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Study finds doing child protection social work can harm health

Child protection social workers in Ruth Neil's study reported sleep issues and other problems related to their work. Photo courtesy of the Guardian.

Child protection social workers in Ruth Neil’s study reported sleep issues and other problems related to their work. Photo courtesy of the Guardian.

Researcher Ruth Neil interviewed 12 social workers in Scotland who handled child protection cases to see how such stressful work affected them, according to this article in The Guardian.

All of the social workers told Neil their work impacted their lives in negative ways. Some lost sleep, had a poor diet because they had to work late and missed meals, or had relationship issues.

Social workers also said particular cases of child abuse and neglect haunted them, sometimes for years.

The social workers said having peer support and effective managers helped them handle the stress of their job.

And when asked why they stayed in a difficult profession that is often criticized in the press, the social workers said they were committed to “prioritizing the needs of children” and were encouraged when clients reported their lives had improved.

The National Association of Social Workers publication “Self-Care in Social Work: A Guide for Practitioners, Supervisors, and Administrators” ($32.99, NASW Press) offers guidance on how social workers and their organizations can relieve stressors that hinder the work of social workers.

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