Gemma Mallett

Compassion Fatigue in Foster Carers

Gemma Mallett - web profile photo

Department - Social Work and Social CareSupervisors: Professor Jerry Tew and Matthew Gibson 

Research Overview

Compassion Fatigue (interchangeable terms:  vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress, burnout) has been widely recognised amongst helping professionals and research almost exclusively focuses on individuals and is conducted using quantitative research methods. More recently, the term ‘blocked care’ has been applied in the context of adoption and fostering in relation to those who parent/look after children and young people who have experienced trauma.

Foster carers are an important resource to local authorities and the children and families they serve, in providing short and longer terms placements for children, many of whom have experienced some degree of abuse or trauma, and some who meet criteria for Developmental Trauma. This is emotionally demanding work. In order to fully understand how Compassion operates it’s important to consider compassion as a relational concept, from the perspectives of foster carers (where a couple foster together both perspectives should be explored) and from the perspectives of those who support them (social workers). Relationships are at the core of trauma recovery so relationships are at the centre of my research - a case study approach to explore compassion in context using relationship based research methods (qualitative).


  • BSc Psychology (Swansea University)

  • MSc Applied Psychology: Clinical and Abnormal (University of Worcester)

  • MA Social Work (University of Birmingham)

  • PQ Specialist Award (Diploma) in Social Work with Children, Young People, their families and Carers (University of Birmingham)

  • Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management in Social Care (Children and Families)

Research Interests

  • Compassion fatigue/ blocked care/ secondary traumatic stress/ emotional labour

  • Mental Health and Mental Distress

  • Therapeutic (re) Parenting

  • Attachment 

  • Devolopmental Trauma 


Qualified as a social worker in 2011 and have been working as a Supervising Social Worker in a fostering service ever since. Always had interests in the field of mental health and mental distress and studied in psychology prior to my social work career. Outside of work I run – a lot! I aim to become a member of the 100 Marathon club in the next few years (December 2019 - 63 Marathons and counting..)

Professional memberships

  • Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) Registered Social Worker

  • British Psychological Society (BPS) Graduate Member (plus division of Clinical Psychology)

Contact details