Date of Award

Summer 7-20-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

D.S.W. Social work


Social Work

First Advisor

Dr, Yoon Mi Kim

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephen Stoeffler

Third Advisor

Dr. Juliana Svistova



When the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania revised its child protective services law (CPSL) in 2014 in response to highly publicized child abuse incidents, the impact on public child welfare agencies was often negative. The child welfare system faced increased referrals without enough staff to handle the workload and numerous caseworkers began to leave their jobs. Caseworker turnover has a negative impact on children and families because excessive workloads dilutes the quality of services clients receive. Turnover may have lifelong implications for children in the child welfare system, such as delaying family reunifications, adoptions, or other permanency options. Changes in the CPSL increased the number of mandated reporters required to make referrals of suspected abuse, and expanded definitions for injuries defined as child abuse and perpetrators, which increased the number child abuse investigations. With a goal of identifying factors contributing to caseworker turnover, this study examined survey responses from a secondary data sample from 511 child welfare caseworkers in Pennsylvania. Findings indicated that caseworkers want to stay in their jobs because of feelings of personal accomplishment, positive co-worker support, positive client relationships, and positive supervisory support. Reasons to want to leave the job included low salaries, high workloads, and emotional demands. Implications from an ecological systems analysis of the child welfare system suggest that regulations requiring matching county funds may be contributing to wide differences in salaries, a primary reason for turnover. The study recommended that legislative changes are needed to address systemic barriers that influence low salaries and are leading to excessive workloads that increase caseworker turnover.

Key words: caseworker turnover, job retention, child welfare, supervision, management, ecological systems theory, Sandusky

Included in

Social Work Commons



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