Who's On-Board? A Study of Child Welfare Worker Reports of Need for an Organizational Change
Methods. CW staff in 13 local agencies completed an online survey (58% of 964 sent). Most respondents are White (77%), caseworkers (70%), and work in ongoing units (35%). Four project-developed items were summed to create a scale of perceived need. A 5-point Likert agreement scale indicated respondent beliefs that the agency (1) needs the initiative, and that current practices are: (2) consistent, (3) value-driven, and (4) evidence-based (key goals of the initiative). Items were re-scaled with higher scores indicating greater perceived need. The scale shows adequate reliability (α =.76). The Organizational Readiness to Change, Mission subscale (ORC; Lehman et al., 2002) was used to assess clarity of agency mission. Descriptive, bivariate (t-tests), and multivariate regression analyses were used.
Results. One-half of workers agree or strongly agree that the initiative is needed (51%). Less than one-quarter feel current practices are consistent (24%), while 60% (each) believe practices are value-driven and evidence-based. Bivariate analyses showed higher perceived need among tenured, compared with less-tenured, workers (p<.001). White, non-Hispanic workers expressed more need compared with Hispanic workers (p<.05), as did leadership and state staff compared with others. Intake staff reported less need compared with permanency and “other” staff (p<.05 for both). Multivariate analyses showed that need increased by .44 among leadership and state staff (p<.001); need increased with greater tenure (p<.05). Most individuals believe their own work clearly relates to agency mission (87% agree) while others lack clarity (48%).
Conclusions and Implications. Results show that workers vary in the level of need that they attribute to the current initiative. To obtain buy-in across the agency, leaders need to anticipate variability in worker-buy-in. Using strategies such as identifiying champions at all levels of the agency and including staff at all levels in decision-making about the specific changes that will affect them is recommended. Child welfare leaders and managers should be knowledgable about theories of change management and the likelihood of model adoption, such as Kegan and Lahey (2009).