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Individual level predictors of implementation climate in child welfare services

Thomas Engell, Benedicte Kirkøen, Gregory A. Aarons & Kristine Amlund Hagen

Children and Youth Services Review 2020

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Background
Child welfare services (CWS) are characterized by having demanding work environments, large diversity in client needs, and limited use of evidence-based practices (EBPs). Thus, CWSs can benefit from quality improvement strategies. Accumulating evidence suggests that an organization’s strategic climate towards implementation of change and EBPs (i.e., Implementation Climate [IC]) is a critical determinant for quality improvement, such as implementation of EBPs. It is also important to understand how practitioner characteristics are implicated in successful implementation. Knowledge about how practitioner characteristics predict IC can inform priorities, improvements, and processes at several levels of CWSs to promote successful EBP implementation and sustainment.

Methods
We collected data on IC, job satisfaction, job stress, participation in implementation, and practitioner demographics from a total of 233 participants employed in three Norwegian CWSs during a hybrid trial investigating the implementation and effectiveness of an academic intervention (Enhanced Academic Support) for children and families receiving support from CWSs. Data were collected at two time points; before initial implementation and 20–24 months after initial implementation. We ran confirmatory factor analyses to test the factor structures and intercorrelations of translated measures. We compared Implementation Climate Scale scores with a study using the same scale in United States-based CWSs. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis was used to test whether job stress, job satisfaction, practitioner tenure, postgraduate education, and whether respondents were active or inactive participants in an ongoing implementation process predicted IC.

Results
Measures of IC exhibited acceptable psychometric properties. Significant differences between IC in Norwegian and United States-based CWSs were found for three subscales (educational support-, recognition-, and rewards for EBPs). Composite scores did not differ significantly. Job satisfaction was the strongest and only unique predictor of IC at both time points. Length of tenure was a unique predictor at T2.

Discussion
To improve the climate for implementation in CWSs, strategies should address the job characteristics and demands that can increase job satisfaction and reduce high levels of job stress. Job satisfaction and tenure may inform strategic priorities and role selection in implementation processes. Differences in the work-culture between Norwegian and United States-based CWSs may produce different interpretations of certain items in the Implementation Climate Scale.

Individual level predictors of implementation climate in child welfare services