What Is Casework Management?

Since the inception of Volunteers of America 125 years ago, our mission has been to go wherever is needed and do whatever is needed to serve. Keeping that promise throughout decades of history has required a singular focus – the people that we serve.

Our dedication to caring for the most vulnerable is clearly defined in VOA’s mission statement that declares that our success is measured in the positive change in the lives of individuals and communities we serve. But who is helping to make that change? How are so many lives impacted?

Volunteers of America Delaware Valley relies on the compassion and dedication of nearly 400 employees that care for over 13,000 people each year. It is these mission-driven employees that drive the success of the outcome-driven assistance programs, the vast majority of these programs are staffed by case managers.

Despite the variety of programs, clients, and staff – case managers are the backbone of the agency and for many of the clients we serve, case managers help build the foundation in which clients are then able to lead self-fulfilled, independent lives.

Casework management is defined as “a process to plan, seek, advocate for, and monitor services from different social services or health care organizations and staff on behalf of a client”, but we wanted to learn more about what that means from the individuals making a difference in our programs every day. We asked three VOADV case managers about their work – here are their responses.

Lisa Trush

Garrett House – residential community release for women

  1. What role does a case manager play for a client?

Every client has different needs and stresses so our role is unique to each client and changes day to day – the job is never the same and you never know what you are going to encounter. However, something that does stay consistent is the need to be there for the client and provide advice, encouragement and support. We also help clients find treatment and think outside the box for solutions to an issue they may be dealing with. For the population I work with, women returning to society from incarceration, the goal is always to get them back to productive members of society and what they need to get there may differ. Case managers are there to help them navigate difficult situations so they can stay focused on their goals. Case management is so personal because while we have our training and education, we need to sit down with the client and figure out where they are, where they want to be, and how to help them get there.

  1. What drew you to this career?

Personally, I have been through a lot of tribulations myself and have seen some of the issues that clients are faced with in my own life and relationships. I have always wanted to help people by being there for them and making an effort to understand them, because at one point I needed that support and was not able to get it. It takes a certain type of person to make others want to strive further to reach their goals – a case manager must be compassionate, understanding and nonjudgmental and I believe my own experiences have made me better at the job. My absolute favorite part of being a case manager is when a client is getting ready to leave the program and they are so appreciative of what the case managers have done for them. I know I can’t help the world, but knowing that I made that much of an impact on a few people is the best feeling.

  1. How would you describe what casework management is?

Casework management is being there to inspire the client to want to do better, and helping them navigate through the different challenges and situations that may come up along the way. One of the most important parts of casework management is treatment. It is different for every single client so we meet with them to do an assessment. This helps case managers get a feel for the client’s personality, their wants and needs, and what they want to accomplish in the program. We then make a treatment plan which addresses their high-risk need areas. While we also commend the client for what they already have achieved, treatment plans are there to help identify and address a variety of needs – everything from companionship to employment to health concerns. As a whole, casework management is encouraging clients look inside, to grow and have more motivation to change for the better. It is a very challenging position, but the satisfaction of being able to help people is the most rewarding thing I have ever experienced.

Marie Walker

ISSI/Phase II/Independent Supported Living – mental health services

  1. What are some of your responsibilities as a case manager?

On a day to day basis I meet with clients and help them with whatever their needs are – whether it is making a doctors appointment, making sure they attend that appointment, providing them with transportation for wherever they need to go, and more. I serve clients with intellectual disabilities so that also includes things like helping them with their shopping and their treatment goals. Clients and case managers meet together twice a month to develop these goals, track their progress and adapt the goals as the client’s needs change.

  1. What do you want people to know about casework management?

I want them to know that the case manager’s role is pivotal in the client’s success, no matter what issue they are dealing with. The case manager acts as a go-between for the client and whatever services they need. They are the first person that the client will come to with an issue and the case manager will both advocate for their needs and work through whatever is going on with them. I also want people to know how important the role of family is in casework management. I don’t just form a relationship with the client, I make sure to call and update their family as well. By keeping up that relationship myself, I am making sure the client is able to because it can be extremely impactful when the family is on the same page about the client’s goals.

  1. How would you describe what casework management is?

Casework management is having a relationship with the client to help them understand what they need to accomplish and what their goals are. We then help them do what they need to reach those goals – success as a case manager is based on the client’s own success. Case managers also must balance the need for trust and a connection with the client with not becoming too emotionally invested, because that can be difficult at times when we just want to see them succeed. However, establishing a strong relationship with them is also my favorite part of casework management. That relationship with clients and their families, and wanting to see the best for them, motivates me everyday.

Paula Laing 

Agape House – emergency housing for adults and families

  1. What is your favorite part of your work?

Without a doubt, the people I work with are my favorite part of being a case manager. From the clients we serve to the other case managers, relationships are so important in this line of work and I have learned so much from working with those experiencing homelessness at Agape House. Whether it is about them as a person, how they got to where they are, or just a life lesson in general, the people make the job what it is. It is so rewarding to be able to make an impact on someone and it is definitely my motivation to get up and come to work everyday.

  1. What do you think is the most important quality for a case manager to have to be successful?

Patience and trustworthiness are very important. The clients are not going to trust you until they know that you care, so it is very important to be there for them when they need it, but also know that the relationship is not going to develop right away. However, once that relationship is there, you will be able to make an impact in their life.

  1. How would you describe what casework management is?

With casework management, you never know what you are going to walk into and everyday is different but I would describe it as meeting people where they are and being ready to help them grow as a person and take their next steps.

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