Abstract: Staff-Level Predictors of Implementation Leadership in Child Welfare Settings (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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211P Staff-Level Predictors of Implementation Leadership in Child Welfare Settings

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Zixiaojie Yang, MSW, Ph.D. Student, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Christina DeNard, PHD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Antonio Garcia, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Background and Purpose: Implementation leadership has been found to be integral in the implementation of evidence-based practices (EBPs) in both system and organizational contexts. Staff-level factors have predicted leadership behavior in public health settings and implementation outcomes in child welfare (CW) settings. However, it is not clear whether such predictors (age, gender, race, education background, discipline, time worked in CW settings, and agency of employment) have a similar impact on implementation leadership in CW settings. Therefore, the current study used both quantitative and qualitative data collected from frontline and administrative staff in CW agencies to explore whether caseworker factors predict implementation leadership.

Method: This study took place in a large Mid-Atlantic city at two community-based CW agencies implementing an EBP, the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P). The quantitative portion of the study used purposive sampling during the implementation process to recruit staff from Agency A (N=44) and two sites of Agency B (N=86), resulting in 130 participants. The dependent variables were workers’ ratings of their supervisor’s overall implementation leadership and four subtypes of implementation leadership: proactive leadership; knowledgeable leadership; supportive leadership; and perseverant leadership. Independent variables included staff characteristics and staff-rated organizational factors including organizational motivation for change and organizational climate. Five multivariate regression models were estimated to determine the relationship between staff-level predictors and implementation leadership. Qualitative data were collected through semi-structured interviews with frontline staff and administrators from Agency A (N=12) and Agency B2 (N=10). Direct content analysis was used to inform quantitative results and to contextualize agency differences.

Results: The regression analysis revealed that participants with a masters or doctoral degree rated their supervisor lower in proactive leadership (B=-0.56, p<0.05); motivation to change was positively associated with overall implementation leadership (B=0.23, p<0.05) and knowledgeable leadership (B=0.25, p<0.05); higher ratings in organizational climate predicted higher scores in overall implementation leadership (B=1.08, p<0.001), proactive leadership (B=0.93, p<0.001), knowledgeable leadership (B=1.15, p<0.001), supportive leadership (B=1.21, p<0.001), and perseverant leadership (B=1.06, p<0.001); and staff from Agency B1 rated their leaders significantly higher than staff in Agency A (B=-0.44, 0<0.05) and Agency B2 (B=-0.65, p<0.01). Qualitative analysis identified unique challenges contributing to lower ratings of implementation leaders in Agencies A and B2 than in Agency B1. Agency B2 faced inefficient communication strategies and lack of awareness of Triple P as an agency priority. Agency A experienced a lack of a clear standard in implementation and staff resistance.

Conclusions and Implications: Results indicate that implementation leadership is associated with agency and caseworker factors in CW settings. Staff with higher education levels may have higher and more specific expectations of their supervisors regarding implementation. Staff from Agency B1 perceived their agency leadership as more helpful in the process of Triple P implementation. Qualitative analysis illuminated how organizational differences impact implementation leadership. Recommendations to increase implementation leadership include providing trainings for supervisors to gain EBP-related knowledge, encouraging supervisors to advocate for staff needs, and ensuring implementation strategies are transparent to staff.