• Public Child Welfare Workers' Safety Experiences: Predictors and Impact on Job Withdrawal Using Mixed-Methods Approaches

      Kim, Hae Jung; Hopkins, Karen M., 1954- (2012)
      Social work professionals are in one of the most vulnerable jobs with regard to client and other workplace violence. Although previous studies have consistently emphasized the importance of creating safe work environments, little research has been done on when child welfare workers have safety concerns and how safety issues affect their organizational outcomes, in particular their job withdrawal. The purpose of this study was to understand both child welfare workers' safety experiences during their home visits and the individual and organizational factors that influence their safety concerns. This study employed a mixed-method sequential explanatory design, which purposefully selects participants for a follow-up, in-depth qualitative study. In the first phase of the study, secondary quantitative data (N=426) were analyzed using factorial ANOVA, multiple regression, and multilevel analyses. In order to explain significant or non-significant results obtained in the first phase, follow-up interviews were conducted with 9 child welfare workers who scored high both on perception of risk (upper 30%) and job withdrawal (upper 30%). Results showed that child welfare workers frequently had engaged in avoidance behavior (e.g. end home visits earlier, meet clients at public places) because of their safety concerns. A lack of respect from other professionals and negative public perception toward child welfare workers were significant predictors of child welfare workers' safety concerns. As hypothesized, safety concerns at the individual level were associated with individual child welfare workers' job withdrawal, which indicated that greater exposure to an unsafe working environment was associated with the higher level of job withdrawal. A thematic analysis was used for qualitative data and interviews supported safety concerns as a primary contributor to child welfare workers' job withdrawal. In addition, major themes were identified from the interviews: 1) lack of open discussion, 2) lack of organizational policies and procedures, 3) lack of safety training or education, and 4) distrust in management's ability to deal with workplace. This study highlighted the importance of personal safety issues on worker withdrawal behaviors. Findings of this study have implications for social work educators and for human service managers in developing and implementing organizational policies that enhance worker safety and well-being.