The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Developing Competent Child Welfare Leaders Who Can Successfully Implement Organizational Change

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 9:15 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 008B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Deborah Reed, MSW, LAMM Project Manager, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Freda Bernotavicz, MS, Senior Research Associate, University of Southern Maine, Augusta, ME
Robin Leake, PhD, Research Manager, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Purpose:  The Children’s Bureau’s National Child Welfare Workforce Institute was designed to build the leadership competencies of supervisors and middle managers to implement organizational change. In addition to evidence that successful change implementation requires strong leadership skills, researchers have also begun to acknowledge the role of contextual organizational factors (Battilana et al., 2010; Yuki, 1999). The purpose of the current study was to test whether leadership competencies and workforce supports predicted successful implementation of organizational change initiatives (CI) for managers and supervisors who participated in the Leadership Academy for Middle Managers (LAMM) and Leadership Academy for Supervisors (LAS). 

Method: Survey and interview data (30-minute telephone interviews with randomly selected LAMM managers) were gathered at baseline, post-training,  and 3, 6, and 12 months after the training from 406 middle managers and 799 supervisors. Before attending the Academy, participants were required to write a comprehensive description of a change project they intended to initiate in their organization.

Participants rated (on 5-point Likert scales):

  • Confidence and progress around implementing the CI (LAMM = 12 items, LAS = 3 items)
  • Transfer of learning barriers/facilitators (TOL; LAMM =73 items in 4 domains: Motivation to Transfer, Individual Ability, Work Environment, and Training; LAS = 48 items in the first 3 domains; post-test only)


  • Thematic analysis indicated that the top two CI categories for middle managers related to Organizational Climate & Culture and Data & Accountability, while supervisors selected Caseload & Workload and Self as Leader. Further analyses of barriers/facilitators to CI implementation gleaned from interviews will be presented.
  • Of LAMM participants with available data, 59% reached the full implementation stage of their CI within 12 months of the training.
  • Repeated measures ANOVAs examined changes in LAMM participants’ CI implementation over time, revealing significant mean increases immediately following the training, F(4, 116) = 102.76, p < .001, with subsequent timepoints proving to be significantly higher than pre-training levels. For LAS, an ANOVA comparing implementation means at 3, 6, and 12 months F(2, 440) = 2.97, p = .052 revealed significantly higher 12-month implementation scores compared to 3-month.  
  • Multiple regression analyses were used to predict 6-month CI implementation from TOL domains for LAMM and LAS [F(4, 279) = 8.33, p < .001, R2 = .11 and F(3, 125) = 22.13, p < .001, R2 = .35, respectively], where Individual Ability was a significant predictor for LAMM (Work Environment was trend level); and Motivation to Transfer and Work Environment were significant predictors for LAS.

Conclusions and Implications: Using a sample of child welfare managers and supervisors, these results support hypotheses that factors related to both the individual and work environment are critical for implementing organizational change. Also, examination of the types of organizational systems changes that child welfare leaders select provides a deeper understanding of the priorities of organizations, allowing for supports to be tailored around the needs of the leaders.