By: Sonya O. Hunte, MSW
Natosha walked into her supervisor’s office on her first day back from Child Welfare Foundations training and was told that she was inheriting twenty cases. Panic started to set in. She immediately ran to her desk to rummage through the cases in an attempt to make telephone contact with each caretaker of the child(ren) listed on her new caseload. Anxiety started to take over. After all, Natosha had heard some horror stories about children dying or becoming seriously injured while a child welfare agency was involved with the family. Natosha began to manage her caseload from a crisis stance instead of taking the time to strategically approach the work. Kimberly, a veteran social worker and staff mentor, observed Natosha’s frustration over the following weeks in trying to visit children, call collateral contacts, attend court hearings, and return phone calls. Kimberly offered Natosha several tips for successful case management.
1. Review each case that is inherited and write a summary paragraph.
The summary should include the date the child(ren) were last seen by a social worker, any recommendations given by a professional, any services placed in the home or for a particular household member, the family’s response to service intervention, and any court action or other pertinent information. This will help in developing a strategy for serving the family and serve as a quick review for each case.
2. Staff each case with an immediate supervisor for an outside view and directive measures.
Utilize the supervisor as an agency and policy expert. Follow all suggestions and directives.
3. Ensure that all critical issues are managed by the family.
If the family is not capable of moving to autonomy, utilize in-home services to ensure that they are headed in that direction.
4. Be concise but descriptive in writing about the visit with the family.
The person reading your notes should be able to envision what was observed. This will allow the supervisor to give better supervision in that he or she will be able to capture solid information about the family. For example, if a child had a bruise, the shape, color, size, location, and story behind the mark/bruise should be documented.
5. Allow the family to take the lead in creating the goals and steps of their treatment plan.
This creates a solid level of family buy-in. The family is more familiar than any outside party on its functioning and needs. As a social worker, do help in redirecting the goals and steps to remedy the issue that led to child welfare involvement.
6. If needed, refer the family to services that meet their needs.
Cookie cutter services not need apply! Each family needs tailored services for growth and successful autonomy to occur.
7. If there is still access to the prior social worker on the case, conference with that social worker to gain additional insight.
There may be information that was not captured fully in the case notes that may be communicated verbally.
8. Always provide the family with a community resource listing.
This information will enable the family to locate resources on their own and equip them to move forward without agency dependency.
Kimberly gave Natosha the eight tips that would lead to a reduction in frustration and better case management. Whenever Natosha inherited a case, her case log reflected her summary of prior intervention, staffing with her supervisor, descriptive yet concise family interaction and observations, family-led goals and steps for the treatment plan, referral to tailored services and family responsiveness, case conferences, and a summary of resources provided. She used the tips and was able to watch her families thrive.
Natosha also had the lowest amount of recidivism in her unit of five social workers. Natosha shared her tips when she became a social work mentor after five years of service at her county child welfare agency.
Sonya O. Hunte, MSW, is a Homeless Education Liaison with the Atlanta Public Schools. She is also the CEO of Hunte Community Development Consulting LLC, a company specializing in nonprofit strategic program development, training, and community partnership planning.
This article appeared in THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER, Spring 2012, Vol. 19, No. 2. All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher/editor for permission to reprint/reproduce.