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July/August 2023Vol. 24, No. 6Hope and Resilience Can Lower Burnout Among Child Welfare Workers

Burnout among child welfare professionals is a major concern for many child welfare agencies. Despite the widely accepted notion that a stable workforce results in improved outcomes and service delivery for families, many workers experience burnout and stress, which leads to high turnover rates and an unstable workforce.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Hope Research Center at the University of Oklahoma School of Social Work investigates hope and resilience as protective factors to prevent burnout. The study, “Hope and Resilience as Protective Factors Linked to Lower Burnout Among Child Welfare Workers,” was published in Children and Youth Services Review in 2022.

Researchers acknowledge that resilience is commonly cited as a buffer to burnout, while hope is less frequently referenced in child welfare research. The study defines resilience as “the ability to bounce back after encountering obstacles” and hope as “a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful agency…and pathways.”

The study is the first of its kind to test the roles of hope and resilience in reducing burnout among child welfare workers. It involved collecting surveys from 1,272 state child welfare employees in Oklahoma via email. Most employees were either caseworkers who work directly with families or supervisors. Hope, resilience, and burnout were all measured using preexisting scales: hope on the Adult Hope Scale, resilience on the Brief Resilience Scale, and burnout on the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory.

The results indicate that both hope and resilience are negatively associated with burnout, with hope more strongly correlating with lower burnout. The findings have several implications for child welfare professionals, policymakers, and researchers and can be used to guide efforts to develop interventions to help child welfare professionals cope with burnout.