Child welfare workers' perspectives on contributing factors to retention and turnover: recommendations for improvement

Carly Johnco, Alison Salloum*, Kayla R. Olson, LaTishia M. Edwards

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Rates of turnover are high in child welfare settings, impacting the organization, remaining workers and the children and families under their care. A number of demographic, psychological, social and organizational features have been associated with increased staff turnover, although we have limited understanding about how and why these factors are important; differences in influence at varying levels of seniority and career duration; and workers' perspectives on how to address workplace issues. This qualitative study assessed how factors impact employee retention and turnover in focus groups with 25 employees at different stages of employment: resigned case managers, case managers employed for less than one year and more than three years, and supervisors. Results suggested few differences in themes identified by groups. Two broad themes emerged for retention: supportive environment (including themes relating to children/parents, co-workers, and the organization) and opportunities within the agency (including new positions, experience and knowledge and job security). Two broad themes emerged for turnover: organizational issues (including themes about low compensation, challenging work demands, and system issues) and stress. Workers' perspectives and recommendations on how to address workplace problems were reported. Results are consistent with the existing literature, although a number of unique issues were identified, including workers' desire for clear communication flow through hierarchies, increased collaboration, and revisions to the way data is used/integrated. Workers expressed a strong desire to be heard by management, and this study reflects an important effort to provide feedback. These findings are relevant for informing organizational policy in child welfare agencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-407
Number of pages11
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue numberP3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • child welfare
  • retention
  • turnover


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