Child protection practitioners are confronted with stressful and challenging situations every day as they protect the state’s most vulnerable children from neglect, harm and abuse. Similar to police and ambulance workers, they are first responders, and can face psychological hazards to their own wellbeing.
As part of the Victorian government’s Child Protection Wellbeing Program, the Department of Health and Human Services has engaged Phoenix Australia to develop and conduct resilience training for all of its child protection practitioners.
A tailored resilience program has been developed in consultation with the department, which is evidence-informed and draws on our experience of providing training to a range of health and social service providers and organisations where employees face a high risk of exposure to critical incidents, vicarious trauma, and burnout.
The program includes components of Psychological First Aid – a recommended approach to helping people in the aftermath of trauma, and Trauma Informed Care – an approach to service delivery that is grounded in an understanding of the impacts of trauma.
Added to these is an approach to developing resilience that emphasises personal awareness and the acquisition of practical skills, alongside a recognition of the unique risks and benefits of child protection work.
The training teaches participants to recognise and manage the impacts of exposure to acute stress and critical incidents, and understand the potential longer-term impacts of their work. It provides a framework for how the individual and organisation can mitigate the risks associated with burnout, vicarious traumatisation, and exposure to objectionable materials.
Participants are given an opportunity to develop their own self-care plan in the training, to put in place effective and realistic strategies to ensure their own wellbeing.
Dr Richard Cash, Director Education and Training at Phoenix Australia says that, “Boosting the resilience of child protection workers is vitally important – it will help them to continue their incredibly important work in protecting the most vulnerable children in the state, while looking after their own mental health and wellbeing.”