The term "case management" refers to how program participants are individually supervised, directed, or counseled by the organizations and service providers while receiving WtW-funded services. A case manager monitors the participant. This typically includes initial assessment of client needs, referral to or coordination of services, ongoing tracking of participant progress, making changes in the EDP, and periodic documentation of employment and other outcomes. The case manager may also be the lead staff member providing direct services (for example, conducting assessment tests, teaching a job readiness workshop, or providing job referrals). Case management may also involve collaboration across organizations; for example, a tribal WtW case manager often will work closely with a TANF family support worker overseeing the same client.
The programs included in our study use two basic approaches to case management: (1) a single case manager, or (2) a team approach. In tribal programs that provide case management services through a single staff person, one staff person guides the participant throughout his or her involvement in the program--including intake and assessment, the provision of job search services, and all follow-up and monitoring activities. This approach has the advantage of providing participants with a single point of contact who is responsible for coordinating service delivery and ensuring that all of the participant's service needs are fully addressed.
Other tribal programs use a team approach, with more than one staff member (usually two, sometimes more) assigned to a participant. Each staff member has specific client-tracking responsibilities and often provides expertise in a specific area. For example, responsibilities are sometimes divided between a staff member who focuses on issues related to employment and training and another who focuses on making sure the participant receives needed support services. This approach has the advantage of enabling project staff members to specialize in an area.
For most tribal WtW programs, as for nontribal programs, case management is a client-centered, goal-oriented process for assessing participants' needs and helping ensure that they obtain the services needed to overcome barriers to employment and long-term self-sufficiency. A trusting relationship between the case manager and participant is critical to an effective case management system. Such a relationship is especially important for long-term welfare recipients, many of whom need assistance in many areas, have few resources, and have little or no formal work experience. Tribal WtW programs report that the relationship afforded through an effective case management system can make a big difference in whether a participant secures and retains employment.
Regardless of how tribal WtW programs manage their caseloads, there is general agreement that successful participant outcomes hinge on each participant having a well-developed EDP and good channels of communication among staff and agencies involved in serving the participant. Tribal sites also indicate that it is important to keep the case manager/client ratios low enough for the case manager to have the time to get to know and maintain regular contact with each client.(2) Case managers also need the flexibility to be able to devote additional time to clients in crisis or where unforeseen circumstances arise. At the sites visited, case managers typically maintain at least weekly or biweekly contact with assigned clients while they are engaged in services and prior to employment. They initiate even more frequent contact during the initial weeks of a participant's involvement in the program and at points of crisis or transition. As the participant moves into and retains employment, case manager contact gradually diminishes (perhaps to biweekly, then monthly, and finally on an as-needed basis).