Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?
Children are vital members of our society and arguably its most vulnerable. The job of public child welfare workers is to serve children who are experiencing abuse and neglect and their families. Essential to the public child welfare systems serving these families are the employees who work directly with them – frontline workers and supervisors. Their relationships with families are a key component in the life of the case and can have a strong impact on case outcomes. These workers, however, are under considerable stressors, and turnover rates are a continual problem. Despite extensive research on worker turnover, further work is still needed to better understand the processes by which these workers decide to stay or go. These include a deeper understanding of the impact of safety perceptions, how workers of color might differently experience these systems, and what factors into supervisors’ intent. Focus on retention rather than turnover is an additional area in need of a broader evidence base. This study seeks to add knowledge on how safety perceptions, organizational culture, job satisfaction, and role impact public child welfare employees’ retention decisions. Utilizing a statewide data set derived from a survey of Texas public child welfare workers and supervisors, this study uses regression models to learn more about their experiences and how they might shape decisions on whether to leave or remain. We found that in workers, feelings of unsafety are significantly associated with intent to leave; this was moderated by perceived organizational support. We additionally found that inclusion is significantly related with both intent to leave and intent to remain, and this does not vary by race in this study. Supervisors were just as likely to intend to leave or remain as their workers; intent to remain was moderated by perceived organizational support in both. Intent to leave and intent to remain are similar in some ways, but rather than being flip sides of the same coin, they are unique constructs. Increasing retention of these workers is vital to the long-term outcomes in the lives of children and families. Strengthening the child welfare workforce strengthens the families they serve.