Abstract: Improving Retention in Child Welfare: Comparing Factors for Supervisors and Caseworkers (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Improving Retention in Child Welfare: Comparing Factors for Supervisors and Caseworkers

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Valley of the Sun E, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Qi Zhou, MSW, Doctoral Student, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Annette Semanchin Jones, PhD, Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Background and Purpose:

Although caseworkers and supervisors are both identified as frontline child welfare professionals, their jobs and responsibilities are distinct, resulting in different experiences within the child welfare workforce, as well as unique factors contributing to their retention. Additionally, while support is a significant indictor of workforce retention in child welfare, there are multiple domains of support that may have differential impact on workers and supervisors. To effectively improve the retention of both caseworkers and supervisors in child welfare, the design and implementation of strategies should take these differences into consideration; however, existing research focusing on child welfare workforce retention pays little attention to these unique factors across positions (Strand & Dore, 2009; Ellett, Ellett, & Rugutt, 2003). This study aims to examine the differences in factors predicting retention between supervisors and caseworkers. This study also attempts to explore the differences in the types of support that predict retention between supervisors and caseworkers.


The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) conducted a baseline and a follow-up Comprehensive Organizational Health Assessment (COHA) survey in its second round of sites to measure organizational health of child welfare agencies. This current study utilized data drawn from the follow-up COHA survey, focusing on a sample of participants identified as child welfare caseworkers (n = 1979) and supervisors (n = 490). Variables included in this study are intent to stay, job satisfaction, supervision, peer support, coping skills, and self-efficacy between caseworkers and supervisors. T-tests, correlation, and multiple regression analysis were used for analyses to examine the differences between caseworkers and supervisors in factors contributing to their retention.


Results of the t-tests analyses indicated that there were significant differences in perceptions of job satisfaction, intent to stay, self-efficacy, emotional peer support, and supervision between child welfare caseworkers and supervisors. Supervisors were more satisfied with their job than caseworkers [t (2201) = -5.69, p < .00] and were more likely to stay at their agency [ t (2117) = -10.86, p < .00] and in child welfare [ t (2053) = -7.88, p < .00]; caseworkers scored higher on the rest of the variables. Caseworkers and supervisors shared many similarities of the indicators of retention, but there were some distinctions. The unique factors predicting caseworker retention at their current agency were coping strategies (β = .21, p < .00), self-efficacy (β = .18, p < .00), and emotional peer support (β = .18, p < .00). The unique factors predicting caseworker retention in child welfare were supervision availability (β = .07, p < .00), quality (β = .11, p < .00), and frequency (β = .12, p < .00).

Conclusions and Implications:

Findings of this study suggest that while caseworks and supervisors share some factors related to retention, more effective strategies to improve caseworker retention should include other strategies to strengthen their coping strategies, self-efficacy, emotional peer support, and supervision. More one-on-one, evidence-informed supervision, aligning with their high-demand job requirements, should be provided to supervisors.