Secondary traumatic stress (STS) threatens the well-being of child welfare workers and remains a prevalent problem among this population (Rienks, 2020). Studies have identified that higher resilience may be a protective factor against STS. Despite burgeoning recommendations to reduce STS and increase resilience among the child welfare workforce, few studies have investigated interventions that may improve these aspects of worker well-being. As a part of a five-year federally funded child welfare research initiative, the primary objective of this study was to investigate whether resilience and loving-kindness meditation (LKM) interventions improved STS and resilience among child welfare workers.
This study implemented a 12-week, psychoeducation intervention, Resilience Alliance (RA) (ACS-NYU, 2011), using a pilot randomized clinical trial. The sample comprised 60 child welfare workers in a Midwestern. All participants provided services directly to children and families. Participants were randomized into two groups: (1) A comparison group that participated in RA (n=30); and (2) An intervention group that participated in RA plus LKM (n=30). Data were collected via pre and post-test surveys that included the STS scale (Bride et al., 2004) and the brief resilience scale (BRS) (Smith et al., 2008). Mixed linear models tested between group differences. First, one set of models examined differences between the comparison and intervention groups’ mean STS scores. Another set of models tested between group differences for mean resilience scores. T-tests examined within group differences from pre and post-test mean STS and resilience scores for both groups.
Findings demonstrated that participants had lower STS (M=22.4, SD=12.2) and higher resilience (3.6, SD=.78) when compared to previous studies (e.g., Baugerud et al., 2018; Pharris et al., 2022). Results indicated no significant between group differences for STS (B = 0.41, SE = 3.08, z = 0.13, p = 0.894). Additionally, no significant within group differences for STS for comparison group at pre-test (M=20.87, SD=[12.53]) and post-test (M=20.00, SD=[12.80]); t(22)=[0.418], p=[0.340]) or intervention group at pre-test (M=21.58, SD=[11.83]) and post-test (M=20.0, SD=[9.04]; t(23)=[0.665], p=[0.256]). Results showed significant differences between comparison and intervention groups on resilience (B=-0.40, p=0.026). Unexpectedly, the comparison group had higher resilience and intervention group had lower resilience. There were no significant within group differences for resilience for the comparison group at pre-test (M=3.57, SD=[0.79]) and post-test (M=[3.66], SD=[0.64]); t(22)=[-0.923], p=[0.183]) or the intervention group at pre-test (M=3.85, SD=[0.63]) and post-test (M=3.66, SD=[0.59]; t(23)=[1.234], p=[0.115]).
This study contributes to the literature by using a rigorous research design and piloting the use of RA and LKM and examining initial outcomes related to direct service workers’ well-being. It represents one of very few that used the STS and BRS scales to measure change over time. Further testing is needed to examine these measures’ appropriateness for longitudinal designs (e.g., sensitivity to change). Additionally, study findings suggest that workers with lower STS and higher resilience may select to participate in well-being interventions. Further research is needed to better understand what factors may predict participants selecting in or opting out of well-being interventions.