Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Dorinda Noble


This study explored the relationship between personal characteristics of casework staff in a public child welfare agency and the way in which they work with the courts and legal system. A set of six measures was developed or adapted for this research to explore theoretical linkages between the personal psychological variables of self-efficacy and human caring, and the way in which caseworkers participate in the formulation of agency decisions concerning families and children as well as the way in which their performance is assessed by judges hearing child dependency matters. The research also addressed the reliability and construct validity of these measures and tested a response stem for the measurement of self-efficacy which is more consistent with the theoretical definition of that construct as a system of beliefs than have been response formats used in most earlier studies. Differences among caseworkers based on demographic variables such as education and experience were also examined. Results of the study showed reasonable reliability and validity of the study measures, a significant relationship between the self-efficacy and human caring independent variables, and a significant relationship between certain domains of self-efficacy and the extent to which caseworkers support the agency case decisions which they must present in court. Analysis of measures completed by judges showed that they relied far more strongly on evidence provided by caseworkers than that presented by other participants in hearings. A total of 37 judges enrolled in the study, with an estimated 34 actually completing ratings of caseworkers. Judicial ratings showed strong reliability, indicating that they made consistent discriminations in their assessments of caseworker performance. Implications of the findings for future research, for child welfare and legal practice, and for social work education are discussed.