FSU Faculty on Child Welfare Employee Retention Rates

(From left to right, Desirée Burns, LMSW; Lisa Langenderfer-Magruder, Ph.D.; Anna Yelick, Ph.D.; Dina Wilke, Ph.D.)

Four faculty members from the College of Social Work co-authored an article, “What Else is There to Say? Reflections of Newly-Hired Child Welfare Workers by Retention Status," published by Children and Youth Services Review. In it, they attempt to identify factors that cause up to 40% of child welfare workers to leave their positions each year. While some turnover can be good for those who realize that social work is not for them, such high rates put a strain on social work agencies and workers who do stay in their positions. Lower retention rates can also have a negative impact on the people that need social work services. These effects motivated the authors to investigate the causes of high turnover to identify changes that can be made.

They collected data from 192 child welfare workers in the state of Florida. Of these participants, 79 left after about a year of social work. Based on their literature review, the younger age of workers and greater education or employment history can have an effect on someone's decision to leave. Organizational-level factors include compensation and advancement, caseloads, and administrative support. After analyzing their data, they identify areas for potential improvement to increase retention rates. They list four common themes among all participants: "1) rewarding, but difficult; 2) unsupported; 3) overworked; and 4) undervalued."

They concluded that the differences between those who chose to stay and those who leave are nuanced. For example, while almost all social workers gained intrinsic motivation for their job even though they felt overworked, the stayers thought that the pros outweighed the cons and the leavers expressed the opposite. Some suggestions the article made to increase retention were to increase support for the workers as well as provide more experiential learning during training.

We congratulate Burns, Langenderfer-Magruder, Yelick, and Wilke on their publication and insight into child welfare workers. To read more about the causes and potential solutions related to high turnover within this field visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019074092200367X#b0115