The Role of Voice Suppression in Case Managers’ Job Satisfaction and Retention

A Focus Group Inquiry


  • Julie Steen University of Central Florida



case manager; foster care; inter-professional; job satisfaction; turnover


With the goal of improving child well-being, child welfare agencies have begun to focus on the child welfare workforce and to advance strategies that address job satisfaction and retention. A qualitative approach was employed to gather the perspectives of case managers regarding these important issues. Ten foster care case managers participated through three focus groups. Responses were solicited using a semi-structured set of questions primarily focused on critical factors that affect job satisfaction and turnover. Through inductive coding, a prominent theme emerged regarding the suppression of case managers’ voices. Case managers described the suppression of their voices during decision-making in foster care cases by five types of actors, i.e., supervisors, judges, guardians ad litem, attorneys, and funding agency representatives. Further, they described the negative effects this experience had on both themselves and the children and families they serve. These results demonstrate the importance of inter-professional interactions in the foster care field. Further research is needed to identify the extent of this problem and the ways in which interactions can be improved and all voices can be considered.


Barth, R. P., Lloyd, C., Christ, S. L., Chapman, M. V., & Dickinson, N. S. (2008). Child welfare worker characteristics and job satisfaction: A national study. Social Work, 53, 199-209.

Bogo, M., & Dill, K. (2008). Walking the tightrope: Using power and authority in child welfare supervision. Child Welfare, 87(6), 141-157.

Briar-Lawson, K. (2014). Building the social work workforce: Saving lives and families. Advances in Social Work, 15, 21-33.

Briar-Lawson, K., & Zlotnick, J. L. (Eds.). (2003). Charting the impacts of university-child welfare collaboration. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.

Casey Family Programs. (2017). How does turnover affect outcomes and what can be done to address retention?

Cearley, S. (2004). The power of supervision in child welfare services. Child & Youth Care Forum, 33, 313-327.

Chen, S-Y., & Scannapieco, M. (2010). The influence of job satisfaction on child welfare worker's desire to stay: An examination of the interaction effect of self-efficacy and supportive supervision. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 482-486.

Chenot, D., Benton, A. D., & Kim, H. (2009). The influence of supervisor support, peer support, and organizational culture among early career social workers in child welfare services. Child Welfare, 88(5), 129-147.

Collins-Camargo, C., & Millar, K. (2010). The potential for a more clinical approach to child welfare supervision to promote practice and case outcomes: A qualitative study in four states. The Clinical Supervisor, 29, 164-187.

Dickinson, N. S., & Perry, R. E. (2002). Factors influencing the retention of specially educated public child welfare workers. Journal of Health & Social Policy, 15, 89-103.

Edwards, F., & Wildeman, C. (2018). Characteristics of the front-line child welfare workforce. Children and Youth Services Review, 89, 13-26.

Ellett, A. J. (2009). Intentions to remain employed in child welfare: The role of human caring, self-efficacy beliefs, and professional organizational culture. Children and Youth Services Review, 31, 78-88.

Ellett, A. J., Ellis, J. I., Westbrook, T. M., & Dews, D. (2007). A qualitative study of 369 child welfare professionals’ perspectives about factors contributing to employee retention and turnover. Children and Youth Services Review, 29, 264-281.

Faller, K. C., & Vandervort, F. E. (2007). Interdisciplinary clinical teaching of child welfare practice to law and social work students: When world views collide. University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, 41, 121-165.

Gillespie, J., Whiteley, R., Watts, W., Dattolo, L., & Jones, D. (2010). Interprofessional education in child welfare: A university-community collaboration between nursing, education, and social work. Relational Child & Youth Care Practice, 23, 5-15.

Glisson, C., Dukes, D., & Green, P. (2006). The effects of the ACR organizational intervention on caseworker turnover, climate, and culture in children’s service systems. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30, 855-880.

Glisson, C., & Green, P. (2011). Organizational climate, services, and outcomes in child welfare systems. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35, 582-591.

Glisson, C., Green, P., & Williams, N. J. (2012). Assessing the Organizational Social Context (OSC) of child welfare systems: Implications for research and practice. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36, 621-632.

Glisson, C., & Hemmelgarn, A. (1998). The effects of organizational climate and interorganizational coordination on the quality and outcomes of children’s service systems. Child Abuse & Neglect, 22, 401-421.

Griffiths, A., & Royse, D. (2017). Unheard voices: Why former child welfare workers left their positions. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 11, 73-90.

Griffiths, A., Royse, D., Culver, K., Peischer, K., & Zhang, Y. (2017). Who stays, who goes, who knows? A state-wide survey of child welfare workers. Children and Youth Services Review, 77, 110-117.

Hopkins, K. M., Cohen-Callow, A., Kim, H. J., & Hwang, J. (2010). Beyond intent to leave: Using multiple outcome measures for assessing turnover in child welfare. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 1380-1387.

Jacquet, S. E., Clark, S.J., Morazes, J. L., & Withers, R. (2007). The role of supervision in the retention of public child welfare workers. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 1, 27-54.

Kim, H., & Kao, D. (2014). A meta-analysis of turnover intention predictors among U. S. child welfare workers. Children and Youth Services Review, 47, 214-223.

Landsman, M. (2007). Supporting child welfare supervisors to improve worker retention. Child Welfare, 86, 105-124.

Lee, J., Weaver, C., & Hrostowski, S. (2011). Psychological empowerment and child welfare worker outcomes: A path analysis. Child & Youth Care Forum, 40, 479-497.

Lietz, C. A., & Rounds, T. (2009). Strengths-based supervision: A child welfare supervision training project. The Clinical Supervisor, 28, 124-140.

Marsh, P. (2006). Promoting children’s welfare by inter-professional practice and learning in social work and primary care. Social Work Education, 25, 148-160.

Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldaña, J. (2020). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Mizrahi, T., Humphreys, M. L., & Torres, D. (2009). The social construction of client participation: The evolution and transformation of the role of service recipients in child welfare and mental disabilities. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 36, 35-61.

Mor Barak, M. E., Levin, A., Nissly, J. A., & Lane, C. J. (2006). Why do they leave? Modeling child welfare workers’ turnover intentions. Children and Youth Services Review, 28, 548-577.

Mor Barak, M. E., Nissly, J. A., & Levin, A. (2001). Antecedents to retention and turnover among child welfare, social work, and other human service employees: What can we learn from past research? A review and metanalysis. Social Service Review, 75, 625-661.

Morazes, J. L., Benton, A. D., Clark, S. J., & Jacquet, S. E. (2010). Views of specially-trained child welfare social workers: A qualitative study of their motivations, perceptions, and retention. Qualitative Social Work, 9, 227-247.

Pecora, P. J., Whittaker, J. K., Barth, R. P., Borja, S., & Vesneski, W. (2018). The child welfare challenge: Policy, practice, and research. Routledge.

Reeves, S., Perrier, L., Goldman, J., Freeth, D., & Zwarenstein, M. (2013). Interprofessional education: Effects on professional practice and healthcare outcomes (update, Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2013(3), 1-47.

Smith, B. D. (2005). Job retention in child welfare: Effects of perceived organizational support, supervisor support, and intrinsic job value. Children and Youth Services Review, 27, 153-169.

Strand, V. C., & Dore, M. M. (2009). Job satisfaction in a stable state child welfare workforce: Implications for staff retention. Children and Youth Services Review, 31, 391-397.

Strolin, J. S., McCarthy, M., & Caringi, J. (2006). Causes and effects of child welfare workforce turnover. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 1, 29-52.

Westbrook, T. M., & Crolley-Simic, J. (2012). Perceptions of administrative and supervisory support in public child welfare. Advances in Social Work, 13, 603-617.

Westbrook, T. M., Ellett, A. J., & Asberg, K. (2012). Predicting public child welfare employees’ intentions to remain employed with the child welfare organizational culture inventory. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 1214-1221.

Willis, N., Chavkin, N., & Leung, P. (2016). Finding “health” and “meaning” in Texas-sized turnover: Application of seminal management principles for administration and research in U.S. public child welfare agencies. Advances in Social Work, 17, 116-133.

Yankeelov, P. A., Barbee, A. P., Sullivan, D., & Antle, B. F. (2009). Individual and organizational factors in job retention in Kentucky’s child welfare agency. Children and Youth Services Review, 31, 547-554.