Academic journal article Child Welfare

Social Workers and Satisfaction with Child Welfare Work: Aspects of Work, Profession, and Personal Life That Contribute to Turnover

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Social Workers and Satisfaction with Child Welfare Work: Aspects of Work, Profession, and Personal Life That Contribute to Turnover

Article excerpt

Social workers practicing in government-mandated child welfare programs experience several unique challenges and workplace stressors that can contribute to social worker workplace dissatisfaction and higher rates of turnover. Most research on workplace well-being primarily focuses on workplace characteristics rather than on other variables, such as personal and professional life factors. From a sample of child welfare workers (n = 145), and following a model of subjective well-being, our findings show that three factors-work, profession, and personal life-significantly predict overall social worker satisfaction and intention to leave, confirming previous research on the multiple aspects of a social worker's life that contributes to his or her subjective well-being.

Child welfare remains a primary focus of social welfare efforts throughout North America, Europe, and many other parts of the world. In Canada (the context of this study) and the United States, the child welfare system is a provincially or state-mandated social welfare program that aims to protect vulnerable children from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect. The program structure utilizes prevention, investigation, and intervention approaches to meet this mandate. But, difficult situations in direct practice-such as encountering child maltreatment and death, experiencing potential physical dangers, or having to make authoritative decisions about the child's interests while balancing conflicting and complicated family issues-can impact the well-being of social work practitioners and their ability to provide these necessary and high-quality services to children and families (Drake & Yadama, 1996; Faller, Garbarek, <$c Ortega, 2010; Shim, 2010; Zosky, 2010).

When the negative outcomes for social worker well-being (such as stress and burnout, secondary trauma, and psychosocial impairment) that are a result of these negative job-related factors is not addressed, previous scholarship has found, this can lead to higher rates of employee turnover and lower levels of job satisfaction (Faller, Garbarek, & Ortega, 2010; Gibbs, 2001; Mor Barak et al., 2006). And, as Drake and Yadama (1996) note, families who receive services from agencies with a stressful work climate related to agencyspecific problems are less likely to receive comprehensive and continuous services. Therefore, without addressing the adverse conditions of child welfare work that can contribute negatively to social worker well-being, there can be a resultant impact on the quality and effectiveness of interventions for service user groups.

But understanding social worker well-being within the workplace is complicated, and measures that focus primarily on intra-organizational contextual factors (such as organizational culture, hierarchy, decision making, the nature of supervision, and so on) or the overall nature of the work (such as case management and the structure of workloads) to understand the problem of turnover within social work settings maybe insufficient. For instance, previous research has shown that social worker well-being extends beyond work-related issues and is impacted by aspects of the social work profession and the practitioner's personal life (Graham & Shier, 2010a, b, 2011; Shier & Graham, 2011). Graham and Shier, in this previous scholarship, have discussed the nature of well-being for social workers in relation to the more comprehensive conceptual framework of subjective well-being (SWB). SWB refers to the ways in which individual people evaluate their lives from their own perspective (Diener, 1984; Diener, Duh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999; Larsen <3cEdi, 2008). The attainment of SWB depends on perceiving satisfaction in numerous aspects of lifeincluding work, leisure, and health (Diener, Oishi, & Lucas, 2003; Kehr, 2003; Keyes & Waterman, 2003; Poloma & Pendleton, 1990; Reid, 2004; van Praag, Frijters, & Ferreri Carbonell, 2003); each aspect is believed to be mutually reinforcing. …

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