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Why Do They Stay? Building a Conceptual Model to Understand Worker Retention and Turnover in Public Child Welfare

  • Author(s): Benton, Amy Denise
  • Advisor(s): Stone, Susan
  • et al.
Abstract

Retention of public child welfare workers has been a recognized problem and a topic of interest among child welfare researchers for many years. However, findings in the literature are conflicting and the research is largely atheoretical. While many variables relevant to retention and turnover have been identified, the literature lacks explanation of how the variables are related.

The goals of this study were, thus, twofold. The first objective was to build a conceptual model using qualitative data generated from interviews of child welfare workers, theoretical works, as well empirical research which might explain retention and turnover specifically in the field of child welfare. The second objective was to test the conceptual model using logistic regression techniques on a large quantitative sample (N=1,121). This study employs mixed methods and draws its data from a larger ongoing study, utilizing a voluntary sample of child welfare workers who have participated in a Title IV-E MSW program in the state of California, have completed their work obligation period, and have either chosen to remain in public child welfare (stayers) or leave (leavers).

Results suggest that the conceptual model successfully identifies the complexity of the process that leads to retention and turnover behavior. Variables from three categories (individual, organizational, and response to job factors) are identified as predicting retention. Previous county employment, supervisor support, and client-related stress were all related to predicting retention. The implications of the study findings for social work education, agency practice, theory building and research are offered.

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