Understanding Child Welfare Strategies for Mitigating Agency Retention, Compassion Fatigue, and Secondary Trauma

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Human Services


Andrew Carpenter


Child welfare workers supply central guidance to crucial populations in the United States and are exposed to significant stress and secondary trauma that affects their psychological, emotional, and physical health. The purpose of this study was to explore how experienced child welfare workers describe strategies for mitigating compassion fatigue and secondary trauma to understand the strategies that reduce agency turnover. This generic qualitative research design used interviews with 12 experienced professionals who work in the field at a children and family services organization to determine how experienced child welfare workers describe the strategies that they use to mitigate secondary trauma as well as compassion fatigue. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory was the theoretical foundation of this study. Data were collected via Zoom interviews and analyzed using the Variation, Specification, ion, Verification, Demonstration, Conclusion (VSAIEEDC) model through NVivo to analyze the data. The overarching themes were (a) self-compassion and self-care, (b) reflective thinking, (c) social competence, (d) emotional literacy, and (e) organizational support. Based on these findings, recommendations include that organizations provide child welfare workers with information on mitigation strategies to mitigate compassion fatigue effectively. The results of this study may be used to help newly hired child welfare workers begin to implement effective ways to manage compassion fatigue and secondary trauma.

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