Why do they stay? A study of resilient child protection workers in three European countries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Whilst 50% of child protection workers across much of Europe and the affluent ‘West’ leave after two years, many stay and develop substantial professional careers. This paper discusses research in Italy, Sweden and England examining what factors explain ‘remaining’ for more than three years in this stressful job. Underpinned by a hermeneutic epistemology, qualitative interviews were undertaken and subject to an interpretative thematic analysis. The findings proved to be complex and multi-layered and this paper presents an overview of these. The theoretical framework for the project mainly drew on organisations and resilience, and the initial sections of the paper consider how formulations of resilience as contextual and relational can elucidate professional sustainability. Organisational issues are considered, including the impact of work management, of supervision and of allocation in different national contexts. The paper also focuses on the role of friendships and informal support at work. Threaded through these established themes are more, perhaps surprising, concepts: for example, creativity, power, reflexive spaces and interpersonal relations as explanatory of remaining in child protection work.


  • Liz Frost
  • Staffan Hojer
  • Annamaria Campanini
  • Alessandro Sicora
  • Karin Kullberg
External organisations
  • University of Gothenburg
  • University of Milano-Bicocca
  • University of Calabria
  • University of the West of England
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Work


  • child protection social workers, European comparative research, professions, Resilience
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-497
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Work
Issue number4
Early online date2017 Feb 21
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jul 4
Publication categoryResearch