Case Management and the Victim of Human Trafficking: A Critical Service for Client Success. The Role of the Case Manager

06/09/2008

The National Association of Case Management (2008) defines case management as "a professional practice in which the service recipient is a partner, to the greatest extent possible, in assessing needs, defining desired outcomes, obtaining services, treatments, and supports, and in preventing and managing crisis." This collaborative process is intended to promote quality of care and cost-effective outcomes that enhance the physical, psychological, and vocational health of the participant. At the center of this process are the case manager and the client.

"We're [Case Managers] the ones that act as the hub and refer to others and help them get settled; and help them work with law enforcement while their case is being investigated."

Case Manager

While many agencies provide case management as part of their menu of services for trafficking victims, having a central case manger is viewed by service providers and law enforcement representatives as a critical service not only for the victim but also for other service providers and agencies involved in a trafficking case. Victims of human trafficking often interact with multiple systems and their representatives, such as law enforcement, prosecutors, immigration attorneys, medical providers, mental health professionals, shelter/housing providers, child care providers, public benefits personnel, employers, and landlords. This can be overwhelming for victims, especially international and minor domestic victims who are unfamiliar with U.S. systems and are dealing with the trauma of their trafficking experience.

"We meet the clients where they are both emotionally and physically. We act as their safety net, sometimes we are the only ones there for them."

Case Manager

"Informal support networks will grow over time but until then, these victims are isolated and in most cases, only have us [case mangers] to depend on for support."

Case Manager

In addition to serving as a single point of contact, a central case manager can assess a client's need for services and support; identify, obtain, and coordinate those services for the client; coordinate and manage communications across systems; and serve as a liaison for the client. Other functions of the case manager include: translating for the victim or obtaining translation services; accompanying clients to appointments; assisting/teaching clients to access public transportation; and in some cases, teaching clients basic life skills. Sometimes this includes teaching clients how to use kitchen appliances or how to make a phone call.

For many case managers the most important service provided to their clients is general support. This can be in the form of answering a call in the middle of the night from a client who has experienced a nightmare, or spending an afternoon sitting with a client to keep them company because they are afraid to leave their apartment out of fear of being identified by the trafficker. Offering reassurance and comfort to clients often occupies much of a case manager's time, but it is essential in building trust and rapport with the client. In fact, many providers and law enforcement representatives note that the case mangers are often the first and sometimes the only person a victim trusts.

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