This analysis provides an emergent framework that emphasizes a neglected component of both direct practice with families and organizational development. Human emotions, both beneficial (positive emotional labor) and harmful (negative emotional labor), have received short shrift in leadership development, supervision, direct practice preparation and supports, and workforce stabilization, and professionalization.

Significantly, a key indicator of negative emotional labor—secondary traumatic stress (STS)—often has been ignored and neglected, despite the fact that it may be endemic in the workforce. STS typically results from traumatic events in practice, but it also stems from workplace violence. Often undetected and untreated, STS is at least a hidden correlate and perhaps a probable cause of myriad problems such as questionable practice with families, life-work conflicts, undesirable workforce turnover, and a sub-optimal organizational climate. Special interventions are needed.

At the same time, new organizational designs are needed to promote and reinforce positive emotional labor. Arguably, positive emotional labor and the positive organizational climates it facilitates are requisites for harmonious relations between jobs and personal lives, desirable workforce retention, and better outcomes for children and families. What’s more, specialized interventions for positive emotional labor constitute a key component in the prevention system for STS.

A dual design for positive emotional labor and STS (and other negative emotional labor) prevention/intervention is provided herewith. Early detection and rapid response systems for STS, with social work leadership, receive special attention. Guidelines for new organizational designs for emotional labor in child welfare are offered in conclusion.

Author Biography

James C. Caringi, PhD, is Associate Professor of Social Work and MSW Program Director at the University of Montana. He is also the Coordinator of Qualitative Research at the National Native Children's Trauma Center, Institute for Educational Research and Service.

Hal A. Lawson, PhD, is Professor of Social Work and Educational Leadership at the State University of New York at Albany.

Mary "Mollie" Devlin, MSW, is a graduate of the School of Social Work, University of Montana.