Abstract: Building an Understanding of Supervision in Child Welfare: Perspectives from the Field (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Building an Understanding of Supervision in Child Welfare: Perspectives from the Field

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Ahwatukee A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Francie Julien-Chinn, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI
Colleen Katz, PhD, Assistant Professor, Hunter College, New York, NY
Marina Lalayants, PhD, Associate Professor, Hunter College, CUNY, New York, NY
Victor Lushin, PhD, Research Fellow, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
High-quality child welfare supervision is crucial to case workers effectiveness, retention, and well-being in the field. Child welfare supervision has been positively tied to worker empowerment (Cearley, 2004) and case worker retention (e.g. Chen & Scannapieco, 2009) and positive supervisory relationships have been linked to worker confidence, job satisfaction, and performance (Radey & Stanley, 2018). This study sought to gain a deeper understanding of child welfare workers experiences of their supervision, specifically, how supervision is utilized, and its effectiveness.

We used an abbreviated version of the Comprehensive Organizational Health Assessment (COHA; Potter, et al. 2015) to survey child welfare workers at four child welfare agencies in one Northeastern city. We applied a convergent mixed method design to our research, using side-by-side comparison to analyze the quantitative descriptive results while reviewing the qualitative data. Qualitative data were analyzed to identify common themes, following the steps for data analysis outlined by Creswell & Creswell (2017). The quantitative survey data included information on aspects of supervision quality and frequency. The qualitative data were collected via the open-ended question: “Please share any other thoughts or information about the supervision you receive.”

Two hundred and thirty-four participants respond to the quantitative supervision questions. Almost 64% of participants indicated that they received scheduled, individual supervision weekly (n = 149) and about 83% of participants indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with the frequency of individual supervision (n = 193). When asked to rate their level of satisfaction on 8 supervisory items using a 5-point satisfaction scale, participants rated the following items highest: My direct supervisor supports me in difficult case situations (M = 4.18) and My direct supervisor facilitates a strong, mutual assessment of the case (M = 4.06). We received 129 open-ended responses allowing participants to elaborate on their supervision. The five themes that emerged from the data were: administrative supervision, educational supervision, supportive supervision, general positive aspects of supervision, and areas for improvement in supervision. Administrative, educational, and supportive supervision aligned with the conceptual model for social work supervision developed by Kadushin and Harkness (2014).

Overall, workers in this study indicated high levels of satisfaction with their supervision. In their open-ended comments, workers described how they benefited from the supervision they received and where it could be improved, such as wanting supervision to be more collaborative. Workers indicated that they appreciated specific aspects of administrative, supportive, and educational supervision, and that they would like more of each of these elements. An exemplar finding being: “My supervisor is...approachable, and ensures I am doing my job effectively and supports and coaches me.”

These findings can be used to provide child welfare agencies with more detail regarding the ways to support and train child welfare supervisors and to potentially improve both retention and practice outcomes. The findings specific to enhancing types of supervision can provide for tangible strategies to help supervisors improve their practice to support, educate, and oversee case workers. The case workers provided suggestions for improved supervision and discussion of where supervision was successful.