To be new in Child Welfare Agency – A study of Social Worker’s perspectives on challenges, coping strategies and support systems
Social work education in Sweden has been characterized to provide general information about social work practice. With a new degree, social workers are able to find suitable jobs offer in many areas related to welfare services. With the increasing of work demands of Child Welfare agencies, newly qualified social workers are hired to provide services to families and children. Over the last years, Child Welfare agencies had been criticised by the media by providing poor organizational climate in their institutions. The social workers are victims of organizational changes, characterized by bureaucracy process where they are doing different administrative work while at the same time working with clients. This has provided negative effects in the organizations: stress related disorders, unhappy clients and an increase of turnovers. Therefore, the agencies developed different support systems to endorse job satisfaction. The aim of this explorative qualitative study focuses on the main challenges newly qualified social workers and qualified social workers that are new in Child Welfare agencies face; the coping strategies they develop in order to have an healthy life; and how they received support from Child Welfare in both informal and formal context. Five semi-structured interviews and a group interview were used to gather the data. A total of eight participants provided their experiences in their agencies. The results show that the workers challenges initiate from the transition of the university. With lack of practice, social workers use their discretion to address families and children. Furthermore, they are victims of administrative works, which develops many problems for them and their clients. However, with the help of resources (personal characteristics and social support) they develop coping strategies to face new challenges. The Child Welfare agencies develop an organizational climate characterized by a supportive environment. These systems are implemented in both informal and formal context where supervisor, external supervisor and colleagues develop strategies to help the social workers to address their challenges and endorse professional resilience. Nevertheless, each agency differs from another, which creates imbalance in their support systems by providing different types of services limited by the agency regulations.