How long are you staying?: retention of social workers in northern child welfare practice

Schmidt, Glen G. (2002) How long are you staying?: retention of social workers in northern child welfare practice. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Retention of social workers in the field of child welfare is poor. The problem is made even more difficult in northern and remote regions of Canada. This exploratory research examines the factors that contribute to retention and turnover at work sites in the western part of Canada. A purposive sample of 12 northern sites was developed in the Yukon, northern British Columbia, northern Alberta, northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba. Four urban sites in the lower mainland of British Columbia were developed for contrast. A total of 86 social workers at the various sites completed survey questionnaires and 101 social workers participated in focus group interviews. A total of 27 supervisors from the same site locations participated in individual structured interviews. The questionnaires and interviews were organized using a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) format. This also provided a convenient way to organize the results. The SWOT format required participants to consider positive as well negative elements related to the question of retention. The data was analyzed using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. The use of different data sources allowed for triangulation in analysis of the results. The findings suggest that workers and supervisors are attracted to such factors as living and working in a small town, the opportunities associated with generalise northern practice, opportunities for quick career advancement, and the appeal of the northern environment. The northern location, high cost of living, visibility, safety issues, travel, and lack of amenities and resources contribute negatively to the issue of retention. The results of the research are discussed in terms of their significance for retention strategies, social work education, and the development of a model of northern social work practice. More community involvement in recruitment and hiring, changes in the employment interview, and increases in employee benefits are suggested as possible strategies for improving retention of child welfare workers in remote northern work locations. Social work educators need to pay more attention to the challenges faced by northern practitioners. Generalist practice, independence, multidisciplinary practice, personal-professional tension, and factors associated with geography are seen to be key dimensions of a model of northern social work practice.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 9211
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 165-183.
Department(s): Social Work, School of
Date: 2002
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--British Columbia; Canada--Yukon Territory; Canada--Prairie Provinces
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Social workers--British Columbia; Social workers--Yukon Territory; Social workers--Prairie Provinces; Employee retention--British Columbia; Employee retention--Yukon Territory; Employee retention--Prairie Provinces

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