How Hope and Resilience Can Lower Burnout Among Child Welfare Workers

The child welfare workforce has been in a prolonged turnover crisis.

Burnout is a significant concern among child welfare professionals, leading to high turnover and reducing service quality.  In “Hope and resilience as protective factors linked to lower burnout among child welfare workers” an article published in the Children and Youth Services Review, it is stated that national studies suggest the child welfare workforce has been in a prolonged turnover crisis, with estimates indicating turnover rates ranging between 14 and 22 percent annually across the U.S.  Turnover leads to reductions in the quality of services for children and families. Psychological burnout is recognized as a significant contributor to turnover among child welfare professionals.  It is characterized by mental exhaustion and disengagement from work.  Research suggests that child welfare professionals are especially at risk for burnout because of organizational conditions such as constant exposure to suffering and pain of children and families, large caseloads, poor supervisory and organizational climate and burdensome administrative structures.  Studies have examined personal characteristics of professionals who experience burnout and have found that professionals who feel a higher sense of conflict between work-family balance and professionals with less self-care practice strategies have also been attributed to increased burnout.  A sense of professional accomplishment, professional commitment, organizational commitment and job satisfaction also have a negative relationship with burnout with the child welfare workforce literature.   

Hope theory and associated research supports that a hopeful mindset can mitigate employee burnout.  This is so because individuals with higher hope are better able to cope with adversity by identifying multiple ways to achieve their goals. In contrast, individuals with lower hope are less likely to continue to pursue their goals because they have concluded their goals cannot be achieved.  Lower hope is also characterized by emotional exhaustion, a state often described as associated with burnout.  Child welfare professionals often begin their careers with hopefulness, but under challenging working conditions often experience failures caused by roadblocks to work goals.  High hope employees remain engaged in pursuing employment-related goals and are less likely than lower hope professionals to view impediments as sources of stress and approach their workplace goals with more motivation.  Research on hope in professions that have been linked to high risk for burnout and stress show hope as a strong negative relationship with burnout.  As an example, among child abuse pediatricians, hope contributed to lower burnout.  Hope is also positively associated with positive workplace outcomes across various industries. Researchers who examine hope provide explanations for how and why hope promotes positive outcomes.  Higher hope employees show a higher level of performance and well-being because they are motivated to pursue goals and find multiple pathways to achieve those goals.  Hopeful employees find ways to set goals, adapt new pathways to the goal, and sustain the energy to accomplish those goals.    (source for all the above is “Hope and resilience as protective factors linked to lower burnout among child welfare workers”)

How can you have a hope centered work place?

As stated in the book Hope Rising: How the Science of Hope can change your life (chapter 20), every employer should be measuring hope in the workplace.  Social Service and non-profit agencies working with trauma survivors and people in need should increase measurable hope in the lives of those they serve and their employees.  Employees with higher hope will be more productive, more creative, and more loyal.  Employers should also be creating an environment of collective hope – rising hope in a group of people instead of simply rising hope in one person.  Collective Hope includes the complexity of social influences necessary for shared values and beliefs.  It requires the group to have a shared vision of the future, collectively agree on the strategies for pursuing it and a unified mental focus.  Organizations that understand the Science of Hope and the challenges of trauma are providing the pathways and support to help survivors to live more safely and thrive after trauma.  Dr. George Everly at Johns Hopkins University argues for trying to create resilient organizational cultures for employees.  He argues that people prosper from success so giving employees the tools they need to succeed is a great foundations.  Beyond that he also advocates for formal and informal sub-groups in the workplace where they can build relationships with other employees.  He emphasizes encouragement, support and mentoring are crucial and interpersonal support at work is one of the strongest predictors of success.  Social support at work improves motivation to set and pursue goals.  Managing stress is also crucial which means that employers and workplaces should be teaching self-care techniques and even hosting activities that model good stress management and balanced living. (all of this selection is taken from Hope Rising, chapter 20)

Share Story

Related Posts