Foster care, Residential Care, Youth Justice

If you want to reduce staff turnover, try improving staff supervision

High staff turnover has been a concern in the child protection and youth justice systems for many decades. A recent US study attempted to identify the causal factors that lead to high staff turnover amoungst child welfare staff in the US.

The study is of interest not so much because its findings but rather because of the excellent summary it provides on the previous research into the causes of high turnover. The summary is somewhat depressing as author reports that there  is  contradictory evidenced for all the hypothesized causes of turnover  including age, gender, hours worked, peer support, job satisfaction, length of service, expressed intention to leave and surprisingly stress and burn out.

Two interesting findings from the study are that (a)staff who work longer hours are less likely to leave their job (but other studies have found the reverse finding) and (b) the importance of providing staff with adequate supervision. The latter finding may be of interest to Practitioners as this may be one  tangible way they can reduce turnover once staff have been recruited:

The importance of supervisor support provides a clear implication for child welfare agencies: ensure consistent, effective, and supportive supervision to all workers. Furthermore, research suggests that increasing the support given to supervisors aids in their ability to support those staff they direct. Agencies should explore opportunities to increase support mechanisms for supervisors. There is current, ongoing research which identifies the implementation of improved or expanded supervisor training and support (p.75)

The author also points out that whilst effective supervision can prevent burnout, some professions, notably social work, seem better able to utilise the supervision process. This is important for Practitioners in the OoHC and youth justice areas as many staff seem resistant to the idea of supervision.

Take outs for Practitioners

  • The article provides Practitioners with an excellent and readable summary of causes of high turnover in the child protection space generally
  • Practitioners may be able to reduce turnover amoungst their direct reports by improving the quality of supervision they provide to their staff

Conflict of Interest

The writer markets a program that trains team leaders and managers to deliver effective supervision to their staff.

Benton, A (2016). Understanding the diverging paths of stayers and leavers: An examination of factors predicting worker retention Children and Youth Services Review 65, 70–77

About graemembaird

I am a psychologist with a special interest in improving the outcomes of families, children and young people in the Out of Home Care and Juvenile Justice systems.
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