Case Management and the Victim of Human Trafficking: A Critical Service for Client Success. Promising Approaches to Effective Case Management


Agencies that work with victims of human trafficking have identified several promising approaches to case management for these victims that other agencies can adopt.

Culturally Appropriate Case Management and Services. Culturally appropriate case management services and support can include education regarding the culture and religious beliefs of potential clients to ensure their initial contact with the case manager is a positive and appropriate experience. Additionally, this preparation and education can assist a case manager with the assessment of the victim's needs (e.g., knowing how to ask for information that might be sensitive or taboo in some cultures). A case manager can also use knowledge of a client's culture and background to help identify appropriate services. As one case manager stated, "You can't tell if a service or program is culturally appropriate from the yellow pages. You need to meet with the providers, in some cases, offer them training on the issue of human trafficking, and ensure that they can offer culturally sensitive services."

Case managers acknowledge that they cannot expect a client to follow a service plan successfully if it is not developed with consideration of the client's background.

Client-Specific, Flexible Approaches. Another promising approach noted by case managers is to work with clients from where they are and move them toward self-sufficiency. Specifically, case managers indicate that it is important to be flexible and start where the client is most comfortable instead of making assumptions about the client and his/her abilities. For some case managers, a promising approach to moving clients toward self-sufficiency includes teaching clients how to do things for themselves rather than doing too much for them. While there are some clients that need more hand-holding than others (in particular during the pre-certification phase), there has to be a gradual decrease in case manager involvement to reduce dependency on the case manager and other service providers. Yet, all service providers note that the timeline toward self-sufficiency varies by client, and therefore a single approach to case management does not work with this population.

Collaborating with Others. A consensus across providers is the importance of working collaboratively with other agencies to address human trafficking adequately and effectively to meet the needs of victims. Case managers note that collaboration is essential to helping victims. This includes collaboration among case managers from different agencies who are providing services to victims, collaboration between case managers and law enforcement, and collaboration between case managers and attorneys. Through formal memoranda of understanding; information-sharing protocols; and shared policies, practices, and procedures, some agencies have begun to work effectively together while recognizing their boundaries or limitations.

Consistent, Central Case Manager. The importance of assigning a single case manager for each victim of human trafficking is shared across service providers and law enforcement. Given the difficulty of building trusting relationships with victims, the more change or turnover in case managers the more difficult it is to make progress with clients. Assigning a single case manager to each victim from the time of referral or identification until the closure of all aspects of the case (e.g., service component, immigration component, criminal prosecution component) is essential.

Additionally, having a single, central point of contact within each agency providing services for victims of human trafficking is viewed as an essential promising practice to ensuring seamless delivery and effective communication across all agencies, including law enforcement.

Self-Care for the Case Manager. Finally, an overall theme across service providers, although it is not always in place, is support for the case managers (and other service providers). The long hours, emotional commitment, and vicarious trauma experienced by many case managers needs attention. Case managers report experiencing stress, frustration, and difficulty providing the level of service and support needed by their clients. They need the time to deal with their own reactions to these cases, whether this includes an opportunity to talk to a mental health professional or just some time off. Any agency providing case management to victims of human trafficking needs to examine its policies and practices related to secondary or vicarious trauma experienced by its staff.

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