TitleRetention of child welfare caseworkers: The role of case severity and workplace resources
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsKothari, BH, Chandler, KD, Waugh, A, McElvaine, K, Jaramillo, J, Lipscomb, S
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Date Published04/2021


  • Balancing job demands and job resources is critical for retaining child welfare caseworkers.
  • Satisfied Stayers reported satisfaction and wished to keep working at the agency.
  • Case severity (job demand) was inversely related to retention and satisfaction.
  • Three job resources predicted being in the Satisfied Stayer group: Supervision quality, coworker support, and work tools.


A highly skilled and committed child welfare workforce is necessary to support the safety, permanency, and well-being of children in foster care. Nevertheless, turnover is high. Job burnout and dissatisfaction are top reasons for quitting child welfare, and leaving is likely due to a mismatch of job demands and job resources. Despite the need for child welfare agencies to retain satisfied employees who wish to remain on the job, research has largely focused on those who leave. This study applied the Job Demands-Resources model and an employee resilience lens to identify characteristics and job conditions of caseworkers, with a focus on those who are satisfied and plan to stay. Multinomial logistic regressions were used to examine job demands and job resources of Satisfied Stayers (workers who are satisfied and wish to remain at the agency) and Ambivalent Stayers (workers who are ambivalent about their satisfaction, but intend to stay) as compared to Undecided Workers (workers who are unsure about their job satisfaction and staying). Results revealed key distinctions between subgroups on job demands, job resources, as well as demographic and job characteristics. Case severity was the critical job demand for all groups, and all three job resources (supportive supervision, coworker support, and work tools) predicted being a Satisfied Stayer. Findings may be helpful in identifying job conditions agencies might target to improve caseworkers’ retention. Improving work conditions by bolstering resources, in addition to reducing demands, has benefits for employees and the children and families they serve.

Short TitleChildren and Youth Services Review