Traumatic-Sensitive Workplace program established

Old Main on Huntington campus

The Marshall University Center of Excellence for Recovery, through an agreement with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services (DHHR) Bureau of Social Services, has established the Traumatic-Sensitive Workplace program. The agreement will provide $1.3 million in funding to the center to work closely with child welfare workers throughout the state.

This program will work with child welfare workers and community partners to prevent and address the effects of vicarious and secondary trauma. The hope is it will also promote personal and professional resiliency, resulting in greater job satisfaction, staff stability and employee performance. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, child welfare and community-based service providers have the mission of promoting child safety, well-being and permanence through the provision of child-focused, family-based practice.

“The partnership with the Marshall University Center for Excellence presents a unique opportunity to provide additional support to child welfare workers and those in the community who serve some of the most vulnerable West Virginians,” said Jeff Pack, commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Social Services. “The trauma experienced by our workers is significant, and this project is an important step in responding to their needs, maintaining this critical workforce and strengthening our communities.”

On a daily basis, child welfare workers interact with people who have experienced trauma. Secondary traumatic stress (STS) is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma of another person. Child welfare workers are at a high risk of developing STS through the firsthand trauma they hear about from their clients. STS can have a negative impact on the ability of individuals and organizations to help children and families, and that’s where the newly established Traumatic-Sensitive Workplace program comes in.

LuAnn Edge, director of Trauma-Sensitive Workplace, says she and others working on the project have a passion to help the workers that have experienced trauma through their work with children and families.

“We are confident that helping and supporting those workers who have devoted their lives to youth navigating the child welfare system will result in changes that will ripple through the entire child-serving system of our state,” Edge said.

The two-year agreement will include the development and operationalization of assessments, trainings on trauma and trauma effects, self-care tools, technical support, peer support networks and critical incident teams. Marshall staff will partner with internal DHHR teams to support front-line workers who are working with the young people being served by our state’s child welfare system.

For more information on the Trauma-Sensitive Workplace program, contact Edge by e-mail at edgelu@marshall.edu.