Walking Children Through a Minefield: How Professionals Experience Exploring Adverse Childhood Experiences

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Understanding the challenges of professionals in addressing child adversity is key to improving the detection, protection, and care of exposed children. We aimed to synthesize findings from qualitative studies of professionals’ lived experience of addressing child adversity. Through a systematic search, we identified eight qualitative studies and synthesized them using metaethnography. We generated three themes, “feeling inadequate,” “fear of making it worse,” and “facing evil,” and one overarching metaphor, “walking children through a minefield.” The professionals felt that they lacked the means necessary to explore child adversity, that they were apprehensive of worsening the child’s situation, and that their work with child adversity induced emotional discomfort. This metasynthesis indicated that the professionals’ efficiency in exploring abuse relied upon their ability to manage emotional and moral distress and complexity. To support children at risk, we propose developing professionals’ ability to build relationships, skills in emotion regulation, and proficiency in reflective practice.

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