The other side of child protection: the lived experiences of front line child protection workers.




Gough, Michael

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



As a result of working in high-risk situations, child protection workers are often confronted by such traumatic incidents as the physical and sexual abuse of children, serious neglect situations, and personal threats. The perception of how workers deal with their emotional challenges has not received a great deal of attention in the literature. To date, a phenomenological study focusing on the descriptive experiences of child protection workers struggling with secondary traumatic stress has not been published. This study attempts to rectify this, by examining from a phenomenological perspective how secondary traumatic stress (STS) experienced by child protection workers impacts their practice and personal lives. This study found that child protection workers engaged in direct practice will be exposed directly and indirectly to traumatic events through their work with children and families and the risks of experiencing symptoms of STS are almost a certainty for a child protection worker. Participants described the day-to-day pressures of managing a caseload and dealing with traumatic events or traumatized people. From their responses, three major categories emerged: Professional Issues relating to case practice and effectiveness; the Personal Impacts of child protection work on the way workers function, both on the job and in their private lives; and Behavioral or Physical Changes experienced by child protection workers. It is these categories that best illustrate the dramatic way secondary trauma affects child protection workers as a whole.



Child protection, burnout, Secondary trauma