Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

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Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice


Gloria Kieley

Committee Member

Rande Matteson


Child Care Occupations, Child Welfare, Foster Care, Occupational Health, Stress


This applied dissertation examined the difficulties and coping mechanisms associated with child welfare professionals’ interactions with vulnerable children who provide vulnerable populations with emotional, physical, mental, and psychological support. This responsibility impacts their personal life and professional performance since their regular involvement with the children and the following aspects, such as case resolution, in-depth discussions about trauma, and home visits, are emotionally and mentally taxing. The researcher conducted a phenomenological study with nine child protective investigators via an asynchronous online focus group on the Google Groups platform. The participants were all employed in the United States child welfare department, held a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and had at least 2 years of experience with home removal and placement in foster care. Findings indicated that child protective investigators who work to remove children from homes and arrange foster care placement experience emotional and mental drain. These child welfare cases profoundly affect their personal lives and networks attributable to secondhand traumatic stress and occupational trauma. Some workers develop mental health illnesses, such as anxiety, and physical disorders, such as burnout, which impair their work quality due to staff shortages. The study uncovered strategies and practices that can help minimize the challenges, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and art.