provide confidence and effective strategies for social researchers, including those new to the field, for negotiating informed consent. Twenty-three social science researchers with a range of experience were interviewed about their practices for gaining informed consent from children and young people in social research and the development of their ‘ethics in practice’ over time. Main themes focused on navigating ethics protocols within institutions, practices to prepare for data collection, and a critical evaluation of the resources that can be applied to gaining consent and managing relationships. A range of methods and concrete steps that address ethical challenges are outlined to illustrate what can be done in practice to achieve authentic consent and appropriate participation.