Georgia State University Secures $200,000 For Training To Combat Stress In Child Welfare Workers
ATLANTA—Georgia’s Division of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) has contracted with Georgia State University to train child welfare caseworkers and their supervisors statewide on how to prevent depression, anxiety, burnout and turnover due to secondary traumatic stress (STS).
Training for the state’s caseworkers and their supervisors, funded with a Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) $200,000 grant from DFCS, is projected to run a year and a half. It will occur in DFCS offices and training sites across the state, eventually moving online with webinars for use by future employees. CAPTA provides states grant funding to improve their child welfare systems.
Child welfare workers suffer the nation’s highest rates of secondary traumatic stress, which can affect mental health and impair their ability to effectively help those who require services. Research suggests most child caseworkers will experience STS during their careers, with up to a third experiencing significant symptoms.
The Professional Excellence Program, a unit of the university’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, is conducting the training, which began for DFCS supervisors in March. The curriculum was designed by Distinguished University Professor Brian Bride, director of Georgia State’s School of Social Work and a nationally recognized expert in the area of secondary traumatic stress.
“Our goal is to provide system-wide training to existing and new DFCS employees to help them recognize and monitor secondary traumatic stress among themselves,” Bride said. “We will train them to identify risk factors and to practice personal and professional self-care and to seek peer and supervisory support. The training will help them protect themselves from STS symptoms like burnout.”
“This training will help increase staff retention by helping caseworkers to be stronger in the work they do,” said Sheila Blanton, the Professional Excellence program director. “We began with DFCS supervisors, who are receiving training on how to recognize STS in their employees, how to provide organizational support to prevent STS and how to create a culture that recognizes and addresses secondary traumatic stress.”
She and Deidre Carmichael, an evaluation specialist for the center, helped Bride develop the curriculum and are assisting in training the supervisors.
The program is one of several initiatives Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed to provide Georgia’s caseworkers with the foundational skills and support they need to best serve Georgia’s children and families.
“As the lead pillar of the ‘Blueprint for Change’ reform effort, a robust workforce is only possible when our employees are healthy, feel supported and are able to maintain work-life balance,” said Georgia DFCS Director Bobbly Cagle. “This training will go a long way in ensuring that child welfare supervisors are aware when an employee is experiencing anxiety, depression or burnout and will give them tools to provide additional support to those employees in need.
“We are encouraged that this training will help address the issue of turnover, which hovers between 33 and 38 percent annually. As we continue stabilizing our workforce, we see many service improvements for Georgia’s children and families.”
Distinguished University Professor and Director
School of Social Work
Brian Bride is a professor and director of the School of Social Work at Georgia State University. His research and teaching interests are in the areas of behavioral health care, primary and secondary traumatic stress, health services research, HIV/AIDS and workforce well-being.
Program Director for the Professional Excellence program
School of Social Work
Sheila Blanton, M.Ed. is the program director for the Professional Excellence program at Georgia State University School of Social Work. She has also worked as a curriculum developer and a unit manager for the DFCS training department where she was responsible for curriculum development and managing the work of other developers. She began her career in education and has also worked as a grants manager in the state’s adoption program. Blanton has a particular interest in the use of technology to enhance learning.