Agency Climate and Culture: Do Perceptions Vary By Exposure to the Child Welfare System?
Method: The Organizational Social Context Scale (OSC; Glisson et al, 2008) was completed by 113 staff members (response rate, 80%) of a large child welfare agency involved in direct child welfare service provision including child removal, placement and oversight (core child welfare); clinical treatment of children in care (secondary/treatment); and prevention, with no tasks specific to child protection or treatment (tertiary). By using a single large agency, many aspects of the work environment were held constant across the groups. The OSC was analyzed and scored at the aggregate, unit level, with sub-analyses examining differences by administrative level. National norms derived from OSC administration with over 2000 individuals working in either child welfare or mental health agencies were used to test differences in each aspect of climate and culture across groups by calculating the cumulative probability that the national norms (child welfare or mental health) were different from unit scores.
Results: Intra-group agreement was high within each specified group (rwg >.94), indicating that group level aggregation is appropriate. While patterns of perceptions were similar in some areas across groups, with all groups reporting significantly less stress than national child welfare norms, group differences were apparent in levels of proficiency, resistance to change, and work engagement, with greater difficulties generally associated with units with greater exposure to child welfare tasks. Additionally, administrative positions were associated with higher proficiency and engagement. However, even with these differences, all groups profiled more similarly to child welfare units than mental health units.
Implications: Results indicate significantly more difficult perceptions of climate and cultural factors than found in mental health agencies, even among units primarily involved in prevention work. In addition, however, those involved more closely in work with families and children affected by abuse and neglect had more difficulty with perceptions of proficiency, greater resistance to change, and lower work engagement. These findings suggest that implementing change within child welfare agencies is likely to be more challenging than in mental health agencies, particularly with units involved in core and secondary/treatment child welfare tasks.