High quality supervision, coworker assist key to youngster welfare caseworker retention, OSU research finds | Information
Rather than examining the reasons why child care social workers quit their jobs, Oregon State University researchers looked at the common factors among workers who stay in the field and what makes them most satisfied with their jobs.
In their latest study, researchers found that quality supervisor support and strong relationships with colleagues help make case workers feel valued and understood, while having adequate technology and equipment to help them manage their workload effectively
They hope that child charities can use this information to support case workers and reduce the high turnover and burnout rates in the field, which in turn means better support for children and families.
“Clerks have very challenging jobs, but some are happy with the job despite the challenges and intend to stay,” said co-author Kelly Chandler, assistant professor at OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “If we are to improve continuity in service for children and families in the community, it is important not only to minimize the inevitable professional challenges, but also to think about which employees are really successful and what we can learn from them.”
The researchers sent a confidential online survey to all social services professionals in the Oregon Department of Human Services in 2018 and were able to use data from 485 respondents, including 222 from Child Protection Services.
The survey contained a number of statements and asked case officers to rate how much they agreed with them. Statements covered a range of topics from job satisfaction and intent to stay to more specific aspects of work resources such as: “My manager gives me clear feedback on my job performance” and “I have the technology and equipment to do my job ”. work well.”
To get more quantitative points about the job requirements, the researchers examined objective agency records to measure the number of cases and the severity of the cases. They took a unique approach to measuring the severity of cases based on the number of signs of abuse detected in a single client family, up to a total of five per family.
The severity of the case was the only work requirement that had a significant negative influence on whether an employee was a “satisfied stayer”; that is, someone who wanted to stay with the agency and was happy with their work. They compared satisfied stayers with indecisive workers and found that case workers were 8% less likely to be in the group of satisfied stayers when they had a high number of cases.
On the other hand, all three of the work resources examined – quality of supervisors, employee support and work equipment – were significantly and positively linked to the fact that the clerks were satisfied and wanted to keep their jobs.
Lead author Brianne Kothari, assistant professor at OSU-Cascades, said that while there are obvious budget and salary factors that affect case worker retention, this study shows that agencies also need to consider the value of intangible support to their employees.
“It’s really about figuring out how we can help case workers increase their job satisfaction and their intention to stay with ODHS,” said Kothari. “You want to feel seen and heard. It could be a pat on the back to a person; it could be something else for another person. This study shows the importance of high quality managerial relationships and the need to identify specific managerial behavior that benefits employees. It is also important to remember that all workers, including supervisors, need support. “
This kind of emotional support, both from coworkers “in the trenches” together and from supervisors seeing how hard the clerks work, can make employees feel like they’re not alone, Chandler said.
This study is in line with a broader effort by the Oregon DHS to transform workplace culture and use trauma-informed approaches to education at all levels, Kothari said. And it opens the door for further collaboration between the OSU and the agency, where researchers can work together to examine the data and help the agency cement best evidence-based practices.
“This is part of our effort to find out how we can better work with government agencies, which I think really falls under the OSU land grant mission,” said Kothari. With ODHS: “There are ways to think about how we as a larger community can support these workers who are really there because they want to change the lives of these children and families.”