Date of Award

Winter 12-30-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

D.S.W. Social work


Social Work

First Advisor

FangHsun Wei, PhD

Second Advisor

Edward Hanna, DSW, LCSW

Third Advisor

Sharon Lyter, PhD, LCSW


Burnout is a concern that impacts many professionals in the workplace. This study focused on the risk factors of burnout for social work professionals in Pennsylvania’s child welfare industry. The study was conducted with 10 professionals at children and youth services (CYS) agencies in Pennsylvania, where each of the professionals were interviewed to gain perspective on the problem of burnout. This study used a qualitative approach and was rooted in grounded theory to unravel the findings.

Four risk factor themes, nine risk factor subthemes, and two additional findings themes were generated during the data analysis process. Findings from the 10 participants showed role stress, caseload sizes, documentation, and ineffective training were risk factors of burnout for social work professionals in Pennsylvania. Some findings indicated there was limited time for CYS employees to complete tasks at work, which depleted workers’ energies. Caseload sizes were larger than 10, which was taxing for staff. Documentation expectations from agencies were excessive, which was stressful for these professionals. Lastly, training offered by CYS was not helpful in providing staff adequate knowledge to perform their job confidently.

Implications of the study provided remedies to combat the onset of burnout, such as educators providing students a mock caseload to practice in the classroom setting, which can increase the understanding regarding case requirements and reduce stressors once students enter an agency setting as professionals. An additional remedy is leaders assessing how to reduce documentation requirements in the workplace, which can alleviate the burden of staff writing excessive paperwork. Further, leaders highlighting wellness programs in organizations can encourage work–life balance. Recommendations for future research suggest exploration using quantitative approaches to assess if CYS administrators are aware that organizational risk factors influence burnout for professionals. In addition, further exploration on organizational risk factors for burnout impacting child welfare professionals in other U.S. states is encouraged.

Included in

Social Work Commons



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