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Resiliency Among People Who Work with Child Abuse Victims Subject of New $500,000 University of Texas at Austin Study. Dr. Noël Busch-Armendariz, School of Social Work

Posted: October 19, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — The Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (IDVSA) at The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work has received a $500,000 federal grant to create a program to build resiliency among staff and volunteers who work with child abuse victims.

The two-year project will look at how working with traumatized children affects practitioners professionally and personally, and create a national evidence-based resiliency model to help them meet those challenges.

The Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault received the funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"All too often, working with victims of violent crime takes a toll on staff and volunteers," said Dr. Barbara White, dean of the School of Social Work. "They leave the field and take with them valuable experience and expertise. By building resiliency in people who are helping our most vulnerable victims, we ensure that essential services to abused children are delivered by the most experienced staff and volunteers."

Researchers will conduct a nation-wide survey to identify, collect and review existing practices that address burnout and compassion fatigue. A new pilot protocol that child abuse program managers can use to build resiliency in their staff and volunteers will be developed and eventually will be made available to organizations across the country that serve abused children.

Seventy-five child abuse managers from across the country will be trained on how to implement the protocol in their agencies. In addition, researchers will create a Web-based program to provide technical assistance and peer support as the new protocol is implemented.

IDVSA is a collaboration of the School of Social Work and the schools of Nursing and Law at the university. Dr. Noël Busch-Armendariz, associate professor of social work, is director of IDVSA, one of 11 institutes in the Center for Social Work Research. She will be the principal investigator of the new resiliency study.

"Our mission at IDVSA has been to produce research that positively influences practice with victims of interpersonal violence," said Busch-Armendariz. "Taking care of the practitioners who do this important and difficult work is a priority for us."

Karen Kalergis, associate director of IDVSA, developed the rationale for the new study and will be the project director. Laurie Cook Heffron will be the senior project manager.

"Those of us in victim services know the work has as many opportunities for compassion satisfaction as it does for compassion fatigue," Kalergis said. "We thank the Office for Victims of Crime for the opportunity to add to our field's knowledge about resiliency."

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