First Advisor

Joan Shireman

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work and Social Research




Burn out (Psychology), Child welfare workers -- Oregon -- Personnel management, Child welfare -- Officials and employees -- Turnover, Employee retention -- Oregon



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 183 p.) : col. ill., col. map


Public child welfare agencies experience front line worker turnover rates as high as 25% a year. Worker turnover has significant financial costs to agencies, and has been linked to negative outcomes for children in care. Prior research has linked organizational factors, such as organizational climate, culture, and supervisor satisfaction, to turnover intent in child welfare populations. This research uses an empowerment framework to turn to workers directly to answer the question, "What are the organizational factors that lead frontline child welfare workers to stay or leave the agency, and what, then, are the implications for agency administrators?" This study relies upon secondary data of a workforce study conducted by the Child Welfare Partnership at Portland State University's School of Social Work. The data was collected via a pilot internet survey of approximately 400 State-employed Oregon child welfare case workers across all geographic regions in the state, and focuses on workers who plan to leave for preventable reasons. This study explored links between organizational factors and turnover in a sample of Oregon public child welfare workers. This research finds that climate, culture, supervision, and knowledge of the job prior to hire are all significantly correlated with intent to leave. Climate is most significantly correlated to Intent to Leave, and explains 25% of the variance in intent to leave in a regression model. These research findings suggest that agency administrators who are interested in improving worker retention can monitor and address local culture and climate as one tool for increasing workforce stability. Retention may be improved by maintaining an organizational culture and climate that is empowering to workers and that encourages workers to be a part of the change process. Additional implications for the child welfare workforce, social work research, and social work education are discussed.


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Portland State University. Social Work and Social Research Ph. D. Program

Persistent Identifier