The purpose of the practice innovation is to share ideas of strategies in attempt to address the problem of practice. Currently there a statewide mass hiring in Connecticut for child protection social workers due to the high turnover rates and burnout within social workers within the agency. To lower the case load percentage for the social workers will be helpful however more strategies on a multilevel need to be implemented to address the problem of practice. Personally, as a child support social worker investigator I often ask myself how a social worker is supposed to protect the safety of a child? When we are stressed out from high caseloads, staff resigning every six to 12 months, lack of supervisions and adequate support but is expected to meet the needs of abused and neglected children.
A multi-level intervention that focuses on the health of the social worker with an effort to retain social workers. Child protection social workers need to have the ability to “bounce back” from the daily stress of the work as well as the supervisors need to deliver empowering and strengthen based resilience support as we do for our children and families. A practice innovation on a supervisory level to support social workers on an individual level of a ninety-minute, weekly supervision scheduled monthly. Retention focused supervision utilizing the first half of each session for validation and empathy. Social workers will be allowed to vent their frustrations about work and non-work-related problems. At the time and discretion of each social worker.
Supervisors will provide support related to the workers need in efforts to minimize any work-related stressors such as caseloads and removals. As supported in the literature, supervisors have the greatest influence over retention, Furthermore, the supervisor’s relationship with their social workers are critical especially with a newly hired social worker. The new social worker experiences within the first year is crucial to retention. Supported by the literature, adequate supervision, ongoing support in a supportive work environment can determine whether the social worker will stay with the agency or not. Social support refers to the emotional and instrumental elements of social relationships (House, Umberson, ; Lanids, 1998). Social support in the work place, such as supervision and ongoing support received from a supervisor or the organization, can safe guard against the physical and psychological harm by work place stressors (Kim;Stoner, 2008; Mor Barak, Travis, Pyun, ; Xie, 2009).
State of Connecticut Department of Children and Families, Supervision Practice Guide, Policy 7-22, definition- Supervision is a formal, professional relationship in which the supervisor has authority and oversight responsibility for the work and work life of the supervisee. Although supervisors are held accountable for services delivered by their supervisee, supervision is a collaborative relationship in which supervision hold responsibility, as well, for effective fulfilling their job duties. Social worker supervisor to worker level- minimum of four hours monthly, of which at least half must be individual supervision. Although this policy is in place it is often not implemented as well as it is not used as it was intended to support the social worker.
A practice Innovation on an individual level to support social workers on a personal level of a ninety-minute bi weekly, support group to be scheduled for the entire month for social worker. The support group will provide the social workers a self- care assessment worksheet to complete as a tool to for awareness on the area that needs to improve and have an opportunity to share with their peers. The support group will be focused on additional support for validation, empathy and empowerment to build resilience. This support group will have implemented within the agency through the training academy as professional development and will be available at every area office. The support group will be facilitated by social workers and it will allow social workers vent, process and provide validation with empathy for additional support that is much needed in this type of work. A social support system is important as it is a network of people, friends, family and peers- that we can turn to for emotional and practical support.
The literature has shown that there benefits with social support to reducing stress and improving stressful working conditions. Social support is important for maintain good physical and mental health as there are many benefits to having supportive relationships, such as knowing peoples who can relate and provide advice, guidance and tangible support, such as assistance in times of crisis. Supportive relationships in a stressful working environment are helpful when overwhelmed, burnout and feeling depressed. Supportive peers can provide additional support, listen, empathized while providing encouragement which can lower stress. The literature supports that social workers in child protection are exposed directly and
indirectly to traumatic events through their work with children and families.
Secondary trauma has a negative impact on child protection social workers if is not addressed as it affects their ability to profile effective casework. The literature highlights how often the child protections social workers face anxiety, grief, fear and anger dealing with neglectful and abusive families. The overwhelming stresses from secondary trauma faced by child protection social workers can be viewed as they are drowning and treading the water to cope with pressure, stresses, and trauma of their daily role. Child protection social workers are left to try to trend the water and waves that comes to them from a traumatic event, an intimidating threat, a crisis, conflict with co-workers, a demand of excessive documentation, life stressors, or personal situation such as a death or medical illness.
Burnout and quality of life issues is a complex problem among child protection social workers. As the literature highlighted, social workers in child protection services face unique challenges in this line of work. Social workers and specifically, in child protection services requires engagement with a population who are emotionally and physical traumatizing situations making life changing decision with high stress are inevitable. Furthermore, front line social workers need supportive supervisory relationships. The supervisor is an important person who can provide guidance and support that comes from understanding the struggles of working with children and families on difficult cases. For most, supervisors have done the same type of work and understands the personal struggles and investment that it requires and can provide a perspective on the bigger picture, a view that can strained when the social worker is on the front line. Supervisors need to be able to support their social workers and help them manage the emotional intensity of the work. Self- care is ongoing process in which, a person addresses their needs to live a healthy and quality of life. There is no doubt that child protection social workers are affected by secondary trauma and the quality and ability to provide services is affected by it.
There is a need for the agency to understand the impact of secondary stress and the organizational factors have on child protection social workers, as it is critical on many levels. Understanding these concerns on a personal level can highlight educational needs, support and build on the social workers strengths, that can lead to the development of personal strategies to help child protection social workers manage their work load and retain social workers. This information can be used to advocate for agency changes that can support the social workers maintain their quality of life, well- being and ensure effective quality case practice.
I believe high turnover rates and secondary trauma are pressing issues that are associated with the quality of life issues among social workers in child protection services. The lack of implantation of purposeful supervision and adequate supports for the social workers has been negatively impacting the mission of the child welfare system- assuring the safety and well-being of children. We, child protection social workers are skills at dealing with difficult clients and issues. However, the impact of what we faced daily with secondary trauma has been overlooked by the agency. I have started in child protection services about ten years ago and I have seen policies put in place but not implemented. Often the reason are the high demands of the job and the needs of the agency, crisis situations and case emergencies often hinder the increase supervision and support that is needed around these incidents. I want to be realistic with my interventions and after much discussion with my colleagues they all felt the interventions I
proposed would be helpful and doable. I am fortunate to know many competent and passionate social workers who struggle to get through their day due to the overwhelming feelings of burn out, stress, and contemplating on leaving the agency. Their dedication to the children and families they serve is admirable and its what’s keeps them going.
Unfortunately, too many of my peers and myself are just “pushing” emotionally and physically as we are over worked and unseen. We feel like machines with a disregard of our own personal life and feelings related to the trauma and stressors from the work we do. When we have a moment to talk, those minutes of validation and having your peer listen to you helps to get through another day. I believe adequate support is powerful in the life of a child protection social worker. I am aware I may not be able to make a drastic change with my agency
however, with these interventions of retention supervision and support groups may be a start on addressing these issues in hopes to create a path for additional support and strategies within the agency in the future.