Findings from a longitudinal qualitative study of child protection social workers' retention: Job embeddedness, professional confidence and staying narratives

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Date
2019-06-25
Authors
Burns, Kenneth
Christie, Alastair
O'Sullivan, Siobhan
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Oxford University Press
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Abstract
The retention of social workers in child protection and welfare is an ongoing concern in many countries. While our knowledge based on the turnover of child protection and welfare social workers is growing, much less is known about ‘stayers’—those who undertake this work for over 10+ years. This article draws on the data gathered over a decade in Ireland on these social workers. The article addresses three questions: (i) What can we learn from social workers with 10+ years’ experience of child protection and welfare about their retention? (ii) Does job embeddedness theory help explain their choices to stay? (iii) Does the ‘career preference typology’ (Burns, 2011. British Journal of Social Work, 41(3), pp. 520–38) helps to explain social workers’ retention? The main findings are that if you can retain social workers beyond the 5-year point, their retention narrative intensifies, their embeddedness in the organisation and community strengthens and they have a stronger sense of professional confidence as they move out of the early professional stage. A surprising finding of this study was that nearly all of the social workers in this study had a staying narrative that changed little between their interviews a decade apart.
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Keywords
Retention , Job satisfaction , Job embeddedness , Resilience , Longitudinal research , Child protection and welfare
Citation
Burns, K., Christie, A. and O'Sullivan, S. (2019) 'Findings from a longitudinal qualitative study of child protection social workers' retention: Job embeddedness, professional confidence and staying narratives', British Journal of Social Work, 50(5), pp. 1363-1381. doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcz083
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© 2019, the Authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the the British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved. This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in the British Journal of Social Work, following peer review. The version of record Burns, K., Christie, A. and O'Sullivan, S. (2019) 'Findings from a longitudinal qualitative study of child protection social workers' retention: Job embeddedness, professional confidence and staying narratives', British Journal of Social Work, 50(5), pp. 1363-1381, doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcz083] is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcz083