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2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 4, No. 3
June 1999

A Profile of Child Welfare Social Workers Who Stay

In 1993 researcher R. Reagh conducted a small study of child welfare workers who had been in the field for at least five years. Although the sample consisted of only 18 respondents, this study is interesting because it identifies a number of characteristics shared by those who stayed with their agency after the "honeymoon."

Those who stayed, Reagh found, like to feel needed, to make a difference, and to be quiet contributors. They also shared similar credentials—each had either earned a BSW or related degree or were license-eligible in Ohio. And all but one of the respondents had personal reasons for being in a helping profession: they had experienced victimization, the death of someone close to them, illness, or disability and felt these factors led them to the field. They felt that as child welfare workers they could make things better for children and families who, like themselves, had difficult experiences.

The social workers in Reagh's study found meaning in their work, despite their chaotic environment. They felt supported by their colleagues and supervisors and attempted to do their jobs as creatively as the system allowed. Although all of the participants reported feelings of burnout at some time in the past, they felt the maturing they had done personally and professionally made coping easier.


Reagh, R. (1994). Public child welfare professionals: Those who stay. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 21(3), 69-78.

1999 Jordan Institute for Families