Date of Conferral







Anne Morris


Exposure to traumatic situations is routine for child welfare workers in California, and the attrition rate for newly hired social workers in some states is estimated to be nearly 50% in the 1st year of employment. Prior research has indicated that reasons for dissatisfaction included dysfunctional organizational climate and culture. The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which trauma exposure contributed to secondary traumatic stress and intent to quit and to examine the degree to which organizational climate moderated the exposure among direct service child welfare employees. Kurt Lewin's field theory, Figley's theory of secondary traumatic stress or compassion fatigue, and McCann and Pearlman's constructivist self-development theory were foundational for this study. The research questions determined whether a) trauma exposure to would relate positively with secondary traumatic stress and intent to quit, b) organizational climate would relate negatively with secondary traumatic stress and intent to quit, and c) organizational climate would moderate the relationship between trauma exposure and secondary traumatic stress as well as intent to quit. Pearson correlations indicated that exposure to traumatic situations was statistically related to secondary traumatic stress but not intent to quit, and organizational climate was statistically significant in relation to secondary traumatic stress and intent to quit. Hierarchical regression analysis indicated no interaction effect on either dependent variable but might have approached significance with a larger sample. Positive social change can occur through child welfare organizations emphasizing strategies that can reduce secondary traumatic stress and turnover.