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Dealing with Trauma

Professional development course held for DCF employees

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News Feature

Twelve employees of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), including five alumnae, received their advanced certificates Tuesday night upon the completion of a course titled “Trauma Informed Practice in Child Welfare.”

The 11-session course was part of the School of Social Work’s Professional Education Program run by Carol Masshardt, director of field education; and Dr. Beverly Lovett, chairperson of the School of Social Work. It was taught by Dr. Denise Howley, an assistant professor in the school.

The trauma class was the third recent offering by BSU for in-service social workers, but the partnership between the university and DCF is longstanding.

“I’ve just seen this collaboration grow, and I’ve heard about so much that goes on in this program,” said Dr. Arnaa Alcon, interim dean of the College of Humanities, who attended the final class. “I’m so grateful that you see Bridgewater as a partner in this important work. That you have chosen to do this for your career and do it with us it makes us very happy.”

The students hold various positions within the DCF, which works in partnership with families and communities to keep children safe from abuse and neglect. The work is challenging, making professional development – especially pertaining to important topics such as trauma and addiction (the subject of another recent course) necessary, said Ms. Masshardt.

“The people who do this are committed and devoted professionals doing the most difficult work, and this provides them with the additional support and skills they need,” she said. “It helps our social workers gain good clinical sills in working with families who have experienced levels of trauma.”

The students were each given a chance to mention their primary takeaway from the course. They included increased empathy with victims of trauma, the need for collaboration and the creation of working groups to discuss best practices and offer support to each other, and the need to educate staff members on how to talk to those who have experienced trauma.

“I loved this course so much,” said student Julie Gerstel of East Bridgewater. “I look at trauma in way that is much more in depth now.” (Story and photo by John Winters, G’11, University News)

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