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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Coalescing: A comparative case study of antecedents to cohesion in child welfare teaming
by Sinclair, T. Maureen, Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2013, 197; 3603832
Abstract (Summary)

Human service organizations increasingly rely upon teams to address complex human problems. Research suggests that workplace teams benefit workers, improve work processes, and yield improved work products and outcomes. However, most child welfare workers perform their jobs based on a traditional practice model - with one caseworker assigned to a family and each worker carrying a caseload of several families. The literature implicates this traditional casework model in workplace conditions (e.g. isolation, burnout and vicarious trauma) linked to diminished worker well-being and increased staff turnover.

This comparative case study draws from systems theory and extends Hackman's model of team effectiveness to the case of child welfare units implementing a team-based approach to practice. It explores how workers accustomed to functioning independently coalesce as a team in which members share responsibility for casework tasks and outcomes. Adapting Hackman's model, the study posits five cohesion-enabling conditions: Real team; compelling direction; enabling structure; organizational support; and expert coaching. Capturing multiple perspectives across four teaming units, the study conceptualizes the five enabling conditions as antecedents to cohesion.

Thirty-three respondents - including frontline child welfare supervisors and workers, administrative supervisors, and expert coaches - participated in group and individual interviews. Interview questions explored the relationship between respondents' perceptions regarding the presence or absence of the five enabling conditions, and two indicators of team cohesion - worker well-being and team efficacy. Study results offer preliminary support for the five enabling conditions as antecedents to team cohesion. When enabled, these conditions empower individual workers to create teams that encourage mutual support, shared expertise, and peer-learning.

Given the history of child welfare case practice, dating back to the mid-20th century, a team-based approach presents an innovative idea with potential benefits for teaming units; e.g., improved worker well-being and increased team efficacy. Preliminary study findings suggest implications for practice and directions for future research.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Claiborne, Nancy
Commitee: Lawrence, Catherine, Rogers, Larson M.
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Social Welfare
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 75/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social work, Organization Theory, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Child welfare, Interpersonal and task skills, Organizational development, Team cohesion, Trauma sensitive team development
Publication Number: 3603832
ISBN: 978-1-303-58706-1
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