Study compares work experiences, retention for child welfare supervisors and caseworkers

Published February 15, 2024


Qi Zhou

Qi Zhou.

Annette Semanchin Jones

Katie C. Stalker.

A pair of University at Buffalo School of Social Work researchers have published a new study examining the differences in work experiences between child welfare supervisors and caseworkers and the specific factors that contribute to their retention.

PhD candidate Qi Zhou and Annette Semanchin Jones, PhD, associate professor and PhD program director, co-authored, “Improving Retention in Child Welfare: Comparing Needed Support for Supervisors and Caseworkers” in Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership and Governance.


Supervisor retention is important due to their critical role in child welfare; nevertheless, most research examining child welfare workforce retention has an explicit focus on caseworkers, with less attention to supervisors. This study examined the differences in work experiences between child welfare supervisors and caseworkers and the specific factors contributing to their retention, with a focus on various domains of support.

Data were drawn from a large survey, the Comprehensive Organizational Health Assessment, conducted by the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute. The findings revealed that child welfare supervisors and caseworkers had different work experiences. Supervisors were less satisfied with peer support and supervision than caseworkers. Supervisors and caseworkers had similar factors predicting their retention; however, job position was found to be a critical factor influencing their intent to stay.

Practice points

  • Position-related characteristics should be considered when designing strategies to improve workforce retention in child welfare.
  • It is essential to provide supervisors with more consistent, evidence-informed supervision, aligning with their high-demand job requirements.
  • Facilitating communication at all levels and increasing networking among workers would strengthen peer support and then encourage supervisors to stay.
Graphic with hands raised.

This research contributes to one of the Grand Challenges for Social Work tackling our nation's toughest social problems: Ensure healthy development for youth.