Child welfare workers are often thrown into the middle of the trauma that a child they are working with has experienced. There is no way to avoid this. CPS exists to be sure that children who are in abusive and/or neglectful situations are removed from them and placed with a family that can properly care for them. This means that sometimes a worker is exposed directly to abuse and/or neglect, if they are there physically to remove a child from the home. Direct exposure often leads to compassion fatigue. According to Figley (1995b), secondary stress trauma is “the natural, consequent behaviors and emotions resulting from knowledge about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other. It is the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering ...
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... further compassion fatigue, and that can essentially become a vicious cycle.
Jo Ann Jankoski (2002) did a study of child welfare workers in Pennsylvania. This research showed how the workers had a lack of hope, a lack of pride, and nearly no enthusiasm for their jobs. Many of the employees mentioned that the impact of these feelings often followed them home and caused problems in their personal lives and with their families. Many also reported having strong emotions such as fear, anger, paranoia and overwhelming sadness.
One way to help combat compassion fatigue is by implementing self-care. Kanter (2007) states that “the constructs of ‘‘compassion fatigue’’ and ‘‘secondary traumatization’’ have played an important role in raising awareness of these self-care issues throughout the social work profession: in direct practice, administration and academia” (p. 289).
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