Shared Traumatic Stress and the Impact of COVID-19 on Public Child Welfare Workers

Deirdre S. Williams - Shared Trauma, Shared Resilience During a Pandemic


Lockdown and stay-at-home orders related to COVID-19 have exacerbated pressure on families in a time of public health threat and economic insecurity. Public child welfare (PCW) workers, inundated with job demands even in normal times, face cases complicated by the added stressor of a pandemic. The lockdown and economic crisis heighten the risk of abuse and neglect for children in precarious situations and shared trauma for PCW workers dealing with increased work and personal stressors. Symptoms of shared trauma can impede PCW workers from fulfilling job demands and responsibilities, which leads to inadequate resources for children in need of permanency and can potentially harm service delivery outcomes. The risk of significant shared traumatic stress among PCW workers thus needs to be mitigated with protective factors. Staff-focused policies and practices need to be created, utilized, and upheld through multilevel leadership, for the good of individual workers, their clients, and the larger society.