Compassion fatigue in public child welfare casework supervisors

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University of Alabama Libraries

The current study explores the phenomena of Compassion Fatigue and its impact on supervisors in public child welfare settings. The study is a secondary analysis of data collected by Pryce, Shackelford, and Pryce during a series of workshops in 1997 on the topic of Secondary Traumatic Stress. During the workshops, 458 child welfare caseworkers and 103 supervisors were administered the Compassion Fatigue and Compassion Satisfaction Self-Test for Helpers providing scores on Burn Out, Compassion Fatigue and Compassion Satisfaction. Demographic data was also collected on the 561 participants. Data analysis was conducted on the supervisors' responses and then compared to those from caseworkers. Results of the data analysis revealed that the supervisors experienced Compassion Fatigue but at a lower level than was reported by the caseworkers. Moreover, the impact of the demographic variables on the level of Compassion Fatigue was contrary to that seen with the caseworkers and as was predicted in the literature. The variables of age and years of experience, for example, held an inverse relation with Compassion Fatigue levels for caseworkers but not for supervisors. The variable of gender did not impact levels of Compassion Fatigue for either caseworkers or supervisors, in contrast with the literature's indications. Of particular interest was the relation between formal education and Compassion Fatigue level. Those respondents who held a bachelor's degree in Social Work (BSW) as their highest degree experienced the greatest level of Compassion Fatigue. This outcome was in contrast to expectations and prompted discussion on what aspects of Social Work education may be facilitating experiencing Compassion Fatigue.

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Social work