Work place adversities and resilience in a group of designated social workers in the Free State
Molakeng, Mahloma Herbert
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Child protection social workers are assigned statutory authority to protect vulnerable children and to uphold their rights. This group of professionals are at risk for several negative outcomes due to various workplace adversities. Nonetheless, some demonstrate resilience. This study is two-fold and includes a scoping review of eleven studies that focused on child protection social worker resilience along with semi-structured interviews conducted with ten female child protection social workers from the Free State, South Africa, to explore their lived experiences of risk and resilience. The thematic analysis of findings was embedded in the socio-ecological model which emphasizes human interaction with ecologies and resultant individual behaviour. Findings from the scoping review reveal that available literature about child protection social work resilience has been conducted in mostly European countries, with a few conducted in the United States of America, one in South Africa and one study in Asia. The scoping review further found that resilience of child protection social workers in these studies were predominantly embedded on the interpersonal and intrapersonal levels of the socio-ecological model. The scoping review indicated a need for a continued exploration of resilience processes in other parts of the world and other provinces of South Africa, since only one South African empirical study in Gauteng about the risk and resilience of South African designated social workers were identified. Therefore, in order to honour diversity of people and contexts in which they work, further explorations of the resilience of designated social workers in other South African provinces is imperative as this will contribute to a better understanding of South African designated social workers’ risk and resilience. As such, semi structured interviews were conducted with ten designated social workers in the Free State, to explore what could be learned from their experiences of risk and resilience. By employing thematic analysis, the following risk and resilience processes were identified: risks such as: inadequate resources; a high caseload; unsafe child protection social workers; disrespectful engagements from other professionals; the pressure of decision-making; difficult working relationship with the Department of Social Development; and insufficient placement options for children. In terms of resilience supporting processes, participants reported: a passion for child protection social work; the benefits of practising religious activities; engaging in self-care; a positive work climate; and supportive personal relationships. What we are starting to understand about South African designated social workers of the Free State, in this specific group, is that their adversities are embedded on the institutional, individual and community level of the socio-ecological model. Furthermore, their resilience is supported by processes found only on an interpersonal and intrapersonal level of the socio-ecological model. Both these studies contributed to the ongoing dialogue of child protection social worker risk and resilience by expanding on the current knowledge base on this topic which may inform the creation of viable interventions to reduce risk and enhance resilience of child protection social workers.
- Health Sciences