Characteristics and Job Satisfaction of Child Welfare Workers: A National Study
Richard P. Barth, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, E. Christopher Lloyd, MSW, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Nancy Dickinson, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Mimi V. Chapman, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
National information about child welfare workers (CWWs)has never been collected. The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW) is a national probability study of children investigated for child maltreatment that also offers information about the CWWs who serve them, in 36 states and 92 counties. CWWs (unweighted n = 1,729) provided information on demographic characteristics, job satisfaction, and other opinions about their work experiences. These cases were reweighted to represent the national population of CWWs, estimated at 52,000. Results. Most (67%) of the nation's CWWs are white, female (81%), and employed in urban settings (77%) managing on-going cases (73%). Almost half (49%) of workers have a non-social work bachelor's degree, the largest group, while only 40%of workers have a bachelors or masters degree in social work. Workers in non-urban settings earn less than urban peers. Median supervision levels also differed by urban status with non-urban workers receiving approximately 1.6 hours more supervision per week. Having a social work degree is associated with higher worker income for workers in the urban areas. Having a social work degree is less strongly related to income and years of experience for non-urban workers (p <.15). Non-urban workers with a non-social work bachelor's degree were significantly less satisfied than their peers with BSWs or any graduate degrees. Among all workers, those with a BSW were significantly more satisfied than workers with a non-social work bachelor's degree. For the urban sub-group and the full sample, workers receiving at least two hours of supervision per week were more satisfied than those receiving less supervision. A multiple regression equation was estimated to explain job satisfaction of CWWs. Race/ethnicity, gender, educational level, and amount of supervision did not distinguish the level of job satisfaction reported by workers. The quality of supervision proved to be strongly and positively associated with job satisfaction as was working in a nonurban setting, after controlling for other factors. Having any degree in social work tended to be associated with job satisfaction, after other variables were controlled (p <.10). Implications. The influence of supervision on job satisfaction persists and a threshold of at least two hours a week is identified. The need for more and better supervision appears to be high, especially in urban settings, where job satisfaction is lower. The findings that less than half of the child welfare workforce has a social work education and that the typical worker has been on the job for less than 7 years, argue for continued concern about the ability of these relatively new and untrained workers to implement the complex interventions required in child welfare policy. Among the entire workforce, only 21% have both social work education and more than 5 years of experience. Public expectations are unlikely to be met without a better trained and more experienced workforce. Increasing social work education and quality supervision are two promising paths toward achieving this goal.