Methods: A mixed method sequential explanatory design which purposefully selects participants for a follow-up, in-depth, qualitative study (Creswell & Clark, 2007) was used to address research questions. In the first phase of the study, a total of 561 online surveys were completed for a 56.5% response rate. A multilevel analysis was performed using SPSS 18.0 (2009). Individual safety concerns within local departments were averaged to create organizational-level (aggregate) unsafe climate scores. In order to explain significant or non-significant results obtained in the first phase, in-depth semi-structure interviews were conducted with 10 child welfare workers who scored high both on perception of risk (upper 25%) and job withdrawal (upper 25%). NVivo 9 was employed for qualitative data.
Results: Results shows that majority of child welfare workers engaged at in avoidance behavior (e.g. end home visits earlier, meet clients at public place) because of their safety concerns at least once in the past 12 months. As hypothesized, safety concerns at the individual level was associated with individual child welfare workers' job withdrawal (B=.623, p<.001), which indicates that greater exposure to an unsafe working environment was associated with the higher level of job withdrawal. However, unsafe climate (aggregated at the organizational level) and cross-level interactions of unsafe climate with social support were not statistically significant. Qualitative interviews also confirmed safety concerns as a primary contributor to child welfare workers' job withdrawal. In addition, major themes were identified from the interviews: 1) culture of silence regarding personal safety issues, 2) lack of safety training or education, 3) distrust management dealing with workplace violence.
Conclusions and Recommendations: A survey and interview data highlighted the importance of personal safety issues on worker withdrawal behaviors. In addition, interview data support the need for creating safety climate in child welfare field. Therefore, an education programs for managers or potential managers are necessary to enhance their awareness of and skills associated with safety issues.