Organizational supports for child welfare social workers experiencing secondary traumatic stress

Child welfare social workers have demanding jobs and are often affected by secondary trauma. The purpose of this study was to identify what agency support and resources are available to CWS social workers who experience secondary traumatic stress. This study utilized a qualitative research approach. An online survey was distributed to forty-six participants from the Human Service Agency. A major finding from this study was that nearly all participants identified consequences of STS including: physical, health, cognitive, and emotional consequences. Another major finding was that participants identified and discussed the ineffectiveness of four supports available to assist them in addressing STS: counseling through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), peer support, occasional educational training, and critical stress debriefings. Another finding was that participants felt that there is a lack of agency support and recognition of STS. Another finding that emerged was that participants felt there needed to be an agency wide culture of caring that reinforced support around STS. Another major finding was that CWS social workers recommended that on-site support be provided to assist workers who are experiencing STS. The HSA first needs to promote awareness and acceptance of CWS social workers experiencing STS. Once the HSA is able to create a culture that is open to identifying STS among its workers then they will be able to recognize the needs and provide effective supports to assist workers in addressing this need.