Social work is a demanding field that warrants a closer examination as to the effectiveness of the social workers in the Child Protective Services Agency. With increased caseloads, social workers may not meet the needs of its constituents. Furthermore, decision-making and judgment may be impaired due to the associated level of stress experienced.
In the field of social work, the goal is to make a difference in the lives of others. Over the last several years, the advocacy role of social workers has increased, thus creating additional stress and conflicting priorities. In part, society has placed a great deal of demands on this role. Hence, one must wonder as to the effectiveness of such a demanding roles. From helping others to manage their daily lives, understanding and adapting to illness, disability, and death, and obtaining social services, such as health care, government assistance, and legal aid, such a plethora of needs from individuals would necessitate periods of being overwhelmed. Furthermore, some social workers work as administrators in social service settings, write grants for nonprofit agencies, advocate for social policy at various levels of government, and conduct research. Hence, the proposed scope seeks to conduct a formative evaluation of the effectiveness of social workers within the Child Protective Services (CPS) Agency.
Child Protective Services (CPS) is responsible for investigating and intervening on issues involving child abuse or neglect. Shockingly, millions of cases are reported every year, which often involve removing children from abusive or neglectful homes. Subsequently, these children become temporary wards of the state, and they are placed into a foster care environment. Nearly 32% of children are currently placed within the CPS system (Child Maltreatment, 2009).
Seemingly, such abuse may be attributed to at least one parent associated with various instances of abuse ("Child Maltreatment," 2009). Between 2005 and 2009, CPS responded to the different kinds of cases, as indicated by the below table.
The Percentages of Child Abuse Cases Reported between 2005 and 2009
Types of Abuse
(Child Maltreatment, 2009)
With such alarming figures, the demand to intervene is ever looming for the social worker. Insomuch, economic pressures, such as job loss, home loss, divorce, alcoholism, drug abuse, etc.… fosters an environment that are breeding grounds for abusive situations. Consequently, social workers attempt to ameliorate conditions with the same amount of resources. Workers are asked to do with less, thus creating internal conflict and subsequently, their effectiveness may be impaired in dealing with such sensitive and critical issues.
Evaluation Question #1: With increased workloads, are social workers effective in meeting the needs of its constituents?
Purpose of Question #1: As the rate of abuse increases, so do the caseloads and the need for advocacy services.
Evaluation Question #2: As the need to perform increases, are social workers affected by poor decision-making and judgment?
Purpose of Question #2: With growing demands and pressures to perform, decision-making and judgment may be compromised, resulting in ongoing or recycled cases.
Research Design and Selection Rationale
Utilizing both quantitative and qualitative approaches, a mixed methodology will render subjective, as well objective data. With quantitative approach, experimental study seeks to prove cause-and-effect relationships. A variable is introduced as a change into a situation in which the results are noted. Collecting data in experimental studies is accomplished through observation, counting, and measurement, and the data is then analyzed by statistical methods. The quantitative approach will focus on actual questions and the associated responses from a sample taken from two different groups. In this context, one will be the control group, while the other one is deemed the experimental group. A control group study uses a control group to compare to an experimental group in a test of a causal hypothesis. The control and experimental groups must be identical in all relevant ways except for the introduction of a suspected causal agent into the experimental group. If the suspected causal agent is actually a causal factor of some event, then the event should be more pronounced in the experimental group than in the control group. For example, if an increased caseload (C-variable) causes additional stress, poor decision-making and judgment (E-variable), then the social worker's effectiveness will be impaired. Therefore, when the causal factor of more cases is introduced into the experimental group but not into the control group, then stress, poor decision-making and judgment should be evident in the experimental group at a significantly greater rate than in the control group. This is the independent variable that will identify when any kind of changes are taking place (Johnson, 2007, pp. 112-133).
Descriptive or qualitative studies report and analyze descriptions of social settings, events, or processes without seeking to change these settings, events, or processes. Descriptive studies often take the form of case studies. Data in these studies is collected through interviews, observation notes, audio and video records of activities and open-ended survey responses. Descriptive studies do not analyze data with sophisticated statistical methods and do not prove cause-and-effect relationships between events. In this context, the qualitative approach will use an interview approach. Additionally, correlational studies will seek to prove a relationship between events without any manipulation of those events by the researcher. Hence, specific insights will render underlying causes and effects with the respective research questions.
Variables are anything that might affect the outcome of a study. Additionally, an operational definition describes exactly what the variables are and how they are measured within the context of the study. Therefore, the applicable variables are as follows:
Caseload increased (C-variable)
Poor decision-making and judgment (E-variable)
Hence, the main purpose for operational variables is control. By understanding what is being measure, one can control it by holding the variable(s) constant between all of the groups or manipulating it as an independent variable.
The evaluation group will be selected based on two categories: social workers and parents within the CPS system. Within the two categories, two groups will be formed, totaling 80 participants: Group 1 ~ 20 social workers and 20 parents, Group 2 ~ 20 social workers and 20 parents. Group 1 will be the controlled group, whereas Group 2 will be the experimental group. Both groups will render perceptions of the social workers' caseloads, stress levels, and decision-making and judgment capabilities. After determining a baseline of data, findings will be compared. Subsequently, the C-variable (caseload increased) will be introduced to Group 2.
Addressing Ethical Concerns
Chiefly, a major ethical concern is the potential bias among researchers and respondents. To address this issue, corroborating with findings from related studies will be conducted. Such misalignments will be disregarded as a statistical anomaly. Additionally, another primary concern should be the safety of the research participant. By carefully considering the risk and benefit ratio, using all available information to make an appropriate assessment and continually monitoring the research as it proceeds, safety will be accomplished. Furthermore, an informed consent must be obtained from each research participant. This should be obtained in writing after the participant has had the opportunity to carefully consider the risks and benefits and to ask any pertinent questions. Informed consent should be seen as an ongoing process, not a static formality. One must regard privacy and confidentiality concerns. Moreover, sensitivity must be exercised to protect information, albeit unauthorized observation and notification of any unforeseen findings from the research.
Methodology & Program Effectiveness
Surveys (Quantitative) enable participants to measure attitudes, satisfaction, commitment, and a range of other useful metrics that can be tracked for a period of one month.
Interviews (Qualitative) will be conducted using standard interviewer-interviewee format, and will be transcribed verbatim as much as possible. Interview questions will be structured to gauge interviewee reaction to the social worker's increased caseload and associated byproduct of stress and impaired judgment encountered.
Data Collection & Data Analysis
Surveys will contain 50 questions and will be administered via the Internet. Insomuch, this provides the potential to conduct complicated research because help menus can assist respondents through the survey. Visual aids or images will be part of the survey to maintain engagement. Most importantly, Internet surveys are the least expensive format and have the quickest speed of data collection and reporting. In addition, they offer technical advantages, such as control of order bias, etc.
Interviewee will have 25 questions in which their responses will be recorded via tape and transcribed verbatim whenever possible. Answers will then be paraphrased and charted through MSWord, so that interviewee responses can be viewed in a side-by side comparison. Evaluator seeks to find similarities, differences and discrepancies in interviewee remarks that can be used to establish common statements
Comparative analysis will be conducted on research results. In doing so, a parallel between trends will aid in understanding relational variables (Comparative Analysis, 2011).
Jones (2006) purports the total number of abuse related cases has declined by 70% between 1993 and 2004. With increased…