The high turnover rate among child welfare workers is a constant, well-documented issue. This study aimed to examine how organizational factors, particularly leadership, affect child welfare worker turnover intentions in order to help child welfare agencies establish a practice model that prevents the turnover of qualified workers. In order to do so, it is important to examine the effects of organizational commitment on employees’ turnover intentions.
A cross-sectional survey was distributed among workers in public child welfare agencies in a Midwestern state in the United States (N = 214). A path model was developed to test the direct and indirect effects of transformational leadership on the turnover intentions of child welfare workers using STATA. The survey results indicated that the transformational leadership styles of local office directors had direct and negative effects on child welfare workers’ turnover intentions. Therefore, this study recommends that child welfare services provide local office directors with leadership training in order to reduce the preventable turnover of child welfare workers.
The quality of child welfare services provided to clients significantly depends on the person who delivers the services and the stability of the child welfare service workforce (National Association of Social Work 2016; Schweitzer, Chianello, & Kothari, 2013). Researchers who study child welfare worker turnover identified the negative effects of other factors that affect children and families and thus cause poor child welfare outcomes (Griffiths & Royse, 2017; Healy, Meagher, & Cullin, 2007; National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, 2016; Schweitzer et al., 2013; Strolin, McCarthy, & Caringi, 2007). In addition, Healy et al. (2007) took the existing research one step further and identified the negative effects of these factors on the social work profession. Because the employee turnover rate is higher in social work than in other industries (Tham, 2007; The British Association of Social Workers, 2012), the consequences of child welfare worker turnover on the social work profession were also considered. Despite the importance of the workforce in child welfare services, the average rate of worker turnover in child welfare organizations varies from 20% up to 57% annually (Burstain, 2009; Child Welfare League of America, 2008; Healy & Oltedal, 2010; Mack, 2001; Mor Barak, Nissly, & Levin, 2001; National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, 2011), and some studies claim 100% annual turnover (see Mor Barak et al., 2001; Fulcher & Smith, 2010). Because child welfare agencies suffer from higher staff turnover rates than other human services do, turnover and retention of child welfare workers at every level have been extensively studied for decades (Mor Barak, Levin, Nissly, & Lane, 2006; Ellett, 2009; Ellett, Ellis, Westbrook, & Dews, 2007; Fulcher & Smith, 2010; General Accounting Office, 2006; Hwang & Hopkins, 2012).