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Arizona DCS implements program to help social workers manage trauma

(Pixabay photo)

PHOENIX — For people who work with children who have experienced trauma, the stress of the job doesn’t end when the work day does.

Secondary trauma impacts social workers without them realizing until they’ve become overwhelmed, Jenny Bilskie of the Arizona Department of Child Safety told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.

“We’re dealing with difficult content. We investigate reports of child abuse and neglect,” she said. “We see some pretty difficult things.”

Bilskie helped create and implement the Workforce Resilience Program, one of the first peer support programs in the nation to help social workers cope with the job.

“We make ourselves available when a DCS employee is dealing with a difficult case or even a difficult personal situation,” Bilskie said. “We understand that the two really do impact each other.”

DCS hopes the program can counter the effects of a job with responsibilities that often lead to burnout and high employee turnover.

Bilskie wasn’t sure how effective the program would be. Would social workers feel comfortable on the other side of the discussion, dealing with their own trauma?

“We can be, like, ‘We’re the helper,'” Bilskie said. “It’s hard for us to ask for help.”

She was wrong.

Since the program began in May, she said there have been about 50 responses each month.

Bilskie emphasized that the program wasn’t counseling. It’s a confidential program with peers in an “empathetic, compassionate space.”

“You might share something that you’re struggling with, and then the person that you’re talking to is like, ‘Me too. I had that happen to me,'” she said. “All of a sudden, you don’t feel alone anymore. You don’t feel isolated in your suffering.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report.

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