Date of Conferral







Michael Horton


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the lived experiences of a homogeneous group of frontline child welfare workers in Los Angeles, CA. Data were collected using recorded in-depth, open ended interviews with 10 participants. Critical incident technique was used to collect data on specific incidents. Symbolic interactionism was the theoretical framework used. Five themes emerged during the analyses which are the main findings of this study: (1) Organizational factors contributed to the challenges and stress of the job, (2) participants shared a belief that management did not value them, (3) participants' morale and workloads were adversely affected by a highly publicized child fatality, (4) the job was rewarding and meaningful when participants felt they had protected children and helped families, and (5) participants reported being socialized to accept abusive behavior from clients through the omission or minimization of safety as a training topic in college and work sites. The positive social change implication includes information that may help facilitate a paradigm shift in the professional and academic socialization of social workers. The realistic picture on public child welfare work that participants shared has the potential to be useful to future social work students, researchers, professors, law enforcement, and administrators of public child welfare agencies. Realistic expectations may also increase retention of employees.