The Turnover and Retention of Massachusetts Social Welfare Workers

Evalina Lawson

Document Type Thesis


The turnover rate of social welfare workers across the United States is incredibly high. The Administration for Children and Families report that some jurisdictions experience turnover rates of up to 90%. This has been an ongoing challenge faced by agencies across the United States since the 1960s (Grotzman, Kollar, Trinkle, 2010). In this study, the attempt was to answer three main questions: 1) What are some of the factors that lead to social workers leaving their jobs?; 2) What are some of the factors that determine why some social workers stay?; And 3) are the recent reforms made at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families effective? While social worker turnover has been widely studied, literature on the causes of social worker retention, i.e., why do some social workers continue in their jobs, is relatively scarce. Therefore, the in depth interviews provided understudied insights on the causes of social worker retention. Twelve semi-structured interviews with Massachusetts social workers were conducted. Findings show that the factors that make people leave this profession are different from those that make people want to stay. Based on these findings, the study provides several recommendations that can help increase retention in the field.