Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Final Report - Volume Two. 8.1.6 Reactions to Work with Clients

09/01/2002

Caseworkers were given seven statements, six of which were drawn from the Maslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach and Jackson, 1986), an instrument designed to measure the following three dimensions of the psychological syndrome of burnout: emotional exhaustion, lack of a sense of personal accomplishment, and depersonalization of clients. For each statement, workers were asked to indicate their agreement on a 4 point scale (1 = strongly agree, 4 = strongly disagree, 2.5 = midpoint).

Three of the statements were intended to assess workers' depersonalization of clients: "I feel I treat some of my clients as impersonal objects," "I have become more callous toward people since being on this job," and "I think clients often blame me for their problems." On average, family preservation workers in all three states disagreed or strongly disagreed with these statements, with mean scores on individual items ranging from 3.5 to 3.8 in Kentucky, 3.8 to 3.9 in New Jersey, and 3.3 to 3.9 in Tennessee. Public agency workers also tended to disagree with these statements, however, their average scores were closer to the midpoint of the scale, particularly on the item "I think clients often blame me for their problems" where mean scores were 2.3 in Kentucky, 2.6 in New Jersey, and 2.9 in Tennessee. Comparing the FPS and public staff responses, FPS workers in all three states indicated significantly stronger disagreement on the item "I have become more callous toward people since being on this job."

Two of the statements were intended to assess workers' sense of personal accomplishment: "I deal very effectively with the problems of my clients," and "I have accomplished much that is worthwhile in this job." Both FPS and public agency workers in all three states indicated some level of agreement with each of these statements as average item scores ranged from 1.4 to 1.8. Differences between FPS and public agency staff in their level of agreement were marginally significant in Kentucky, with FPS workers indicating stronger agreement.

Only one item assessing emotional exhaustion was included in this questionnaire, and that item was a direct statement of burnout: "I feel burned out from my work." In Kentucky and New Jersey, both FPS and public agency workers, on average, indicated disagreement with this statement (although the average score for public agency workers in New Jersey was exactly at the midpoint). In New Jersey, FPS workers indicated significantly stronger disagreement than public agency workers (3.3 vs. 2.5; p = .001). In Tennessee, the average score on this item for public agency workers indicated moderate agreement while the average score for FPS workers was close to the midpoint, a non-significant difference (2.1 vs. 2.4).

The final item regarding workers' reactions to work with clients - one not drawn from the Maslach Burnout Inventory - was "Many clients cannot be helped no matter what I do." While all workers, on average, disagreed with this statement, FPS workers indicated significantly stronger disagreement than public agency workers in all three states.

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