The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

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

Transitioning From School to Work: Graduate Experiences and Commitment to Child Welfare Careers

Thursday, January 16, 2014: 4:00 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 103A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Gary Anderson, PhD, Director, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Shauna Rienks, PhD, Research Analyst, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Lyn Slater, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Fordham University, New York, NY
Virginia C. Strand, DSW, Professor, Fordham University, Tarrytown, NY
Background/ Purpose

Few studies have used robust measures to capture the experience of child welfare (CW) graduates as they transition from school to the workplace.  The NCWWI cross-site evaluation allows in-depth examination of a range of variables that may be associated with worker retention. Research questions for the current study include

  • What are NCWWI traineeship graduates’ perceptions of the job?
  • How does child welfare work impact graduates?
  • What predicts graduates’ commitment to the field?


 A web-based graduate survey is administered annually to traineeship participants. For this one-group, longitudinal study, respondents (N= 84) reported on:  

  •  Experiences
    • Individual factors: Job Satisfaction, Self-Efficacy, Time Pressure (5-6 items/scale; α ranges from .85-.93)
    • Supervisor factors: Knowledge, Support, Skills (6 items/scale; α = .95-.97)
    • Unit/agency factors: Professional Sharing, Shared Vision, Agency Leadership, Inclusivity, Professional Development (4-9 items/scale;  α = .89-.96)
  • Impact of child welfare work: Job Stress, Vicarious Trauma, Secondary Traumatic Stress (STSS), Coping Strategies(scales range from 5-17 items; α = .89-.96)
  • Intent to Stay(IS; 6 items, α = .85)


 Due to space limitations, this abstract contains a subset of the results that will be presented.

 Multivariate profile analyses comparing job experiences of trainees who were one year and two years post-graduation indicated similar patterns of scores across individual factors [F(1.76, 133.57) = .63, p = .52], supervisor factors [F(2, 152) = .40, p = .67], and unit/agency factors [F(2.64, 200.62) = .75, p= .51].  However, follow-up analyses of significant multivariate main effects indicated that, relative to first-year post-graduates:

  • Second-year post-graduates had significantly higher levels of job satisfaction, self-efficacy, and public perceptions of child welfare, but also faced higher time pressures [F(1,76) = 5.35, p = .023, η2 = .07]
  • Second-year post-graduates had significantly more positive perceptions of their unit’s supportive environment, shared commitment, agency leadership, inclusivity, and professional development practices [F(1,76) = 5.47, p = .022, η2 = .07]

 Predicting Secondary Traumatic Stress: Variables shown to have significant bivariate associations with STSS (Coping Strategies, Job Satisfaction, Self-Efficacy, Time Pressure, and IS) were used as predictors in a simultaneous regression model.  The model explained 38% of variance [F(6, 77) = 7.85, p< .01], with Self-Efficacy (positive) and Time Pressure (negative) as significant predictors of STSS.

Predicting Intent to Stay: Variables shown to have significant bivariate associations with IS (Job Stress, STSS, Time Pressure and Inclusivity) were used as predictors in a simultaneous regression model. The model was significant, F(3, 79) = 6.85, p= .000, with STSS and workplace Inclusivity as significant predictors of IS (Job Satisfaction was not included in this model due to high correlations with IS and other predictors).


Discussion will include possible explanations for the finding that trainees in the workforce for two years post-graduation perceive CW work experiences more positively than do more recent graduates. As expected, secondary stress is an important predictor of commitment to child welfare; and self-efficacy and time pressure are significant factors in STSS.