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“Hands on” versus “empty”: Supervision experiences of frontline child welfare workers

Melissa Radey and Lauren Stanley

Children and Youth Services Review, 2018, vol. 91, issue C, 128-136

Abstract: Quality supervision positively relates to frontline child welfare worker job satisfaction; worker empowerment and self-efficacy; the quality of client outcomes; and worker retention. Despite the importance of supervisory experiences, few studies describe workers' perceptions of their relationships and experiences with their supervisors. The study applied the tenet of self-perpetuating, reinforcing relationships within the social exchange theory to understand newly-hired workers' experiences of supervision. We used inductive, thematic analysis to examine interview data focused on workers' transitions from training to casework including their supervision experiences. The qualitative subsample (N = 38) was drawn from the Florida Study of Professionals for Safe Families (FSPSF), a statewide sample of recently-hired frontline child welfare workers. Approximately one half of workers considered their current supervisory experiences as “hands on” and cooperative while the remaining half, conversely, described them as “empty” and detached. Findings reflect interactions in four domains: supervisor availability and approachability; consistency of provided information; level of micromanagement; and level of support. Workers, regardless of their experiences, expected supervisors to be available, knowledgeable, micromanagers, and supportive. Congruent with self-perpetuating, reinforcing relationships, almost universally, workers with cooperative experiences had their expectations met in each domain while those with detached experiences struggled in each area. Findings yield implications for training to guide relationships between supervisors and newly-hired workers: provide “hands on” supervisors and “check in” with newly-hired workers; provide micromanagement, including periodic accompaniment on home visits; provide an agency-approved checklist to guide workers through case processes; and support workers holistically.

Keywords: Child welfare workers; Supervision; Training; Preparation; Workplace support (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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