Turnover in public child welfare is problematic and persistent, with human and financial costs. Scholarship on public child welfare turnover tends to focus on factors related to turnover intent as a consistent turnover predictor. Factors that are highly associated with turnover intent are found at the individual (ex-demographics), job (ex-job satisfaction), organizational (ex-supervisor relationship), and community context (ex-job alternatives) levels (Wilke et al., 2018). Researchers are also increasingly focusing on intent to remain as an outcome of interest rather than intent to leave, arguing that the latter is deficit-based. The current study will use both for outcome measures to test for differences.
Gap – Some important factors in retention receive comparatively little attention, including workers’ perception of personal safety (Kim & Hopkins, 2015). Workplace violence toward public child welfare workers is thought to be “prevalent” and even “part of the job” (Strolin-Goltzman et al., 2016; Zelnick et al., 2013). One statewide study found that in their first six months on the job, a majority experienced non-physical violence, about a third received threats, and 2.3% experienced physical violence from clients (Radey & Wilke, 2018). Another study found that public child welfare workers’ frequent exposure to unsafe working environments associated with higher rates of burnout (highly associated with turnover) (Kim & Hopkins, 2015). This work seeks to address the gap related to the impact of perceptions of workplace safety on retention. It also joins a growing body of literature addressing intent to remain.
Data Analysis – Incremental multiple ordinal logistic regression was used to analyze a cross-sectional statewide sample (n=3,481) of public child welfare workers in Texas to understand the relationship between workers’ perception of safety and intent to leave or remain. Primary measures are workers’ safety perceptions, job satisfaction, and intent to leave or stay (along with demographics and job type). Descriptive statistics and multiple imputation were run (and checked). Then, Model 1 looked at demographic predictors (race/gender/job role) of intent to leave and remain. Model 2 added workers’ perceptions of safety. Model 3 added the interaction between job satisfaction and safety perception to test whether job satisfaction modifies the relationship between workers’ perceptions of safety and their intent to leave and remain.
Results – Safety perception is significantly related to intent to leave; this is especially pronounced in workers of color. Job satisfaction modifies the relationship; those who are satisfied but feel unsafe are less likely to intent to leave. Intent to remain was significantly related to safety perception, but this was not modified by job satisfaction or racial identity.
Implications –Knowing more about what influences workers’ intent to leave will help further our work to improve their conditions. Retention of public child welfare workers is also vital to the outcomes of the families they serve, and their safety is an important part of this equation.