Working with children who are victims of abuse: emotions and representations of professionals in residential children’s communities

Cinzia Guarnaccia, Serena Giunta, Abdul Rahman Rasho, Anna Maria Ferraro, Francesca Giannone


Professionals who work in residential children’s communities face many difficulties and, when the hosted children have a history of abuse and maltreatment, the risk of vicarious traumatization and professional burn-out, which has a negative effect on the professional’s work and well-being as well as on the effectiveness at work, is very high.
This qualitative study aims to explore, via the content analysis of text recorded in some Photolangage® groups, the representations of social workers and educators in residential children’s communities on the theme of work management of physical and sexual abuse victims. The participants were 37 social workers from 6 residential communities for 0-6 years old child in the region of Palermo (Italy). The analysis of the discourse revealed four main themes: “emotional responses”, “difficulty in coping with emotions related to abuse”, “relationship with the institutional network” and “work methods/strategies”, which seem to guide and inform the social workers in our daily relationship with children. These results, which are in line with clinical observations, indicate the importance of supporting, through tools such as supervision and analysis of professional practices, professionals who work with maltreated and abused children, the only way to protect their well-being and the “therapeutic role” in the care and protection of children which they fulfil.



Social Work; Child Protection; Emotions; Abuse; Photolangage.

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