Essay Compassion Fatigue And Child Welfare Workers

Essay Compassion Fatigue And Child Welfare Workers

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ompassion fatigue is a real problem that many people face: doctors, nurses, and child welfare workers, to name a few. For this paper, I will be focusing on compassion fatigue as it pertains to child welfare workers. Compassion fatigue is also called secondary stress trauma, or STS. When a child welfare worker works with children who have experienced trauma, it sometimes transfers onto themselves, that is- they can begin to show symptoms of trauma or experience a lot of stress. This can affect the worker physically, emotionally, & even spiritually. Physical symptoms that can happen are: headaches, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and even cardiac symptoms like chest pain. Some of the emotional problems that happen are: mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, anger, memory issues and trouble concentrating. According to one research study, 37% of the workers who responded were exhibiting symptoms of compassion fatigue (Cornille, 1999).
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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