Between the rock and hard places: how child welfare workers in St. John’s Newfoundland navigate competing demands at work

Fuseini, Sulemana (2023) Between the rock and hard places: how child welfare workers in St. John’s Newfoundland navigate competing demands at work. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Child welfare work involves the navigation of different demands which sometimes appear conflictual. The child welfare worker is at the centre of these demands and must deal with them. This study explored how social workers in frontline child welfare practice experience and manage the competing demands imposed by the child welfare system, child welfare service recipient system, and social work professional values and theories, which are conceptualized as “the Tri-sphere”. The study used a constructivist grounded theory approach. Data were collected in St. John’s, NL, Canada, employing in-depth individual interviews with 18 social workers in frontline child welfare practice. The study concludes that the competing demands of the Tri-sphere create tensions for frontline child welfare workers. They experience the tensions in ways such as unrealistic expectations, uncertainty and confusion, and burnout, which is characterized by feeling stressed and emotionally overwhelmed, feeling terrible, and feeling of failure. To manage these experiences, some participants follow policy regulations strictly, some tweak or manipulate policy and some negotiate with supervisors or child welfare service recipients. Self-care practices — counselling, receiving support from co-worker, participating in recreational or leisure activities, and contemplating career change — are also used to manage negative emotions or feelings. The implications and limitations of the study as well as recommendations for future study, social work education, and social work practice are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 15930
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 143-162)
Keywords: child welfare, competing demands, tensions
Department(s): Social Work, School of
Date: January 2023
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Child welfare--Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John’s; Social work with children--Law and legislation--Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John’s; Social workers--Professional ethics--Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John’s; Social service--Moral and ethical aspects--Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John’s

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