A Social Worker's Thoughts on Child Protection Social Work

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Three years, and no one has commented on this little gem: "And I have been attracted to a client." These are CHILDREN. If you find yourself attracted to a hurting, traumatized child, GET HELP. I hope her supervisors saw this article. She needs help immediately and should not be around children if she finds herself attracted to them.

JC more than 3 years ago


Thank you for your comment. Countertransference does occur in social work and can be addressed with a supervisor and/or the social worker's own therapist. She doesn't say that she was attracted to a child--clients can also be the adults in the child's life--so I would not make that assumption based on what she wrote in the article. Regardless, any social worker who has such feelings should follow the Code of Ethics and discuss these feelings with a supervisor and/or therapist, as stated above.

SocialWorker.com more than 3 years ago


I am studying to become a childrens social worker right now and was in the system as a teen. Your article not only inspired me, it motivated me even more. I have severe PTSD and depression, how did you overcome your PTSD? I honestly would love to know more and maybe even get a few pointers to help me on my journey. I'm actually enrolled online in college working on my bachelors of science in child studies degree and it is my first year.

TerraLyn Lehman more than 3 years ago


If you are still suffering from PTSD, you should seek counseling. Social workers often struggle with secondary PTSD from working with those who have been traumatized. If you don't get help now, you're setting yourself up for more intense psychological damage. College is not easy, and students are often triggered by the material they study-- let alone the people they work with. Your college likely has free counseling. Go as soon as you get to campus. Keep going until you can talk about your trauma without any stress or anxiety. It's great you want to be a social worker, but you MUST take care of yourself before you can take care of clients. Learn how to manage your emotions, learn how to set boundaries, and get medication if you need it.

JC more than 3 years ago

05/2016 Effects of Violence on the developing brain of children and the mental health effects

I was one of the children that experienced a Domestic Violence Environment and I have “ PTSD- since age 8; I was a very high functioning Mentally and I was able to hide my emotions well until I was age *31! I have worked in Social Services and having the mental illness enabled me to have a understanding of the Clients I had that had mental illness and, I was able to get through to the individual under the illness! I also caution you that some people are very dangerous and must be observed constantly and you have to have the people that can help you If the situation becomes violent!?! I am disabled but I am very active in the Mental Health Awareness and the Domestic Violence Survivor Speaks Advocate and I have been fighting with the FDA and our rights to personal Medicine because one size does not fit all and I have had experienced life threatening adverse effects from medications that they prescribed!!

Nancy Janitz more than 4 years ago

Gorgeous Article, Thank You

You so beautifully captured the entire experience of this system and I thank you deeply for doing so. It is such a roller coaster of feelings and experiences, but I admire you for being able to keep your heart protected enough to still have the mission clear. I teared up at my desk and immense respect for you. Please keep up the good work and writing. Those families are lucky to have you. You are a light worker. To other in this field- remember to self-care and PLEASE try EMDR. Both for yourself and your clients. It balances and heals so quickly.

Sam Mendis more than 4 years ago

Explaining what we do

Love your article. It really gets across so much of what we do. I am a former social worker with CPS, and I recently finished a memoir about reproductive choices. My own story includes social work, abortion counseling, and personal experience with infertility treatment and adoption, as well as 24 years of parenting. And you can bet I remembered my clients once I had children of my own. I am looking into getting "Bearing Children" published. Let me know if you are interested in looking at it. Andrea Abrams

Andrea Abrams more than 4 years ago

Self Care

I can relate to much of this article about the job; yet, I wouldn't say it is awesome. I would beg to differ and say overwhelming and emotionally draining; highs and lows and you have to create your highs. Note: You won't even realize it has sucked the life out of you before it happens. Your heart can handle much more than your nervous system so take extra special care of yourself. Always be in therapy/counseling to protect the nervous system. The heart can get so involved and miss the signs.
However, I have met some awesome worker/friends on the job whom have aided in my survival and offer self-care moments. Without a doubt I know I have over the last 20+ year saved and impacted many lives positively doing the job. You can make a difference but SELF-CARE has got to be priority #1.

Achap more than 5 years ago

Child Protection work

I have been at my local department for 17 years and in the last three years have worked in CPS. Your article makes a great point about 2 assessors looking at each situation. At our department we do go out in the field and complete assessments as CPS teams, and it is so helpful when one can conduct an interview and the other can take notes, observe other things going on in the home etc. 2 heads are better than one and if a removal is to take place the burden is on the "team" not just the worker assigned the case.

Nancy Reasin more than 6 years ago

Child Protection

Well written in a very robust way covering almost every area of child protection cases.

Princes Petronella Dallas-coboy more than 6 years ago


Great and accurate article. I would also like to mention the dangerous daily situations social workers place themselves with little to no resources to help keep them safe. Also, secondary and vicarious trauma are very real. Sometimes the mental health of the social worker is a last priority.

Kimberly more than 6 years ago

If only!

If only more people understood this your job as "social worker" would not be so misunderstood. My daughter does this job and tells me how important it is to her, she may as well have written this as she has explained to me verbatim what her job means to her. I agree the "partner" idea is a wonderful idea and should be explored . Bless you and your heart for doing this, it's not a job everyone can do.

Jeanne Tidswell more than 6 years ago

I am acquiring to achieve my BSW in Social work

I admire people who are real and genuine from the hearts of heart and you're right about how much you can do and how much you are faced with but you all strive to provide a wide variety of generosity, I can only hope to be a special gift as you all are to humanity. I honor you all for just being a human being who exudes empathy and compassion 😊

Charollett Dunstan more than 6 years ago


Thanks for your article. I only have one comment--it's about the supervisors. Supervisors do not need to be "smarter" or "more experienced" to be a good supervisor. I have been supervising for many years now, and I would have to say I'm not always smarter than the folks I supervise. In fact, many times I am the one learning something new. In my humble opinion, what makes me good at my job is that I recognize I'm not smarter or that I'm not always right. I think I offer support in whatever way I can, and I listen to my workers. I advocate for their needs so they can advocate for their clients. I look for teaching moments, and accept the ones that come to me. I debrief, I encourage, I micro-manage when they need me to, I provide learning opportunities when they need me to, I engage, I direct, I teach, and I use humor each and every day. I have successfully supervised new workers, and I have successfully supervised workers who have been old enough to be my mother! I have supervised cases where the issues are so far beyond what I have ever learned about, and ones that, at this point in time, seem old hat. I learn and continue to grow with each experience I have. Supervising is very different than front-line work--a good supervisor wasn't always a good front-line worker, and a good front-line worker doesn't always make a good supervisor! Leadership, communication, and a good understanding of how child protection impacts front-line workers are key components of being a good supervisor.

Child Protection has good days and bad days--but you're right, it is a great job. I go to bed every night knowing that I have inspired others to work for the best interest of the children in our community. I know that we are making a difference for children. We cannot save them all, which can sometimes be tough to handle, but we do help some. It's not for everyone, that's for sure, but it can be a wonderfully rewarding job for a lot of people! Thanks for doing what you do.

a matheson more than 6 years ago

Child protectionsupervisor

A Matheson you sum up beautifully what a supervisor should be. There needs to be far more training in this area. CP workers all know your supervisor can make or break you !

Caryl S-K more than 6 years ago

Social Workers: Professional and Human

Hi Cathy, and thanks for your article. It is great to hear about young people in the field who are observant, keen and with the energy one needs. Your insight is marvelous. I am a Social Worker in Youth Justice for 28 years now and recall the occasional classroom experience at University that still included a preference towards 'not being' yourself on the job. A lesson I am thankful was one I never agreed with. I have often said that those in our line of work need to keep their humanity and their sense of humor. It is truly about understanding where people come from and how normal many of their feelings and experiences truly are. You are in child protection - a judged specialization in our field. You describe it with the love and compassion that most Child Protection Social Workers bring with them to the job, and vital they keep. There is a substantial difference between good supervision and a lack of the same and I presume you have a good one. A partner - what a great idea. The decisions made in the field are to important in the lives of those we serve to make independently or lightly.
This is my first time finding this page. I look forward to reading more articles.

Beth Alkenbrack more than 6 years ago

Thank You

I have been contemplating redirecting my career from Behavioral Health to Child Protection. I'm living in the Phoenix, Az area. CPS has been in the news for years. The horrific acts of cruelty that has been done to children is heart breaking. I'm afraid I'd either be fired or arrested because of what I'd see. How do you keep your emotions in check?
I understand Boundries and all the self- guards we put into place. There is such a shortage of CPS workers in the Phoenix,Az area where would you start

Kristie Paulus more than 6 years ago

Lovely article

I'm a 3rd year SW student, in Youth offending team. Today I had my mid review and I can completely agree with the main majority of things you have said! I'm terrified about becoming a newly qualified SW & the responsibility we have a SW. I am not sure if I am brave enough to go into safeguarding team for children because of the complexities and sadness the job can bring. I am looking forward to helping and supporting service users in the future to come and I'm definitely looking forward to learning more. Thank you again for an inspiring article

Sahira Akram more than 7 years ago

Wonderful Piece

I liked reading this piece. Not only was it well written but it reflected our work very well. I have worked in child welfare for five years and I often tell people I do the most important, least appreciated job in British Columbia. I have been fortunate because I have had good supervisors who helped me develop and grow. However, the work has certainly taken its toll on me. I could not agree more about the author's comment regarding protection workers being paired like police officers often are. Early in my career I worked on the gulf islands-a chain of islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland-where I was paired with another worker. She and I became very close. One part of this work that is often overlooked or not recognized is how incredibly lonely it can be. We are not able to share our days because of confidentiality and often the parts we can share others do not want to hear. Having an investigator and a family service worker paired makes sense from a clinical perspective because the narrative can be retained over a greater period of time. It makes sense to families because it takes some of the mystery away from the system and lessens the 'revolving door' phenomenon. I think that, paired with good supervisors, would make for a much better and safer system that would likely be more stable.

Many thanks to the author for writing this article and to the NS for allowing me the opportunity to reflect upon it here.

Scott Dennis more than 7 years ago


Thank you for writing such a thoughtful article on CPS work. I enjoyed it. Your thoughts fit well with my recovery from 29 years of Child Protective Service.

Larry Earl Wraight more than 7 years ago

Mirrors a Child Protection Social Worker

Awesome article that clearly demonstrate being a child protection worker that defines our practice from other fields in social work. I have been working with children in sex trafficking in the Philippines and this story reflects many of my experience in the field, from investigation, rescue operation, litigation, recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration with families and communities. The article captures such experience the difference perhaps is the cultural context which is diverse in different parts of the world. Supervision and debriefing i agree are vital approach in honing our capacities and nurturing ourselves to be in our best in this field, but more so in caring for ourselves as person constantly at the center of complicated emotions, behavior and safety risks. Something i look forward to in the next issues of The New Social Worker.

Vivian Escoton more than 7 years ago


Thank you for this well articulated piece on a very difficult subject. If there is anything that I have learned in my almost 11 years in the field ...it is simple " remember your own humanity, and have empathy"

Ryan Anogiatis more than 4 years ago

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