Abstract: Title IV-E Stipend Support: Conflicted Motivations for Choosing to Work in Child Welfare (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

246P Title IV-E Stipend Support: Conflicted Motivations for Choosing to Work in Child Welfare

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Marissa O'Neill, PhD, MSW, Associate Professor, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
Greta Slater, PhD, MSW, Associate Professor, Ball State University, Muncie, IN
Background: High caseworker turnover can be costly for child welfare agencies (Cowperthwaite, 2006) and turnover can reduce effectiveness for children and families (Ryan, et al., 2006). Recent studies support the efficacy of the Title IV-E Program for retention (Madden, et al., 2014; Slater, et al., 2018). The purpose of the current qualitative study was to explore IV-E Scholars motivations for staying and leaving and to identify gaps in the IVE curriculum.

Methods: Participants were recruited through four Cal-SWEC Universities who were a part of a larger study. Sixteen former scholars completed open-ended, 45-minute phone interviews. Questions included topics such as inspiration for choosing child welfare, likes and dislikes about the job, and IV-E preparation for the work. Data were transcribed and analyzed using open, axial, and selective coding. The constant comparison method was used during analysis and we used memos to document our thought processes and choices for themes. Thick description passages were used as examples of themes, to explore for saturation, and for convergence and divergence of themes (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Triangulation was explored by comparing with the results with the literature on retention and by comparing both analysts’ themes.



Our data revealed the common themes discussed in the literature, but the most interesting aspects of our study were the conflicts over altruistic and pragmatic reasons for choosing child welfare.

For example, IV-E scholars in our study disagreed widely about the IV-E stipend. Some attributed the financial help as a blessing and others, a curse. For example, some expressed intense feelings of resentment that money was a deciding factor in choosing child welfare: “There were a number of students that were clearly there just for the stipend …and for me that, like, irritated probably more that it should …cause I probably need to just let it go, but, um, it was just really, you know, frustrating.” Altruistic themes included finding meaning in the work, building stronger families, helping families succeed, and improving the perception of social workers in the community

On the pragmatic side, some expressed gratitude for the financial help, because they could not afford college without the stipend. Some mentioned the financial help as a factor in increasing diversity of the workforce too. Workers gave more pragmatic reasons for staying in the job:

having opportunities to learn new skills, creating a supportive work environment, and feeling prepared/well-trained. Pragmatism was also responsible for turnover. IV-E participants mentioned better pay, less stress at other organizations, family responsibilities, and inadequate self-care training as a reason for leaving.  

Conclusions:  The themes of the present study echo much of the literature on retention and turnover, but the conflicted feelings IV-E participants had about the stipend are an unexplored area for future research. We are curious about the identity conflict that was reported between financial and altruistic motivations for the work. Future research should also explore the role of self-care and if there are differences among those who have altruistic and pragmatic motivations for choosing child welfare.