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Dr Elmien Truter

Dr Elmien Truter is an Associate Professor and Social Work Lecturer at the North-West University, Vanderbijlpark Campus in South Africa. Her research interests are child protection social work, resilience and prevention of child abuse.

Learning from South African child protection Social workers about grit as a driving source of resilience in the workplace.

Background: Many children in South Africa continue to be maltreated and require Social work interventions. Child protection social workers (CPSWs) are mandated by law to protect vulnerable children, perform statutory duties, and often work in resource-restrained and hostile contexts. Globally studies reported on the resilience of CPSW, mostly from a socio-ecological perspective. With this study, we aim to open up the conversation about grit and hardiness as potential drivers of resilience in CPSWs in South Africa and contribute to the ongoing conversation in this regard.

Methods: We followed a qualitative self-report approach, and following recruitment and purposive sampling procedures, we conducted semi-structured interviews to explore the self-reported sources of resilience among 20 South African CPSWs from two provinces, the Western Cape and Free State. Thematic analysis of transcribed interviews was employed to formulate and develop the said self-reports into sources of resilience.

Findings: According to our participants, their sources of resilience were informed by: (1) A high degree of personal agency; (2) Navigating a supportive ecology through a relational agency; (3) Meaning-making mechanisms; (4) Self-care and a survival attitude; and, (5) A religious identity. Our findings go beyond earlier reports and contribute toward a more nuanced understanding of the role of grit and hardiness as potential driving sources of resilience in the workplace. We put forward an argument on our participant's behalf that to live resiliently in the face of workplace adversities, they must have grit and hardiness. We conclude by eluding policymakers that for CPSWs to be solely responsible for navigating a supportive ecology and ultimately remain resilient in the long run might be unsustainable and unfair. As such, drastic systemic changes are needed in the South African welfare system.

Dr Elmien Truter
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