School of Professional Studies

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration (MPA)


School of Professional Studies

Chief Instructor

Rich Aroian


This Case Study explores how burnout and secondary traumatic stress impact staffing, service delivery, and organizational effectiveness in a human service agency. The Case Study is focused around Ascentria Care Alliance’s Children & Family Services in Massachusetts, which encompasses three foster care programs: the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM), Division of Children’s Services (DCS), and Intensive Foster Care (IFC) programs. Both individual and organizational approaches are needed to most effectively address burnout and secondary traumatic stress. Individual workers need to build resilience factors such as self-compassion and mindfulness, set appropriate boundaries with clients, engage in ongoing training, support, consultation, and supervision, and pursue individual psychotherapy as needed. Agencies need to help staff process exposure to emotionally trying content in clinical supervision, provide frequent training to supervisors and workers to help them recognize and respond to burnout and secondary traumatic stress, and make time-out easily available for workers when needed. In addition, agencies need to facilitate meaningful social support, address negative elements of the physical work environment and job demands, actively manage staff workload, help workers feel empowered in their work, provide meaning and significance in work, and make staff’s professional development a priority. Through research, a generalized best practice guide called 10 Best Practices for Managing Burnout and Secondary Traumatic Stress was created, which outlines recommendations that human service organizations can implement to address this issue. These recommendations were then applied to the specific issues experienced at the Case Study organization, Ascentria Care Alliance, as an example of how research can inform the ongoing management of this important organizational issue in the human services industry.



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