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Day Four Blog: Engineering Case Management Approaches

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by Global Social Service Workforce Alliance
Read blogs from other days of Social Service Workforce Week

The process of case management is complex. It requires a well-engineered design that includes special attention to the social service workforce, or those ever-important tires that keep the car going, as referenced in the Social Service Workforce Week Day One blog.

Case management ideally helps to ensure the coordination of quality services to enable vulnerable children and families to find solutions to the challenges they face. It is often criticized for being an individualistic method of working in settings where a community approach is paramount. An effective case management approach is community-based and promotes meaningful engagement of community members, family members and children. At the same time, it is important to determine when and if case management is the best tool in the tool box for a social service worker to use or when other approaches, programs and services can be added or are better suited to meet the needs of vulnerable populations. 

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance uses the power of a network to bring people together across organizations and countries to fill critical gaps in information and evidence and galvanize support for workforce strengthening initiatives that will ultimately better support families and communities to provide safe and nurturing environments for children. The Alliance has been reaching out to our members and partners to identify if there are gaps to be filled in coordination, development and dissemination of tools and resources related to case management. 

Case management word cloudIn a recent conference call on case management, 33 participants from 19 countries shared their wide-ranging definitions of case management. Given the breadth of programming, from coordinating services specific to children on the move or children affected by violence, for example, the range of definitions is not unexpected or unusual. There were a few definitions that seemed to capture many of the key elements emphasized by others. For example, Save the Children uses the definition: “the process of assisting an individual child (and their family) through direct support and referral to other needed services, and the activities that case workers, social workers or other project staff carry out in working with children and families in addressing their protection concerns.” The 4Children project uses the definition “the process of identifying, assessing, planning, referring, and tracking referrals, and monitoring the delivery of services in a timely, context-sensitive, individualized, and family-centered manner." Most definitions had some common key words, as featured in the word cloud.

Good case management is dependent on workers who have the right skills, abilities, ethics, values and behaviors to carry it out, along with the right type of supportive supervision or mentoring to help guide them through the many challenging aspects of providing quality case management. Many types of workers may be responsible for integrating case management approaches into their work, from social workers, child protection officers, para social workers, social welfare officers, children’s officers, community case managers, social auxiliary workers, social welfare assistants and so on. Many of these workers tend to receive in-service training and on-the-job mentoring and support, which is critical given the complex nature of the work. 

Many on that conference call noted interest in having increased access to tools and resources to plan training and provide ongoing support to those carrying out case management. Examples of resources discussed include standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines, tools to monitor and evaluate a case management system, tools that support case worker performance or measure competencies, and/or tools that aid supervisors to provide supportive supervision. Many guidelines and resources already exist, for example:

  • The Case Management Toolkit:  A User’s Guide for Strengthening Case Management Services in Child Welfare was developed by USAID. The toolkit provides a framework for analyzing current systems, procedures and practices at both the case level and system level. It does not promote a specific model of case management; rather, it outlines the beneficial aspects, processes and strategies of case management that have shown improved outcomes for children and families. Good practice examples from seven countries in Europe and Eurasia are provided.
  • Interagency Guidelines for Case Management and Child Protection:  The role of case management in the protection of children is a guide for policy and program managers and case workers. It provides a general framework of agreed principles, considerations, steps and procedures for effective child protection case management developed by the Child Protection Working Group (CPWG)’s Case Management Taskforce in line with the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPMS).
  • Case Management Practice within Save the Children Child Protection Programs analyzes the practice of case management within Save the Children’s child protection programs. It explains the fundamental components of a good case management process, looks at the organization’s understanding and practice in case management, highlights examples of promising practice and identifies actions that should be taken to improve the quality of case management work for the benefit of children, families and communities.
  • The Child Protection Case Management Framework provides standard procedures, assessment and planning tools and guidance in the delivery of case management services. It represents the efforts of the Malawi Department of Social Welfare and Case Management Desk with support from UNICEF Malawi. It highlights core competencies, values, ethics and knowledge required of case managers.

There are a vast array of other tools and resources on case management in existence. Many are available on the Alliance resource database under the workforce theme of case management. At the same time, there may also be gaps in availability of tools such as those that help to assess worker competencies and point toward additional training or mentoring needs.  

Do you have more case management tools to share with your colleagues or are you interested in learning more about what is available? Are you interested in joining a new thematic interest group on case management to contribute to the exchange of information and development of knowledge on this topic? Let us know by posting a comment below or contacting us here.