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De-escalation and responding to challenging situations

Collection of resources related to de-escalation and responding to challenging situations

About this guide

This guide provides access to a number of resources related to de-escalation and responding to challenging situations. Use the sidebar menu on the left to browse information and find resources – such as publications, videos, and eLearning modules – to assist with your research and inspire continued learning.

Anti-oppressive and trauma-informed approaches to preventing and de-escalating conflict

It's not uncommon for service users, especially those with marginalized identities, to present or be perceived as "angry," "aggressive," or "hostile." While there may at times be valid worker safety concerns, it's important for child welfare professionals to apply an anti-oppressive and trauma-informed lens to their work and interrogate and problematize this perception of service users. 

Analyses of service users' behaviours need to take into account the legitimate feelings of fear and frustration experienced by families when becoming involved with child welfare, as well as the hurt, pain, and trauma that marginalized service users feel when encountering the intersecting impact of oppressive systems. Failure to do so can result in child welfare professionals inaccurately assessing risk and over-using their authority, for example, by calling the police instead of using appropriate supportive and de-escalating techniques. 

Other factors that can contribute to perceptions of service users as "angry," "aggressive," or "hostile" and the escalation of conflict include:

  • Power differentials, which often play a role in conflict. Within child welfare, the imbalance between child welfare professionals and service users can make service users feel as though they have little recourse and can only exercise power by being uncooperative or confrontational
  • Racism, classism, and other forms of oppression, which can shape the way marginalized individuals and groups are perceived and/or pathologize the way they express emotions. For example, a common stereotype is that of the "angry black woman"
  • Miscommunications, which can spark or escalate unnecessary conflicts. Failure to ensure cultural safety and a lack of awareness of cross-cultural nuances of communication can put people on edge or make them feel threatened
  • Trauma, including oppression-based trauma. For individuals who have experienced trauma, anger may be a common response and way of expressing their pain. Developmental and mental health issues can also impact behavioural and emotional regulation