April 8, 2021
Building Resiliency in Multidisciplinary Teams
There is no question that the work of responding to child abuse has a considerable impact on both professional and personal lives. Providers who work with children and families who have experienced trauma are increasingly recognizing the need to develop their own resiliency. Organizations are also leaning into their responsibility to establish practices and policies that support the resiliency of their employees. The National Children’s Alliance Standards for Accredited Children’s Advocacy Centers includes a requirement that Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) provide access to training and information on vicarious trauma and resiliency for multi-disciplinary team (MDT) members. While most child abuse professionals agree secondary traumatic stress is a critical issue impacting our workforce, many continue to note a need for more resources to combat its effect. Individuals are often encouraged to implement personal strategies to build resiliency, however the organizations and systems they work in are not always structured in a way that supports that effort. 

Seeking to address the need for additional resources in this area, Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center (WRCAC) is hosting Building Resilient Teams (BRT), a seven-session online series that blends pre-work with live, facilitated peer discussions that delve into core elements of resiliency. The series provides individuals the space to explore policy, communication, and training strategies that can be implemented within a team setting to build their capacity for resiliency. BRT engages cohorts of two-member teams from MDTs throughout the western region, including the team facilitator (or someone with decision-making influence on the team) and another member of their MDT. Together participants discuss resiliency, generate a list a strategies that could be implemented within their team, and finally, create an action plan to implement at least one strategy. Teams are also encouraged to take lessons from the series back to their broader MDT members, and then share that experience with their BRT cohort.

Building Resilient Teams grew out of a partnership between WRCAC, Oregon Child Abuse Solutions (an accredited chapter of the National Children’s Alliance), CARES Northwest, and the State of Oregon Department of Justice, Crime Victims and Survivor Services Division. In 2019 and 2020, the partners launched a pilot project to increase access to resiliency training and support for MDT professionals in Oregon. The project, Addressing Vicarious Trauma on Your MDT, provided the opportunity for MDT professionals across the state to meet virtually, share information and have meaningful discussions about the impact their work had on their well-being, as well as explore strategies to implement within their MDTs/CACs to intentionally build capacity to be more resilient. The materials for the project were developed using the curriculum, “Building Resiliency in CACs and MDTs” developed by Children’s Advocacy Centers of Michigan and adapted from the US Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime training, “Building Resiliency in Child Abuse Organizations.” The pilot was successfully launched with two cohorts in Oregon. The first two pilot groups had good participation rates, and the individuals were actively engaged in the discussions to brainstorm new ideas and share current strategies that could be implemented within their teams. One individual captured the experience saying “it planted a seed for me to make sure healthy changes are made to my MDT.” This year, WRCAC updated the curriculum based on new information in the field of secondary traumatic stress and to take advantage of increased familiarity with and access to virtual meeting tools such as those available through Zoom. The update includes more peer-to-peer exchange, emphasis on sharing what is learned in discussion groups back with the participant’s larger team, and a greater focus on implementation of strategies. The resulting curriculum was renamed Building Resilient Teams and is offered as an ongoing service of WRCAC. 

One important lesson that has emerged out of the COVID-19 pandemic is just how valuable it is to have a program, such as Building Resilient Teams, that can be provided in a completely virtual environment. BRT also offers the advantage of a flexible curriculum – we have found that the curriculum can be delivered successfully with participants from a single MDT or with a more diverse group within a state or region. Both types of structures offer significant benefits to the individuals and teams participating. 

Building Resilient Teams is one tool among a growing pool of valuable resources for teams interested in exploring opportunities to build resiliency. We encourage you to seek out additional resources including the following:

  • Reflect. Refuel. Reset: Southern Regional Children’s Advocacy Center launched this video series in 2020 with corresponding resources on the impacts of secondary traumatic stress in the workplace.  

  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: NCTSN is a network of providers, family members, researchers, and national partners who work to integrate trauma-informed services into all child-serving systems. NCTSN has developed a collection of resources on secondary traumatic stress which is available on their website. 

  • Secondary Traumatic Stress Consortium: STSC is a group of researchers, trainers, practitioners and advocates advancing the field of secondary traumatic stress towards health. STSC promotes and supports organizational health and individual well-being in trauma-exposed work environments and has a number of resources and tools available on their website.

The Children’s Advocacy Center Model is at its core about teamwork, which is why it is important to look at resiliency as it relates to the team and not just how it relates to individuals. The health of the MDT directly impacts the services it is able to provide to children and families, and we believe that a healthy MDT is one that acknowledges and addresses the impact of trauma and actively works to build resiliency. We are often reminded of resilience in the context of the children we work with. We hear their stories of trauma and see firsthand their ability to heal after receiving quality services. We know the same applies to child abuse professionals. We can’t help but be affected by the work we do, but we know now that resiliency is something we can all build our capacity for and is critical to the work we do. We invite you to learn more about Building Resilient Teams on our website, and to explore the other resources we mentioned above and to share them with others on your teams and in your agencies.  
Patty Terzian
State Liaison
Western Regional Children's Advocacy Center
Patty Terzian joined the WRCAC team in April of 2018 and provides training and technical assistance to multidisciplinary team professionals throughout the western region. Prior to coming to WRCAC, she served for nine years as the Executive Director/Statewide Coordinator of the Oregon Network of Child Abuse Intervention Centers (now known as Oregon Child Abuse Solutions), the accredited state chapter of children’s advocacy centers in Oregon. She led the chapter through considerable growth and development and collaborated with professionals across the state to improve services for Oregon’s children when there were concerns of abuse. Patty has nearly twenty years of experience in the non-profit sector developing and directing programs, providing outreach and trainings, and managing grants. Patty’s skills in project coordination, communications and training were honed through her early-career work in both the non-profit and corporate sectors.
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WRCAC is funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Grant #2019-CI-FX-K002

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.