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March 2017Vol. 18, No. 1Study Examines Stability of Minnesota Child Protection Workforce

High turnover and job stress in the field of child protection is detrimental to the effectiveness of these programs and creates a gap in meeting the needs of families and children. For this reason, the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, in collaboration with the Minnesota Association of County Social Service Administrators Children's Committee and the Minnesota Department of Human Services, conducted an electronic survey in February 2016 to better understand the state of the child protection workforce in Minnesota.

The survey was sent to 1,948 frontline child welfare staff. Of these, 734 indicated they worked specifically in child protection, involuntary foster care, or adoption. The 734 respondents were predominantly female (87 percent) and Caucasian (93 percent) and were along the age spectrum of 20 to 25 to over 60 years old. The survey findings related to job satisfaction, the impact of secondary traumatic stress, and the adequacy of supervision and peer support.

The following is a sample of the survey's findings among the child protection respondents:

  • Two-thirds (67 percent) reported they were satisfied with their jobs; however, 68 percent also reported feeling overwhelmed.
  • Four-fifths (83 percent) of respondents reported experiencing secondary traumatic stress, while only 63 percent reported that they felt supported enough to manage the stress. Thirty-seven percent reported that secondary traumatic stress had a negative impact on their job performance.
  • More than three-quarters (78 percent) reported receiving adequate supervision; however, most of this supervision centered on administrative monitoring and compliance rather than support or education.
  • A vast majority (95 percent) reported that they received support from their peers.

Furthermore, 79 percent of child protection workers plan to stay in their current jobs, whereas 21 percent plan to seek other employment within the next year, which may be a conservative estimate. In the next 12 months, it is expected that one in four child protection professionals will seek other employment. The respondents reported that higher salaries, lower caseloads, and fewer administrative requirements would help keep them from leaving their positions.

The Minnesota Child Welfare Workforce Stabilization Study 2016: Child Protection Summary Report is available at (286 KB).