Many child service agencies serve populations with a high prevalence of trauma.1 Consequently, both mental health and child service agencies have increasingly adopted Trauma-Informed Systems (TIS) in an effort to improve services to these traumatized populations by implementing policies that reduce re-traumatization and reinforce personal integrity, autonomy, and control. This paper offers a rationale to administrators, program directors, and supervisors in child service agencies for the adoption of reflective supervision as a supervisory approach consistent with TIS.
Context: burnout, vicarious trauma, and staff turnover
Both clinical and non-clinical direct care staff in child services working with traumatized families may undergo vicarious traumatization, burnout, and heavy staff turnover.2, 3 While staff turnover is associated with many factors, inadequate supervisory support and burnout have specifically been cited by workers in these settings as a cause.3 Hodas (2005) proposes three “domains of functioning” to empower direct care staff in child services to provide quality care. These include values and beliefs, job-specific expectations and competencies, and professional self-awareness and self-control.4 Each of these domains, he writes, should be reinforced by the organization’s structure, mission, and human resources practices. Indeed, each of them is amenable to an appropriate supervisory strategy.
There are many ways to build trauma-informed systems, but these models do not typically specify the management or supervisory model they employ. Briefly, TIS aim to provide services and providers that are consistent and trustworthy in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe. Furthermore, they prioritize consumer empowerment, choice, and control, maximizing collaboration with the consumer.5 A supervisory model consistent with this approach should itself promote trust, empowerment, and control, and ideally model the relationship or interaction desired between the helping professional and the client.