Secondary traumatic stress (STS) can occur when a professional experiences high stress or symptoms of trauma when working with people who have experienced trauma that mimic posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. People with careers in the helping professions, like child welfare workers and child welfare-related professionals, are particularly vulnerable to experiencing STS. The following resources provide further understanding of what STS is, its impact, how to identify symptoms, and how it can be prevented and mitigated on an individual and organizational level.
The Cost of Caring: Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Impact of Working With High-Risk Children and Families (PDF - 894 KB)
Presents an overview of secondary traumatic stress and teaches child welfare workers, as well as leaders, approaches and strategies to decrease risk and prepare for intervention of secondary traumatic stress. The resource utilizes case examples to describe secondary trauma and breaks down the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder that secondary traumatic stress can mimic.
Reducing Burnout, Enhancing Resilience & Caring for Self/Others in Child Death Review (PDF - 866 KB) [Presentation Slides]
National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention at the National Child Death Review Conference
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Discusses the impact of witnessing and hearing about trauma in the context of child death reviews and the importance of resilience and self-care. Various types of stressors and the human response to them are discussed. Additional resources are also provided.
The Relationship Between Vicarious Trauma and Turnover Among Child Welfare Professionals (PDF - 526 KB)
Middleton & Potter (2015)
Journal of Public Child Welfare, 9(2)
Explores the relationship between child welfare workers experiencing vicarious trauma and their intent to leave their job. The study found that vicarious traumatization of workers is likely a contributing factor to high turnover in child welfare agencies, and implications for the field are shared due to this finding.
Secondary Trauma and Child Welfare Staff: Guidance for Supervisors and Administrators (PDF - 785 KB)
National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2016)
Provides information on how secondary traumatic stress (STS) manifests, who in the child welfare field is at risk for STS, and strategies for prevention of and intervention for STS. The tip sheet for supervisors and administrators lists STS assessment tools and offers recommendations for professional development efforts that focus on building skills associated with resilience.
Secondary Traumatic Stress in Child Welfare Practice: Trauma-Informed Guidelines for Organizations (PDF - 1,782 KB)
Chadwick Center for Children and Families (2016)
Provides concrete and research-informed strategies to assist leadership in child welfare organizations, as well as other child- and family-serving organizations, with supporting their workforce and approaching secondary traumatic stress.
Session 5: Organizational Strategies to Address Secondary Traumatic Stress in the Workforce [Video & Resources]
Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative (2018)
Provides a recording of the 2018 Child Welfare Virtual Expo session on secondary traumatic stress in the workforce and links to worksheets, resources, and a PDF of the presentation. This learning module requires a free account with CapLEARN. To access this resource: 1) Register for an account, 2) search for “2018 Child Welfare Virtual Expo: Fostering a Healthy Workforce” in the Course Catalog, 3) enroll in the course, and 4) navigate to Session 5 on the left-hand side of the screen.
Supporting Child Welfare Staff: The Critical First Three Months [Webinar]
Children’s Bureau & Child Abuse and Neglect Technical Assistance and Strategic Dissemination Center (2018)
Reviews the importance of the first 3 months of employment for child welfare workers, with a focus on agencies highlighting what secondary traumatic stress (STS) is to new workers and reducing organizational stressors to reduce turnover. The webinar walks through infusing information and support related to STS into each phase of employment, including hiring, orientation, training, the first few months, and beyond.
- PowerPoint Slides: Supporting Child Welfare Staff: The Critical First 3 Months (PDF - 686 KB) View Abstract and Document
- Summary: Supporting Child Welfare Staff: The Critical First Three Months (PDF - 459 KB) View Abstract and Document
Using the Secondary Traumatic Stress Core Competencies in Trauma-Informed Supervision (PDF - 2,324 KB)
National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2018)
Outlines nine core competencies for supervisors providing support to workers at risk for secondary traumatic stress. It can be used by individual supervisors to assess knowledge and help identify resources based on the results, as well as by organizations to guide their supervisors in a self-evaluation of the competencies. The information within the tool can also be used to identify needed resources and develop training.