The FAMCare Blog

Both Sides Weigh In

Posted by GVT Admin on Nov 1, 2023 10:30:00 AM

Child Welfare Agency Feedback Last week's discussion about the burnout rate of the young, well-intentioned social workers who choose Child Welfare as their area of interest excited feedback from all corners of the non-profit world. Both the CPS workers and the agencies had plenty to say in a follow-up article by Sue Coyle in Social Work Today.

CPS Worker Feedback

  • "Nonprofits exist to help better society with missions and programs that incite dedication from employees at all levels. All our staff care,” says Tanya Barrett, BSW, MS, LPCA, senior vice president of 211 Health and Human Services at United Way of Connecticut. “They care about the callers. They care about what happens to people. They do this work intentionally.
  • “In my opinion, one of the main reasons that nonprofit employees struggle with advocating for their needs in the workplace is due to the culture in nonprofit work that often epitomizes selflessness and overworking. I also have found that nonprofit employees often have a deep personal commitment to the mission of the organization they work for. Therefore, it can be challenging to feel like you should advocate for your own needs when it could possibly be perceived as ‘taking away’ from the needs of the clients or population your organization serves,” says Katie Axinn, MSW, LSW, a school social worker at a nonprofit in Pennsylvania.
  • She adds that the idea of selflessness is first introduced and perpetuated in social work school when students complete unpaid internships while also juggling courses and coursework and, often, working a separate job. “Students are then congratulated and rewarded for completing this course of free labor, which further maintains the idea that the outcomes they produce for the organization they work for are more important than their own well-being.”
  • Bonnie Langer, LCSW, SIFI, assistant vice president of the Fostering College Success Initiative at the New York Foundling says, “For many of us, we’re working mostly within historically underserved communities who are already facing countless barriers, and we often place the needs of the community above our own. It can be hard to advocate for our own needs when we need to focus on advocating for the people we work with and the clients we serve.”
  • Conversely, “In order to have a fully functioning organization and longevity in career for individual employees,” says Marissa Stranieri, LCSW, director of social work services for Troop 6000 at the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, “it’s imperative that employees are empowered to self-advocate, and that employers are open to receiving that feedback.”
  • It extends to all types of organizations, including nonprofits—big and small—where phrases like “You’re not in it for the money” and “Sometimes you just have to work more than 40 hours (without compensation)” are not uncommon.
  • This will, of course, eventually lead to employee burnout,” says Bonnie Langer, LCSW, SIFI, assistant vice president of the Fostering College Success Initiative at the New York Foundling. “This pattern of behavior often creates a breakdown in communication between an employee and supervisor. Where there was once potential for an open and healthy relationship, there now becomes the potential for resentment and a lack of trust on both sides.”

CPS Agency Feedback

  • "We are aware that in settings where employees are not considered or empowered to advocate for their needs, nonprofits run the risk of turnover, malcontent, and more.
  • Nonprofits are beginning to understand that counseling visits for social workers feeling stressed can be extremely beneficial, but they happen outside typical workdays or on breaks. And other benefits like floating holidays and flexible schedules still focus on what the employees do outside of their jobs. Inside matters too. Nonprofits are or should be working to include opportunities for staff to find wellness at the office by, for instance, checking in with themselves or a supervisor throughout the day. “We have really good protocols for debriefing, especially after crisis calls,” Tanya Barrett, BSW, MS, LPCA senior vice president at United Way of Connecticut explains. “After all crisis calls, staff are required to debrief with their supervisor. We also invite staff to reach out to a supervisor for support on any call or situation."
  • "We have also instituted a wellness room so that if people have had a particularly challenging call and they need a minute off the phone in a different environment, [they can have that],” she continues. “They’re able to decompress a little bit because it’s hard to hear some of these really complex situations call after call. [These opportunities] are there so people don’t hold everything on their shoulders. That can get really heavy if you are only relying on yourself.”
  • And even more vitally, organizations need to listen to their employees. “The best way to learn what employees need is to simply ask them,” Langer says. “Directly asking for feedback and seeking out employees’ perspectives helps ensure the staff feels heard and supported. Feedback should come from the bottom up, not just the top down.”
  • Finally, for honest feedback to be collected, nonprofits need to have leaders in place who are committed to the wellbeing of their employees. “People don’t quit jobs,” Wright reminds. “They quit supervisors.” Supervision, wellness initiatives, and more won’t be utilized properly if employees do not feel they can be honest with and supported by their supervisors. (Excerpted from "Self-Care Inside a Nonprofit" by Sue Coyle, MSW, Social Work Today)


Topics: social workers, Family and Child Welfare

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