Compassion Fatigue in Child Welfare

The New Social Worker Magazine,

Contributed by Stephanie Rakoczy, BSW,MSW, LSW

Imagine for a moment you are a police officer on a call in which violence is occurring. The people involved have been reported to have a history of drug use. On your way to this call, you are thinking about the potential dangers, including people who could currently be under the influence of a substance and physically harming others. You find out along the way that among the individuals included in this call are children on the scene who reside in this home. Upon your arrival on this scene, one of the individuals displays a weapon.

Although this scenario doesn’t always occur when you go into a situation, you have been trained and have the means to protect yourself. As a police officer, you are able to carry a gun and sometimes other weapons such as a taser gun and mace. Now imagine you arrive at this scene to discuss how this situation affects the safety of the children. You have no weapon as you did as a police officer, yet the same safety concerns are present. If you have not yet guessed, you are not the police officer—you are a child welfare social worker. You work in some of the most dangerous situations and touch on some of the most vulnerable issues with parents—their children. You do all of this and, yet, you are ultimately defenseless.

Compassion Fatigue in Child Welfare –