A group of University of Calgary social work researchers has received a $40,000 SSHRC Insight Development Grant to study a group of child welfare workers in Alberta, which has been dollar matched by a further $58,000 from the Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE).
Professors John Graham and David Nicholas lead a team looking at the current workplace situation of the 2,400 employees who are a part of the AUPE Local 006. They represent employees who work with the Department of Justice, senior and community support agencies, and Children’s Services.
There are concerns from the union about the increased number of threats, assaults, and trauma exposure to occupational health and safety workers. Of the current employees on long -term disability, 30 per cent are the result of trauma/post-trauma in the workplace.
Graham says this is not a new situation.
“Child welfare is a high intensity field, and the workplace stressors need to be better understood and improved – for the sake of the child welfare workers themselves, and the vulnerable clients and communities they serve.”
The multi-year work will look at current employees contemplating leaving the field, those who are not, and workers who have already left the profession.
Nicholas says when this stage of research is complete, “we will have learned what workplace stressors are at play, and who is particularly affected.”
“On that basis, AUPE members can begin to work at improving various aspects of their workplace – from a far more informed perspective,” Nicholas says.
The team hopes to have the research completed by the spring of 2013, at which time a draft of the preliminary finding will be presented to stakeholders and other interested parties as a starting point for further investigation.
Allison Anderson was a child welfare worker and says she has greatly benefited from her involvement in this research program.
“It has opened my eyes to the skills involved in high level research,” says Anderson. “And I greatly appreciate the mentoring that Drs. Graham and Nicholas are providing.”