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Secondary Trauma in Child Welfare

Children and Family Services Training Center, UND Department of Social Work, Initiates Secondary Trauma Prevention and Support Program for North Dakota Child Welfare System

In July of 2012 the Children and Family Services Division of the North Dakota Department of Human Services funded a proposal by the UND Children and Family Services Training Center, Department of Social Work, to develop a program to address secondary trauma prevention and provide support to child welfare social workers, supervisors and administrators in North Dakota.

The project was developed in consultation with former North Dakota resident and UND student, David Conrad.  David is a nationally recognized expert in addressing secondary trauma in child welfare workers and is uniquely qualified to serve as our consultant. David Conrad has been a clinical social worker for over 35 years.   He worked as a child protection caseworker and supervisor, foster care worker, juvenile probation officer, prison social worker, hospital social worker, and had a private practice. From 1994-2000, he was Director of Programs for the CIVITAS Child Trauma Program at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.  Since 2000, David has been a Senior Instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine in Denver, Colorado. Since coming to Colorado, he has served as a secondary trauma consultant assisting Colorado child protection workers. He has offered training on secondary trauma for other professionals in 25 states.

Secondary trauma is defined as the "stress resulting from helping or wanting to help traumatized or suffering persons". (Charles Figley, Compassion Fatigue, 1995). Child welfare workers are at particularly high risk because of their occupational exposure to physical, emotional and sexual abuse; drug abuse; domestic violence and criminal activity.

The Training Center has been providing training in secondary trauma during Child Welfare Certification (new worker training) since the fall of 2009, but this project expands these efforts. Not only does the funding permit the Training Center to continue to provide the introductory secondary trauma training workshops, but allows expansion to other areas of training including secondary trauma training for supervisors, educational support groups for supervisors and topic driven trauma and stress reduction sessions. Additionally, the project provides an avenue for individual consultation or group stress debriefing for individuals and counties exposed to critical events, such as a death of a child, or the cumulative effects of regular exposure to traumatic events.

The value of this program was powerfully summarized by one county supervisor, "Our agency has experienced some events in recent months in which David has reached out to us, as well as us reaching out to him.  I cannot express how appreciative I am to have had this support available to myself as well as our staff.  In the last couple of years, our county has made available an EAP program, which we have accessed on a couple of occasions to "process" events of a traumatic nature with our staff.  And while I am appreciative of the efforts, the providers who we met with were ill-equipped to understand the nature of child welfare.  David's unique understanding of not only child welfare, but also the dynamics of North Dakota, specifically, has proven to be so much more beneficial. In a world of continual chaos, stress and ever increasing and changing demands, this resource is something that could make all the difference in keeping staff grounded, focused and carrying out high quality services to children and families in North Dakota."

We are excited to host this very important program that serves the North Dakota Child Welfare system.

 David Conrad

David Conrad

For more information about the program please contact Pete Tunseth, Director, Children and Family Services Training Center by calling: (701)777-3258 or email: