Child Welfare Social Workers’ Decision-Making Challenges Associated with Clinical Practice, Organisational, and Sociopolitical Factors


  • Deo Mshigeni, Ph.D. California Baptist University
  • Moosgar Borieux, Ph.D. Adjunct Professor


Child welfare social worker, Social worker decision-making, Organisational culture, Social worker stress, Social worker liability


Child welfare social workers must make critical decisions every day. Some decisions are clinical in nature, such as assessing for the risk and safety of their clients or the general public, assessing their own safety, and coping with constant exposure to traumatic events. Additionally, child welfare social workers make daily decisions to meet ever-increasing workload and organisational productivity demands as well as confront tensions or challenges within their agencies – due to real or perceived institutional self-interest. Whether decisions are clinical, organisational, or even sociopolitical in nature, social workers have a high burden of responsibility and decision-making. Using a qualitative design, the authors explored factors that influenced the decision-making of child welfare social workers who are primarily tasked with the assessment of risk and safety in children. Interview data were collected on 124 child welfare social workers through focus groups over a period of 2 weeks. Results indicated three primary factors that appear to influence social workers’ decision-making. These include issues related to clinical practice, organisational culture, and sociopolitical factors. The current study suggests that social worker safety risks in clinical practice, an organisational culture of fear and stress, and real-world sociopolitical factors such as fear of liability may negatively impact social workers’ ability to make decisions when assessing for risk and safety of children.

Author Biographies

Deo Mshigeni, Ph.D., California Baptist University

Dr. Mshigeni is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at California Baptist University in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Additionally, Dr. Mshigeni is a Program Coordinator for the Bachelors in Human Services.

Moosgar Borieux, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor

Dr. Borieux is a researcher scientist current working as an adjunct professor of Psychology at California Polytechnic University Pomona teaching myriad of Psychology courses.


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