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February 2024Vol. 25, No. 1Analysis of Factors Associated With Child Welfare Workforce Turnover

Child welfare agencies and caseworkers experience high rates of attrition and job turnover. While it is generally established that stress and burnout greatly contribute to turnover, other factors such as demographic and personality characteristics, experiences, and attitudes, are less understood. The Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development published an article on the findings from a survey of how different factors are associated with three measures of turnover intent:

  • Thinking about quitting
  • Intending to search
  • Intent to leave

The research in "Developing an Ecological Model of Turnover Intent: Associations Among Child Welfare Caseworkers' Characteristics, Lived Experience, Professional Attitudes, Agency Culture, and Proclivity to Leave" makes use of an ecological model of turnover intent, based on the decision-making ecology. Using this framework, the researchers took a deeper look at the relationships between decision-maker (i.e., caseworker) characteristics and their perception of organizational culture and the three measures of turnover intent. Two measures had strong associations with all three turnover intent measures: burnout and confidence in decision support from agency leadership. Associations with other measures varied in their significance, orientation, and strength. The researchers hope that the nonsignificant findings may be helpful in future research endeavors.

The authors find these results encouraging, as burnout and agency and supervisor support can be addressed, unlike demographic factors. Additionally, findings suggest that the three outcomes may function as a type of continuum on how likely someone is to depart. Further research exploring relationships between these outcomes, actual turnover, and time to turnover may give better insight as to which measure best predicts actual departures.