Identifying the Experiences of Secondary Traumatic Stress in Rural Child Welfare Workers| Action Research Study

by Dino Ray Federico

Institution: Capella University
Year: 2017
Keywords: Behavioral psychology; Social work; Occupational psychology
Posted: 02/01/2018
Record ID: 2154819
Full text PDF: http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/#viewpdf?dispub=10261762


Secondary traumatic stress is the physiological reaction to vicarious traumatization. Public child welfare workers are exposed daily to the traumas of child maltreatment from neglect to death. Unlike other first responders, child welfare workers have continued exposure to the trauma of child maltreatment with every report, change in placement, and discussion. Rural child welfare workers have an added burden of issues common to both the children and families they serve, and to themselves as members of their communities: isolation, social proximity, dual relationships, remoteness, and fewer resources. In an effort to identify the experiences of secondary traumatic stress in rural child welfare workers in this study, eight child welfare workers were individually interviewed from two separate, remote, rural communities. Using semi-structured, open-ended questions, discussions of their experiences produced a wealth of data that was analyzed using qualitative content analysis. The findings gave discovery that rural child welfare workers do experience secondary traumatic stress, and included symptoms such as: depression, frustration, exhaustion, sleeplessness, crying, hypervigilance, avoidance, guilt, loss of appetite, and more. Many of these symptoms were exacerbated by the characteristics of the remote, rural community as there were few outlets and venues for discussing and debriefing in privacy. Conclusions were rural child welfare agencies need to engage in providing trauma informed training and support to their workers, and include secondary trauma as part of their culture in supervision and management. Finally, several new resources are discussed which are available to agencies and staff from national child welfare institutes, agencies, and online publications.