Centacare staff see and hear many heartbreaking stories simply by doing their jobs. But amidst the despair, hope and resilience can be found.
Their commitment and dedication was recognised today at a special event, `Supporting You to Support Them’, held to mark National Child Protection Week (NCPW) and the launch of important new research.
Commissioned by Centacare and undertaken by UniSA’s The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise, the study, Understanding Vicarious Trauma, identifies key strategies to help community service workers minimise the potential impact of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout.
“This is a very important day for us as it embodies our focus that our clients, in particular, the children, are at the centre of all that we do, and we strive to find the voice of the child in each interaction we have,’’ said Pauline Connelly, Deputy Director, at the event at Centacare’s city office.
“But for this to happen we need a band of highly skilled and dedicated workers who in turn need our support, so they can deal with the challenges of their roles as well as the rewards it offers.
“It’s also about us, as leaders within Centacare, making ourselves vulnerable in asking you the question ‘are you ok?’, because we then have to do something with you answer.’’
This year NCPW celebrates the theme that children thrive when their parents are supported.
The report recognises the strength workers take from client stories, and how small wins inspire hope, resilience, self-worth and a sense of purpose.
This was highlighted by staff during a panel discussion at the event, attended by more than 100 people.
“Clients teach me on a day-to-day basis because they are so brave,’’ said Toula Stavroupolos, Case Manager, Outer North Youth Homelessness Service.
“I draw a lot of inspiration from how strong they are when they have gone through so much adversity in life.
“The small wins have taught me no act of kindness is too small because they appreciate it so much.’’
Foster Care Manager Amalie Mannik said the research was “incredibly important’’ for the entire community services sector.
“People aren’t necessarily aware vicarious trauma is impacting them,’’ she said. “This research brings it to the forefront, and we can put processes in place to make sure that staff are ok.’’
Elaine Reynolds hopes the research will help break down the stigma surrounding vicarious trauma.
“It can be seen as a weakness when actually it’s a strength; when you have that self- awareness to know that you’re not ok,’’ she said. “Talking about it as a topic makes people aware that it’s there.’’
National Child Protection Week is coordinated by NAPCAN (National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) and runs from September 1-7.