Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Need for Trauma Literacy

It is widely accepted that caregivers providing services to trauma survivors are at high risk of developing Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS). However, this concept is under-researched among residential child and youth care staff. This is so, notwithstanding (1) approximately 2.7M children and youth in residential care settings worldwide; (2) numerous studies indicating that traumatized children and youth comprise a substantial portion of residential clients; and (3) data demonstrating that residential child and youth care staff suffer work-related traumatization at overwhelming rates. While there is optimism that trauma-informed services are being integrated into residential child and youth care settings, there is also evidence of a science-to-practice gap in how these components are being implemented across real-world settings. This gap refers not only to trauma-specific care addressing the needs of traumatized children and youth and preventing their re-traumatization; but also, to an organizational culture that fully implements Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) associated with recognizing, acknowledging, and addressing STS among residential child and youth care staff. In other words, creating TIC residential settings requires that residential child and youth care facilities be aware of how STS can adversely impact the workforce, and to what extent they implement support structures for dealing with STS. As an important assumption of TIC is that the well-being of providers has an inherent reciprocal effect on the well-being of the clients for whom they care, meeting residential child and youth care staff’s needs is an effective strategy for promoting residential care children and youths’ well-being and ensuring that they receive responsive care. The main objective of the proposed oral presentation is to function as a call to action and help set into motion recommendations associated with residential child and youth care staffs’ STS and need for increased trauma literacy; which is important for STS prevention, early identification, and rapid response.


Ruth Gottfried, Ph.D.

Director, M.A.A.T Program in Dance Movement Therapy , The David Yellin Academic College of Education