Moral Injury Among Child Protection Professionals: Implications for the Ethical Treatment and Retention of Workers.
Haight, Wendy. Sugrue, Erin P. Calhoun, Molly.
Published: November 2017
Children and Youth Services Review
Vol. 82 , p. 27-41
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This study considers any “moral injury” occurring among professionals working within the Child Protection System (CPS). Moral injury refers to the lasting psychological, spiritual and social harm caused by one's own or another's actions in high-stakes situations that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. We administered a modified version of the Moral Injury Events Scale (MIES) (Nash et al., 2013) to 38 CPS professionals. We then conducted in-depth, semi-structured, audio-recorded individual interviews with them to elaborate their responses to the MIES. Professionals' MIES scores and descriptions of their responses suggest that some professionals do experience moral injury as a result of their CPS involvement. Similar to parents involved with CPS, professionals described harm to themselves occurring through under-resourced systems, problematic professionals, unfair laws and policies, abusive parents, an adversarial system, systemic biases, harm to children by the system and poor-quality services. They also communicated feelings associated with moral injury such as anger and sadness, emotional numbing, and guilt and shame. These feelings have been reported by CPS-involved parents and are described in the existing moral injury literature. Many also described troubling, existential issues including their ability to function in an ethical and moral manner within a system they viewed as deeply flawed, and in an unsupportive working environment steeped in human misery. Nearly a third of all professionals described themselves or colleagues as actively seeking employment elsewhere. We discuss implications for the related issues of the ethical treatment and retention of professionals working within CPS. (Author abstract)
child protective services; child welfare workers; ethics; managing burnout; social values; abusive parents; child abuse; anger; Emotions; social workers attitudes; STAFF RETENTION; WORKER BURNOUT; WORKER TURNOVER