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2001 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 7, No. 1
January 2002

Understand Your Feelings

Child welfare workers are experienced in dealing with the most horrendous acts against children, and while they never lose their sensitivity to these acts, chances are they do establish an internal mechanism for handling their feelings. However, because workers have less experience with other crimes, their feelings and reactions cannot be taken for granted. Some may see crimes such as murder and drug trafficking as less upsetting than child maltreatment, whereas others may have particularly negative reactions. The worker's honest critique of his or her own reactions is the best strategy for ensuring that negative feelings aren't unintentionally communicated to the child, making it more difficult for the child to maintain a positive view of the parent.

Because a high percentage of incarcerated parents, particularly mothers, have substance abuse issues, workers should also recognize and evaluate their feelings about addiction and their beliefs about an addict's ability to recover.

Excerpted from Wright, L. E. & Seymour, C. B. (2000). Working with children and families separated by incarceration: A handbook for child welfare agencies. Washington, DC: CWLA Press.