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Human Services


Dorothy Scotten


Social workers in child protective services often handle hundreds of cases regarding children traumatized by abuse and/or neglect. In time, social workers' experiences can become emotionally and psychologically challenging. A problem for supervising child protection social workers (SCPSWs) is that they might experience the same challenges; however, there was no research that described the lived experiences of SCPSWs. This phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of SCPSWs. Conceptually, constructivist self-development theory (CSDT) provided the framework for understanding how SCPSWs managed their lived experiences and the issues related to them. Ten SCPSWs volunteered their time for face-to-face interviews and provided data for this study. Saldana's coding manual was used to guide the identification and coding of key words and phrases. SCPSWs experienced occupational trauma in the form of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and/or burnout similar to that experienced by front line workers. SCPSWs' experiences required them to set boundaries, stop taking work home and support each other in the workplace. Enhanced resources for training on self-care plus increased administrative and peer support could potentially improve the lives of these SCPSWs and increase their longevity and effectiveness in the workplace. Retaining experienced supervisors also has the potential to promote positive social change by improving the support supervisors can provide to front line staff, thus indirectly helping children, families, and communities they serve.

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