Abstract: The Impact of Racial Discrimination on Intent to Stay in the Child Welfare Workforce (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

424P The Impact of Racial Discrimination on Intent to Stay in the Child Welfare Workforce

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Sallie Strueby, MSW, Research Coordinator III, Butler Institute for Families, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Amy He, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Anna de Guzman, MA, Senior Research Associate, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Background: Since 2008, the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) has dedicated its efforts to increasing worker retention and strengthening the nation’s child welfare workforce. Research suggests that the relationships between race/ethnicity, workplace discrimination, and the intent to stay in child welfare are critical components for addressing organizational racial equity efforts.

Method: A comprehensive organizational health assessment survey was administered to staff in a Midwestern state child welfare system. One of the survey measures, the Workplace Prejudice and Discrimination Inventory (WPDI) gauges staff perceptions of discrimination in their organization. Other survey measures included intent to stay in the agency, job satisfaction, burnout, organizational climate, job characteristics, and demographics.

In this study, multiple regression analysis and independent samples t-tests were conducted to explore the relationship between personal factors (self-reported race/ethnicity, education, and years at the agency) and workplace factors (intent to stay, perceptions of prejudice and discrimination, and job satisfaction). The race/ethnicity variable was dichotomized into two groups: participants who self-identified as a Person of Color (POC) and those that identified as White.

Results: The sample included 1,992 child welfare staff, of which 87.3% were White and 12.7% were staff of color (8.4% African Americans, 0.8% Latinx, 0.6% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 2.1% multiracial/other). Most staff identified as female (89.2%), with a mean age of 40.1 years, and predominantly held degrees in higher education (64% Bachelor’s degrees, 23% Master’s degrees, 7% High school diploma, 6% other).

The overall model was statistically significant, R² = .33, F(5, 941) = 91.23, p ≤ .001. Staff who were White, and had longer agency tenure, lower levels of education, higher job satisfaction, and lower reports of WDPI scores were significantly associated with increased intent to stay scores (p<.05). The combination of these factors is an important consideration for the retention of child welfare staff in their agencies.

Additionally, because being a POC was a significant predictor, we examined variable differences between POC and White child welfare staff. Statistically significant differences (p < .05) indicated that POC staff perceived more discrimination and prejudice in the workplace, lower operational peer support, lower supervision support, and were less committed to staying in their agency or in child welfare; they did not differ on job satisfaction, age, years in the agency, and education level.

Implications: Study findings reveal that higher perceptions of discrimination in the workplace among POC working in child welfare was significantly associated with intent to stay in their agency. Existing literature has indicated several organizational factors that contribute to intent to stay (e.g., secondary trauma, high caseloads, and low pay). Like their White peers, POC experience these stressors in addition to discrimination and prejudice while on the job. Future research should aim to parse out these stressors that child welfare staff experience to better understand the effects of discrimination and prejudice on POC working in child welfare and how to effectively address these issues through improved racial equity practices and trainings.