Building Resiliency Within Victim Service Organizations
Karen Kalergis, Janice Harris Lord  -  2012/1/27
http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
My agency probably isn't going to spend a great deal of time or resources on this so what ONE thing could you recommend that would be helpful? We're in pretty good shape now, I think, but it would be good to be proactive.
 
1.  janice
 Tough question, Stephanie! I'm going to say that a strong, supportive relationship between the supervisor and his/her staff and volunteers is the most crucial. This means many informal interactions that are supportive and encouraging rather than critical. If you can't get that from your supervisor, you will have to develop that kind of relationship among your colleagues.
 
2.  Karen
 Part2. Rest and exercise translates to policies for flextime and exercise breaks. Maslow described need for a sense of belonging: does the workplace foster strong relationships? When there is a conflict, is there a way to resolve it? Is the process for bringing grievances forward clear? Think thru these and see what your organization can do to help staff flourish and have a sense of well-being.
 
3.  Karen
 Part 1. The ONE thing is to recognize the organization can and should do something to address the impact this work has on staff. We looked at Maslows hierarchy of needs, and what organizations can do to meet those needs in a way that supports resiliency. Does the organization take care of peoples basic physical needs for things like safety, rest and exercise? Safety can mean that when stress occurs, like the death of a child in care, there is counseling available for staff.
 
 
In VT, there is a Restitution Unit with (currently) four collectors who work directly with offenders to collect money from them to pay victims. We collectors are all very victim-aware, and we each want to do the best we can to bring in the most money so we can get victims paid as quickly as possible. The work is often frustrating, as you can imagine, despite the wonderful support we get from our boss. My question is: how do organizations pay for building resiliency in collectors who work with an often very difficult population? What kinds of resiliency programs have proved most effective in preventing burn-out among restitution collectors? Thank you
 
1.  janice
 I don't think we responded to Jennifer. Give your clients details. They won't be helped by just saying, We did everything we could. Tell them what you did, when you did it, and what happened. It puts the puzzle pieces together for them.
 
2.  janice
 (from Janice - continued)(2) Maintain an attitude of hope and optimism. You will never be able to accomplish everything you want to, but celebrate your victories within yourself, and especially with each other. (3) You say you get wonderful support from your boss. YIPPEE for him or her because that is the number one key to resilience. And I trust that you are sharing that same sense of support among the four of you. Keep it up!
 
3.  janice
 I don't know of any research specifically about restitution collectors, but many crime victim advocates share your frustration about obtaining justice for victims. In an attempt to describe two days of training into a sentence or two, here goes: (1) Be sure that each of you has thought about your own personal values and determine whether they are a fit for this work, regardless of how much money you collect for the victims. For example, if fairness is a key value for all of you, you can go to bed each night knowing that YOU did the best you could to be fair for victims, even though the offender did not do his or her part.
 
4.  Jennifer
 Are there any tips that would assist a worker in reassuring the victim everything is being done to collect on their bahalf
 
5.  Karen
 The book Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dermoot Lipsky is also good reading and a source of exercises. And I think reflecting on this quote from Rabbi Hillel is good practice, You have a solemn obligation to take care of yourself because you never know when the world will need you.
 
6.  Karen
 I love your question because it illustrates the many ways we do victim services, and the need for all of us to address resiliency. Our model looks at being introspective, and recognizing that some things are beyond your control, like collecting all the restitution the victim is owed. Pay attention to what is within your control are you doing everything you can to collect? Recognize the good around you like a supportive boss, and have an outlet to discuss your frustrations, and celebrate the good you have done. It does not mean being Pollyanna, but keeping things in perspective.
 
 
Is there a format available to de-brief individuals or small groups regarding speaking completely openly about the crisis they hear and absorb?
 
1.  Karen
 A new process we heard about during our pilot recognizes that hearing traumatic stories even in a therapeutic setting is harmful to others present. We recommend a protocol where you keep the traumatic material out of the larger wellness group. Let staff describe feelings, where they struggle, etc, and have colleagues share strategies to help. If someone really needs to discuss the details, have a person designated to hear these stories in individual sessions. That listener then has their own resiliency coach arranged where they can go after hearing this. This model is really taking hold and recognizes we need to be mindful about not hurting others in the process of helping.
 
2.  janice
 There are numerous models around, some more structured than others. You can just type something like Debriefing Models into your browser and find some. I believe that three components are crucial, however: (1) that the debriefing facilitator be someone from outside the organization who has been trained in debriefing, (2) that confidentiality be assured, and (3) that nothing said in the debriefing will be held against an employee or volunteer in performance evaluations.
 
 
How do you maintain resiliency when confronting resistance to change within your organization? In this example change may be using a different approach to advocacy.
 
1.  Holly Hanover
 And if you are not a supervisor and relatively new to an organization? How do you address change?
 
2.  Karen
 Part 2. The strategy from our organizational model that applies is strong relationships: engage your staff in conversations about the change that connects everyone to the common outcome people can support better services to victims. A different approach to advocacy is how you get there. Let people have input in the process not have it done to them but with them. Accept there will still be people who dont want to go there. Being resilient means not letting that deter you from your goal. And good for you for hanging in there to improve services for victims!!
 
3.  Karen
 I'm having a hard time with only 120 words! So here's part 1. Holly, its a challenge to be a change agent. I think resiliency in this setting means accepting that there will be resistance and knowing how to address it. What helps me is to frame it differently. Confronting is a battle word and prepares for a fight. Think in terms of meeting it instead you know some people dont like change, and you are ready for it.
 
4.  janice
 Organizational change generally has to come from within, Holly. Therefore, you will probably have to see if others at your level in your organization feel that change would be beneficial and then speak with your supervisor as a group. Organizational change is also more difficult in large organizations than small ones. For example, if your policies and guidelines are determined at the state level, it may take legislative change to alter it. Our project curriculum will soon be available. The suggested strategy is that two people from an agency attend the training, which is designed help participants become Resilience Coaches within their organizations. It is highly recommended that one of the two attending be a supervisor.
 
 
It is important to caution advocates to take care of themselves and back that caution up with supportive workplace policy. Which workforce policies have been shown to help most?
 
1.  Karen
 Marti - your question is so right on - there is responsibility on both the part of the advocate and the organization. Successful organizations are ones that do business thru a resiliency frame, not have it as an add-on. So flextime and grievance policies are in place, resources such as counseling and debriefing are available, and supervisors GET IT and fulfill their duty of having the biggest impact on staff turnover and well-being.
 
2.  janice
 Key ones are flexibility and encouragement to grow as independent and creative thinkers. Days off after stressful events, for example (and new research shows that 4 ten-hours days are less stressful than 5 eight-hour days) for those who must maintain hours. Working at home when possible. Changing job descriptions frequently. Most important, though, is positive supervisors, and it's hard to put that into policy:-)
 
 
What are some best practices to maintain resliency in a sexual assault facility that is short staffed?
 
1.  Karen
 This is tough because it's that stressor that gets to you, isn't it? One piece is that people are working on addressing that shortage, the other is that you are really prioritizing what you are doing and practicing good time management. It also means when you have down time, you take it, so you have some balance and are not always in crisis overload.
 
2.  janice
 See my response to Kristi, but it's interesting that your question came next. Obviously you need to get sexual assault survivors to the hospital ASAP as well the instructions they need immediately. Many sexual assault programs very effectively use well-trained volunteers, however, so that no one has to be on call 24-7.
 
 
recent research suggests that building flexibility into work schedules improves worker moral and productivity. how could this be done in victim-serving organizations?
 
1.  Karen
 I so agree with Janice here. We really need a paradigm shift in our field that shifts what we think is acceptable practice. I think having organizations embrace their responsibility to their workers resilience is the labor issue of our field.
 
2.  janice
 See my response to Marti, but let me add that I think the most destructive thing our field does is require immediate crisis access for days at a time. If you're the only advocate in your agency, then you either must train volunteers to help you or separate out what it really a crisis from the many calls you may get that are not.
 
 
What do you see as the biggest threat to an organization's resiliency?
 
1.  Karen
 People not being kind to each other. Not addressing issues but letting them fester. We came across a great article on how organizations can work in the shadow, not being their best selves, and our model forwards the idea that workers need to speak up for a change. When there is conflict address it, and honor the common connection that brings everyone to this work, and not do harm to each other.
 
2.  janice
 Supervisors who lack interpersonal skills in supportive relationship. Think about your favorite grade school teacher. Mine had me thinking I was the prettiest and smartest girl in my class. When I messed up on something, she wrote on my paper, Would you like to try this again? I know you can do better. I would not have let her down for anything in the world. Supervisors should be like her:-)
 
 
Over the years, I have seen some people stay a very long time in Victim Services work but others leave pretty quickly. It seemed like those who left quickly had a different personality type than those who stayed around. Have you found some personal characteristics among advocates who show strong resilency? In other words, what do resilient advocates look like?
 
1.  Karen
 Your question is interesting because it assumes that all those who stay are all resilient. I think we've all seen people who stay that may cause problems within the organization. A resilient advocate is one who has a good sense of well-being, beyond just being happy, and can support others in a healthy way - clients and colleagues. I'd love a longer discussion on this!
 
2.  janice
 I think you ran out of space, Susan, so I'm guessing at your question here. Those who stay and continue to love their work are those who are mentally and emotionally stable enough to experience great satisfaction from giving every victim their best professional shot at service and then leaving the next move up to the victim. Regardless of the outcome, they know they did their best -- and that is good enough. You can't depend on the outcome to feel good about what you do.
 
 
What advice would you give to therapists who work with trauma/crisis intervention all day and are also on call 24/7 for emergencies?
 
1.  Karen
 Practice trauma-informed care themselves. One of our programs created a Take Care to Give Care program - building in support for their crisis counselors, days off, etc. Hopefully these therapists see the value of that for their own well-being.
 
2.  janice
 Change is required!! Start with your personal values. Is killing yourself with your work schedule really what you want to be remembered for when you retire or die early? My agency has recruited about 25 professional therapists who agree to serve 1 client/family at a time as volunteers. That means that all our staff and contract therapists work only part-time, which keeps them healthy.
 
 
It is my experience that developing a personal self care plan is beneficial in promoting and sustaining resiliency. Other than exercise and support can you offer any other suggestions??
 
1.  Karen
 I practice mindfulness as well. Between it and the reading we did for this project, I've lifted my goals from just being resilient to aiming for that higher sense of well-being. Flourish!
 
2.  janice
 I'm going to weigh in here with one of my favorite topics: SLEEP. We are killing ourselves with not enough restorative sleep. How about planning a staff training and bring in a sleep specialist as the trainer?
 
3.  Karen
 Melissa, you have the main components - and especially the recognition of the need to do it. One strategy I like from our model comes from personal perspective and meaning - engaging in journaling or reflective practice about the work as part of your own meaning making. Many people went deeper in terms of seeing what this work means to them and they were able to tap into that as part of why they stay.
 
4.  Kristin
 I have recently enjoyed the benefits of adding mindfulness meditation practices to my self care repertoire. Simply finding one's breath and acknowledging the present moment brings positive perspective and a general sense of well being.
 
 
CPS is notorious for its high turnover rate. Apart from self care, what are best (personal) practices in ensuring that workers can sustain productive, effective work?
 
1.  Karen
 Check out the book positivity by Barbara Fredrickson - it's research we drew from for our model, and demonstrates the link between positivity and production.
 
2.  janice
 Allowing staff to work in teams is a significant one. Another is assigning different types of cases to workers. When seasoned workers get all the challenging cases, they get burned out just as easily as new workers. And again, the supervisor's informal support is crucial.
 
 
I've scheduled a staff retreat in March focused on vicarious trauma, self care and resiliency. As director I had planned on conducting the training myself so that as a team we can dissues the issues openly and talk about support within the agency. Am I going in the right direction or do you suggest I hire an independent facilitator?
 
1.  Karen
 Good for you for creating this training. My only concern is two-fold. With you as facilitator, this could position you as the expert who does not need to learn about these things, and we know supervisors experience STS as well. Also, can staff really be open? And does this put you in a position where you need to address issues raised as a supervisor. A skilled facilitator could separate sessions where you could all benefit from education, and lead sessions where people can be open. We've had success where staff not only identifies problems, but solves them as a team, if the facilitator led that session doing it as a team building, you could be there. Otherwise I just think it's unequal.
 
2.  janice
 I suggest that you bring in an outside facilitator so that you can participate on an equal basis with your staff. That facilitator might want to meet with you and some of your staff individually before the retreat to get a better handle on perspectives. It also speaks volumes to your staff that you were willing to invest $ in assuring a useful event.
 
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