The impact of professional values on the competency of Child Protective Service workers

Joanne Newton Whelley, Fordham University


There has been an increasing professional interest in identifying variables which influence competent social work practice. As reported incidences of child maltreatment escalate, the demand for competent social work practitioners in Child Protective Services increases. Values form the context for professional application of social work knowledge and skills. There is consensus that the incorporation of a professional value system is critical to one's development as a professional. The study was grounded in the theoretical assumption that values are important to professional social work practice. The major purpose of this study was to assess the association of the values of professional social workers and child protective service competency. Beyond this central question, questions for research concerned the correlation of selected worker characteristics and situational factors to competency. Of secondary interest was the association of Intolerance/Tolerance of Ambiguity to the competency of Child Protective Service workers. Child Protective Service Workers from Children and Youth agencies in a nine county area of Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of New York were surveyed in the summer/fall 1989. The sampling procedure was a non-probability method of reliance on available subjects. The sample size (N = 189) was 90% of the available subjects. The Abbott Professional Opinion Scale was used to measure professional values. A Measure of Competency scale, a Guttman scale derived from answers based upon case vignettes, was developed specifically for this study. Analysis of the main hypothesis revealed that no relationship between professional values and competency exists for this sample. Similarly, neither tolerance of ambiguity nor any antecedent variables were associated with variations in competency for persons in this sample. If values and competency are independent of each other, implications arise for social work practice, education and research. Academically, current curricular emphasis on acculturating students to particular values may need to be reexamined. Awareness of what values are held may be more influential on practice than what values are held. Further study with expanded samples will help determine if this finding is restricted to Child Protective Service.

Subject Area

Social work|Occupational psychology

Recommended Citation

Whelley, Joanne Newton, "The impact of professional values on the competency of Child Protective Service workers" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9111341.