Child welfare supervisor retention: an exploration of personal and organizational resilience

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Ausbrooks, Angela Rachelle, 1960-

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Child welfare agencies are considered some of the most stressful places of employment. This stress is related to several factors: (a) the myriad forms of child maltreatment that employees must deal with on a consistent basis, (b) high caseloads, and (c) the organizational climate of most child welfare agencies. Working in child welfare involves seeing battered, beaten, bruised, burned, and neglected children on a daily basis and sometimes experiencing the death of a child as a result of abuse or abuse-related conditions. Because of the stressors inherent in child welfare agencies, retention of employees has become an increasing issue throughout the United States. A review of the literature determined that most studies involving child welfare retention focused on the reasons that employees leave the agency. These studies found that child welfare employees' reasons for terminating their employment included excessive caseloads, lack of supervisor support, job dissatisfaction, and a negative organizational climate. This dissertation explored the reasons that child welfare employees, specifically supervisors, remain employed in child welfare agencies from a strengths perspective. A qualitative study was conducted with 50 child welfare supervisors to determine whether their ability to remain with the agency was related to resilient characteristics. Results of the study indicate that the possession of a personal mission or calling, support systems, and coping skills are among the primary factors that allow supervisors to achieve employment longevity. These and additional findings are discussed in detail as well as implications for child welfare, social work practice, and social work education.