Date of Dissertation

5-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Department

Social Work

Abstract

This banded dissertation consists of three products addressing organizational factors causing turnover among public child welfare (PCW) workers, and explores pathways to terra-forming PCW practice. A conceptual article calls for resiliency content in social work education; a systematic review clarifies organizational factors causing worker turnover; and the dissertation concludes with a critical analysis of a peer-reviewed presentation by the author addressing workforce retention strategies. Theoretical and conceptual frameworks used are cognitive dissonance theory, self-efficacy, and the ecological model.

The literature attributes ethical distress, hostile work environments, and leadership issues as greater concerns amplifying conditions for role-confusion, burnout, turnover, and job disengagement for PCW workers. Social work education has not adequately address resiliency needs of emerging practitioners, necessary for longevity of practice and sustainment of ethical efficacious behavior. The conceptual paper proposes required resiliency content in social work programs as a responsibility to student social workers, particularly those entering child welfare practice.

While there has been a shift in examining organizational factors influencing turnover, interventions at agency levels have been fragmented and continue to focus on perceived worker deficits. A systematic literature review using the ecological model as an organizing and analytical framework identifies interventional gaps at the macro and exo-levels critical to addressing PCW worker retention. Using an exo-system perspective, the ecological model frames the discussion of implications for future research, policy, and practice. Interventional gaps related to organizational issues in PCW workforce retention were discussed in a presentation at the Child Welfare League of America’s National Conference. The presentation highlighted findings, described the analytical framework, and addressed implications for social work research, education, policy, and practice. Recommendations called for an examination of the maladaptive external environment influences that impact agency leaders and agency ecology, and for social work education to support worker resiliency needs of emerging workers and those in practice.

This banded dissertation addresses the sustainability needs of the public child welfare workforce in the U.S. and the responsibility social work education has for all practitioners. It calls for augmentation of curriculum to include competencies addressing resiliency needs of practitioners and the systemic issues causing turnover. Emphasis is placed on terraforming practice environments to promote worker and organizational efficacy that leads to retention. Implications for education, policy, practice, and future research are presented.

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