Intention to Leave in Social Workers and Educators Employed in Voluntary Child Welfare Agencies

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Introduction: Individuals employed in child welfare settings can have a profound impact on children in care. Research shows that direct care staff can have an effect on emotional and physical outcomes for children with whom they work. This paper seeks to expand knowledge of the child welfare workforce by studying educators employed in child welfare settings and comparing their job satisfaction and intent to leave with that of prevention workers employed in similar settings. Materials and methods: Data for prevention workers (n = 538) were obtained from workers employed at all preventive service programs under contract with a large municipality. Data for educators were obtained from voluntary agencies located elsewhere in the state (n = 139). The instrument was a modified version of a survey developed to examine job satisfaction and potential turnover among public child welfare workers. Domains measured included various aspects of job satisfaction, intention to leave, and whether workers regretted taking their jobs. Data were analyzed using bivariate analysis and structural equation modeling (SEM). Results: While both educators and prevention workers varied on different domains of job satisfaction, their overall satisfaction did not differ nor did their intention to leave their jobs. Satisfaction with contingent rewards, the nature of the work and opportunities for promotion along with not regretting taking one's job were predictive of thinking about leaving one's job. Thinking about leaving was predictive of taking concrete steps towards actual leaving. Discussion: While people both prevention workers and educators report different levels of job satisfaction and work conditions in their agencies, job title itself has less to do with a worker's intention to leave, as measured by both thinking about leaving and taking steps towards actively looking for a new job, than other factors. Larger contextual factors may be at play in workers' decisions to stay employed. Suggestions are made for reducing turnover intentions along with suggestions for further study to clarify the role of organizational factors in workers' intention to leave.



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