Employee Retention and Turnover in Child Welfare

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A Study of Personal and Organizational Factors Contributing to Employee Retention and Turnover in Child Welfare in Georgia
Employee Retention and Turnover in Child Welfare

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1. A Study of Personal and Organizational Factors Contributing to Employee Retention and Turnover in Child Welfare in Georgia Alberta J. Ellett, Ph. D. UGA School of Social Work Chad D. Ellett, Ph.D. CDE Research Associates, Inc. Presentation to Georgia DHR/DFCS

2. Presentation Overview Introductions The study Study findings Recommendations Open discussion

3. Turnover in Child Welfare National rates are high, 20% (APHSA) Georgia rate in 2000, 44% (DHR) As high as 100% in some counties Title IV-E Agency/University Partnerships to help improve retenton

4. Problems Created by Turnover Interferes with continuity and quality of services to children and families and loss of federal dollars Lost human and financial investments in education, training, and expertise Weakens professional organizational culture and morale Places additional burden on remaining staff

5. High turnover breeds more turnover 2 year lag time for new employees to dev. essential KSAs Delays in replacing staff send negative messages to the clients, courts, public and staff Problems Created by Turnover cont.

6. Burnout in Child Welfare First appears in literature in late ?60s Literature presents mixed understandings Conceptual definitions seldom included Operationalized with MBI Ellett, A. & Crolley-Simic, J. (2003) Challenging conceptions of burnout in child welfare: A recent literature review with implications for preparation, practice, & future research

7. Burnout is a Distracter Puts focus on turnover rather than retention Places primary cause for turnover on the work context, instead of on the individual Appears after CW positions in the U.S. were de-professionalized A face saving explanation for leaving? Causal relationship with turnover questioned

8. Better Research Questions What factors are related to turnover? What factors are related to retention? What Model(s) might lead to more useful explanations & predictions of staying and leaving?

9. Retention: Gaps in Knowledge There is little known about personal and organizational factors related to employee retention in child welfare. There is little known about how to increase the holding power of public child welfare agencies for professional staff.

10. General Purpose of the Study The purpose of the study was to explore linkages between, and to identify factors contributing to, child welfare staffs? intentions to remain employed or leave employment in child welfare.

11. Objectives of the Study To develop/adapt measures for the study To obtain initial validity and reliability estimates for these new and adapted measures; To explore statistical relationships between intentions to remain employed and the other study variables (measures and selected demographics); and To development recommendations from the findings for policy and practice.

12. Measures in the Statewide Survey Intent to remain employed in child welfare Extensive demographic information Work morale Human caring (about clients & child welfare) Professional organizational culture Self- & group efficacy beliefs Self-efficacy expectations Job satisfaction Factors contributing to decisions to leave CW Factors Contributing to decision to remain in CW

13. Survey (cont.) 198 total survey items Surveys to all child welfare employees (N=2250) Survey respondents (n=1423, 63.2%) 60 focus group interviews in all state regions (n=385, 85%; 1200 person hours) Largest known statewide study of retention and/or turnover in child welfare

14. Data Analyses Descriptive statistics for survey items & characteristics of the samples Refinement of measures Correlations to examine relationships between intent to remain and other variables Regressions of intent to remain employed on sets of other variables Discriminant function analyses using the intent to remain measure to compare extreme contrasting groups Comparisons between selected groups of interest (e.g. rural/urban, degree, IV-E)

15. Synthesis of Survey Findings Most measures demonstrate reasonable reliability, many strong reliability The most important predictor of intent to remain in CW was professional commitment of the human caring measure Most variables were statistically related, in predictable directions, to intents to remain

16. Synthesis of Survey Findings (cont.) Regression results showed combinations of 5 variables account for 54% of the variation among employees? intentions to remain in child welfare [professional commitment, lack of job stress, job satisfaction (e.g. with salary/benefits, paperwork, promotional/career opportunities), professional support, and external relations] The most important variable that differentiates high and low intent to remain groups was professional commitment of the human caring measure

17. Synthesis of Survey Findings (cont.) Items measuring professional commitment I genuinely enjoy my profession. I would continue to work in the field of social work even if I did not need the money. Most days I do not look forward to going to work.* If I could do it all over again, I would choose a profession other then social work.* I find little enthusiasm for working as a social worker.* I cannot imagine enjoying any profession as much as social work.

18. Synthesis of Survey Findings (cont.) The most important variables differentiating extreme intent to remain groups for each measure for new employees (3 years or less) were: Work Morale: work values, promotions Human Caring: responsivity and receptivity Professional Organizational Culture: collegial sharing/support

19. Synthesis of Survey Findings (cont.) Self-Efficacy: effort/persistence Job Satisfaction: client responsibilities, co-worker/supervisor relations Leaving factors: Compensation/career concerns; job challenge/satisfaction Staying factors: Commitment/professional support

20. Synthesis of Survey Findings (cont.) Those with social work degrees and IV-E were more inclined to remain employed in CW than those with other degrees Only 20% of CW staff have degrees in SW (10% have HS or GED) Participants were most negative in their views of work morale and job satisfaction, and most positive in their assessments of HC, SE, and relationships with co-workers

21. Synthesis of Survey Findings (cont.) All groups identified compensation and career concerns as the most important factors contributing to their decisions to leave child welfare High % of employees intent to leave CW employment within 5 years (36.3% and of those, 45.6% to retirement) The demographics showed extreme differences in caseloads across workers 80% of workers have caseloads that exceed CWLA standards

22. Synthesis of Interview Findings: Turnover Factors The demographics showed extreme differences in caseloads across workers Few promotional opportunities 80% of workers have caseloads that exceed CWLA standards In Georgia, most county office employees work 50-60 hours per week, many on call, which intrudes on personal life No overtime pay

23. Synthesis of Interview Findings: Turnover Factors (cont.) Atmosphere of tension & fear related to legal liabilities Annual evaluation process is problematic Employees not valued by agency or public Inadequate client resources Inadequate resources for employees (work and safety) Problems with the courts (especially with SAAGS) Excessive paperwork (50-75% of work time)

24. Synthesis of Interview Findings: Turnover Factors (cont.) Too many oversight groups (Court, CASA, Citizen Review Panel, and Child Advocate) Lack of sufficient mentoring and professional development New employees lack basic knowledge, skills, abilities, and dispositions for work in CW Overwhelmed by the complexity and gravity of the job Lack of interest in and commitment to public child welfare

25. Synthesis of Interview Findings: Retention Factors Staff benefits Flex time permitted Retirement benefits Supportive administrators and supervisors Variety of work, and exciting and challenging work Important and meaningful work

26. Synthesis of Interview Findings: Retention Factors (cont.) Pre-employment internships or IV-E Informal and formal on-the-job training Commitment to child welfare and care about clients Requisite knowledge, skills, abilities, and strong self-efficacy beliefs Flexible and adaptable in thinking and behavior

27. Synthesis of Interview Findings: Retention Factors (cont.) Don?t take things personally Willing to listen and learn from others Sense of humor Self-reflective practitioners Find meaning in and value CW work, and can recognize their successes

28. Recommendations for Policy and/or Practice State needs to fund DFCS child welfare to lower caseloads conforming to CWLA standards DHR/DFCS needs to develop and implement a career ladder with competitive salaries and professional qualifications State needs to expand existing IV-E university SW programs and increase #s of CW employees in MSW programs State needs to develop BSW and MSW programs with additional state universities

29. Recommendations for Policy and/or Practice (cont.) DHR/DFCS needs to develop a plan for CW supervisors and administrators to obtain the MSW degree and participate in professional development activities DHR/DFCS needs to develop more specific policies for accepting child abuse and neglect referrals State needs to compensate staff for on call work State needs to replace SAAGS with an adequate number of attorneys hired by DFCS

30. Recommendations for Policy and/or Practice (cont.) DFCS needs to improve communications with child welfare employees DFCS needs to include policy interpretation/application and procedures in new worker training DFCS needs to increase formal and informal recognition of CW staff accomplishments DFCS needs to develop an improved research-based selection process

31. Recommendations for Policy and/or Practice (cont.) DFCS needs to target recruitment to BSW and MSW graduates DFCS needs to continue it?s retention advisory committee DHR/DFCS needs to develop a coordinated statewide foster parent recruitment effort DHR/DFCS needs to develop a computer information system to meet federal SACWIS requirements for all CW employees

32. Recommendations for Policy and/or Practice (cont.) State needs to develop services for non-abused juvenile delinquents State needs to develop services for non-abused children in need of mental health DHR/DFCS needs to work with the Council of Juvenile Judges and the Court Improvement Project State needs to eliminate multiple layers of CW oversight

33. Recommendations for Policy and/or Practice (cont.) DFCS needs to develop a professional growth system for employees based upon identified needs that includes accountability for learning DFCS needs to develop a mentoring/support system for all new employees DFCS needs to provide opportunities for new workers to work with cases from intake to closure DFCS needs to strengthen professional development of experienced staff

34. Recommendations for Policy and/or Practice (cont.) DFCS needs to strengthen professional organization culture and supervisory/ leadership capacities DHR/DFCS needs to educate other agencies about its responsibilities DHR/DFCS needs to implement a statewide PR campaign to inform policy makers and the public about the importance of CW in Georgia

35. Recommendations for Policy and/or Practice (cont.) DHR/DFCS need to inform the media and policy makers about decades of under funding and barriers when staff are publicly criticized DHR/DFCS needs to identify Strategic Champions State needs to exempt DFCS CW from current PMF system and allow DFCS to develop a system relevant to CW work DFCS needs to strengthen worker safety training and resources

36. Recommendations for Policy and/or Practice (cont.) State needs to purchase cell phones and service for staff who make home visits State needs to provide legal immunity from criminal and civil liability to DFCS CW employees performing their mandated duties and responsibilities DHR/DFCS needs to develop a clear policy for legal representation of staff when criminally charged or sued for doing their jobs

37. Recommendations for Policy and/or Practice (cont.) DHR/DFCS needs to require that CW staff perform the SW duties that are currently contracted out once caseloads meet CWLA standards State needs to provide and maintain shared state autos for client transportation DFCS needs to provide either additional clerical support for staff or find ways to reduce paperwork

38. Summary Who cares about child welfare? Child welfare staff? Clients? The organization? The public? The courts? The media? Federal & state policy makers?

39. Final Thoughts The End!


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