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“This text is a unique and important resource for anyone working in the child welfare field. The training manual is excellent for professional development workshops and programs.”

- Fred R. McKenzie, Aurora University


Josephine G. Pryce, University of Alabama
Kimberly K. Shackelford, University of Mississippi
David H. Pryce

Becoming a child welfare professional should come with a warning: “beware – this may change you forever and can be dangerous.” The change, however, may be good if you can learn to cope with the stress of the work and grow from the experience. Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Child Welfare Professional, a first-of-its kind book, presents the tools to help child welfare practitioners and agency managers identify and provide practical and appropriate interventions. This book is based on the authors’ ten-year study of over 600 child welfare practitioners’ experience with traumatic stress and child welfare.


  • Theory explaining the causes and effects of STS
  • Practical measures to prevent and cope with STS
  • Explanations of burnout and STS, and their differences
  • Intervention plans for all levels of agency
  • Chapters by both scholars and practitioners

*Digital Trainer's Guide Now Available!*

The Trainer's Guide is a digital manual for professional trainers, supervisors, managers, and administrators to support their staff in reducing the impact of STS. The guide contains everything you need to run a complete workshop for child welfare professionals — user-friendly lesson plans, PowerPoints, a workbook, and interactive scenarios. The trainer's guide isavailable for only $39.95. Find out more HERE!


List of Tables
About the Authors
Preface Download the PDF

  Chapter 1:  
Traumatic Stress in Child Welfare
Silencing the Study of Trauma
A Brief History of Traumatology
The Emergence of Compassion Fatigue and Secondary Traumatic Stress
Traumatology and Child Welfare Professionals
Applying Trauma Theory to Child Welfare Work
Constructivist Self-Development Theory
Empirical Evidence of STS among Helping Professionals
Child Protective Services: The Impact on Professionals
Empirical Evidence of STS in Child Welfare Work
Conclusion and Implications for Child Welfare
Chapter 2:  
Who Are Child Welfare Workers, and What Is the Cost of Losing Them?
Who Becomes a Child Welfare Worker?
A Loss of Innocence?
The Biggest Cost of Losing Child Welfare Workers: The Cost to Children and Families
Attachment in Foster Care Issues
Other Costs of Losing Child Welfare Workers
Economic Costs of Training New Child Welfare Workers
Child Welfare Worker Turnover: Why Do They Leave?
Disbelief and Dismissal Trauma
Hostile Work Environment and Administrative Bullying
Child Welfare Worker Retention: Why Do They Stay?
Chapter 3:  
Educating Child Welfare Workers about Secondary Traumatic Stress
A Psychoeducational Model for Secondary Traumatic Stress Education
Staying Cognitive during STS Education: Thinking about Feeling
Gender Issues
Differentiating STS from Burnout
How Human Beings Respond to Trauma
Understanding How Trauma Changes the Psychological Frame of Reference or Worldview
Dumping Your Bucket
Personal Trauma History
Coping with Secondary Traumatic Stress and Using Social Support
Physical Self-Care
Social Self-Care
Emotional Self-Care
Managing Disbelief and Dismissal Trauma
Professional Coping Factors
The Use of Humor as a Coping Skill
Professional Development
Anticipatory Coping
Chapter 4:  
Traumatic Stress and Supervision in Child Welfare
Traumatic Stress and Supervision
The Critical Role of the Supervisor in Child Welfare
Characteristics of Social Work Supervision
Unique Characteristics of Child Welfare Supervision
The Need for Effective Child Welfare Supervision Methods
Supervision in the Context of Trauma
Supervisors’ Traumatic-Stress Issues and Self-Care
Boundary Maintenance
Enmeshment as a Boundary Violation
Checking for Boundary Violations
Successful Supervision in Child Welfare
The University of Kentucky Southern Quality Improvement Center for Child Protection
Chapter 5:  
Traumatic Stress and Child Welfare Administration
The Absence of Leadership
Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Organization
Problems in Normalizing STS
Administration and Traumatic Stress
Selective Hiring Practices
Professional Development and Education about STS
Administrators’ Support for Supervisors
Critical Incident Stress Debriefing
Employment Assistance Programs
Professional Support Groups
Socialization and Mentoring
Physical and Psychological Safety
Innovations in Spite of Constraints
Socialization to Child Welfare: Administrative Responsibility
Advancement and Compensation
Management for Workplace Excellence
Chapter 6:  
Child Welfare Work and Traumatic Stress: An Occupational Hazard
Protecting Children in America: The Early Years
Child Protection Today: The Casework Method
Danger and the Potential for Injury in Child Welfare Work
Workers’ Compensation as Relief: Background
Workers’ Compensation: General Policy and Practice
Workers’ Compensation: Fraud
Employers’ Duty to Care
Workers’ Compensation: Defining Injury
Workers’ Compensation and PTSD: A Psychiatrist’s Perspective
Workers’ Compensation: Stress Claims and States’ Reactions
“Occupational Disease”: The Case of Fairfax County v. Mottram
Child Welfare, PTSD, and Workers’ Compensation: Elements of a Claim
Chapter 7:  
Traumatic Stress, Social Work Education, Child Welfare, and Research
Lessons Learned from Teaching Traumatic Stress
Inclusion of Traumatic Stress in the Social Work Curriculum
The Importance of Traumatic Stress to Child Welfare Education
How to Integrate Traumatic Stress into the Curriculum
Research Issues: How We Can Be Changed by What We Study
A Research Agenda: What We Need to Know
Personal Characteristics and STS
Organizational Factors and STS

Appendix A. Empirical Evidence of Secondary Traumatic Stress in Child Welfare Workers
Appendix B. Syllabus of Primary and Secondary Traumatic Stress in Social Work: Practice, Supervision, and Organizations
Appendix C. Glossary

  1. Terms Generated by Workshop Participants to Describe Trauma/Traumatic Stress
  2. Terms Generated by Workshop Participants to Describe Burnout
  3. Terms Generated by Workshop Participants to Describe Responses to Trauma
  4. Comparisons of States on Characteristics, STS, Burnout, and Compassion Satisfaction
  5. Comparisons of States on Compassion Satisfaction Potential and STS and Burnout Risk Categories
  6. Effects of STS on Child Welfare Practitioners by State

About the Authors

Colonel David H. Pryce (MA, University of Nebraska, MSSW, University of Texas, Arlington; d. 2012) was a social worker, author, and colonel in the U.S. Army. He served two tours in Vietnam in attack helicopter and air cavalry units, earning three Silver Star medals for gallantry and two Purple Heart medals for wounds received in combat. He served on the faculty of the U.S. Air Force Academy developing and teaching courses in American military history. Since his retirement in 1987, he has published extensively on warriors and their families.

Kimberly K. Shackelford (MSW, University of Southern Mississippi; PhD, University of Mississippi) is deputy director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children’s Services. Previously, she was associate professor of social work at the University of Mississippi. She continues her work as a licensed clinical social worker with the Mississippi child welfare agency staff and other community service agencies for the continued improvement of services delivered to the children and families of Mississippi.

David H. Pryce (MSSW, University of Texas, Arlington; MA, University of Nebraska) is a social worker, author, and trainer specializing in secondary traumatic stress in the helping professions. He is a retired army colonel and a twice-wounded veteran of the Vietnam War. He also serves as a secretarial appointee to the Department of Veterans Affairs National Advisory Committee on the Readjustment of Veterans.

2007 paperback, 200 pages, ISBN 978-1-993478-05-0, $42.95 (textbook)
2013 e-book, 132 pages, ISBN 978-1-935871-36-1, $39.95 (training manual)