During the first years of KIND’s social services work, we primarily provided short-term assistance to clients to help them with their immediate needs. Legal services colleagues referred clients to our social services coordinators who found ways to provide services such as mental health support, assistance enrolling in school, or help finding housing.
As KIND and our social services program have grown, we are now able to also offer a longer-term approach to providing these services, working with clients for six months to a year on average. This allows KIND social services coordinators to deepen their relationship with each client and provide a more client-centered focus that enables the child or youth to identify priorities they have for their own lives. Greater trust is also established between the client and their social services providers, which opens opportunities for more assistance.
As Regional Director of Social Services West Sierra Molton stated in a recent presentation to staff, “We know that youth are not defined by their legal status; they are whole human beings who have unique needs and strengths and hopes and dreams.” KIND’s longer-term approach to case management honors this and allows social services staff to see and respond to clients in a more expansive way.
A social service coordinator collaborates with a client to devise a case plan to address not only immediate educational, financial, medical, and other needs, but also the broader priorities and goals a child or youth has for their lives. In this strengths-based and holistic approach, clients are empowered to lead their own process, identify their needs, goals, and priorities for the present and future. Because it is proactive rather than reactive, case management can help reduce crises. Case management also helps KIND get to know youth better and identify therapeutic programing for children and their families that may be helpful.
Currently, all of KIND’s 15 offices offer a long-term approach to case management, but the program was first piloted in New Jersey. Social Services Supervisor Lizbeth Veliz, who works in KIND’s Newark office, led the piloting of this program, which was made possible through a grant from the New Jersey Department of Human Services Office of New Americans. Since January 2022, KIND’s Newark office has served 110 clients with this approach and has provided 344 services. In one case, a 12-year-old boy was referred to social services for educational support due to his diagnosis of autism. The social services coordinator was able to advocate for the child to be placed in a specialized school. Due to KIND’s long-term case management care, the social services coordinator was also able to identify and assist the family in meeting other needs before they became a crisis, including medical services such as a specialized doctor and insurance enrollment, and securing appropriate language services for the family.
KIND social service coordinators have been pleased to witness how this longer-term approach allows clients to grow and flourish as they work toward the goals they have set for themselves.