What Is Case Management? (and why are we changing the name?)
There are two ways of spreading light: be the candle or be the mirror that reflects it. —Edith Wharton
Case management is a term used throughout the social services field. Typically defined as a collaborative process to assess and advocate for options and services that meet the needs of an individual or family, our case management approach at Family Promise Metrowest is largely aligned with this definition. When families enter our programs, we help them articulate their needs and challenges and then point them toward the resources that will help them overcome these obstacles.
However, we also believe that case management must be client-driven and long-term, and that families need to be responsible for their own success. This approach is core to our organizational DNA and sets us apart from many other agencies that address homelessness. We forge lasting, consistent, and accountable relationships with our families to ensure that the progress they make is not a “band-aid”—it is permanent change that will rewrite their futures. Our process is holistic, empowering, and successful.
The problem is, we just don’t like the name. First, our families are not “cases”—they are vibrant, motivated individuals that simply need temporary support. Second, they don’t need “management,” they just need someone in their corner who can help them chart a path back to where they want to be. But perhaps most importantly, “case managers” implies that our staff is doing most of the work—and that couldn’t be further from the truth. We simply create a safe space where they can articulate their challenges and then map out a plan to solve them. Our staff provide the scaffolding for success, but our families put in the work to build their future.
And so, we’ve decided to change the name of the support we offer to families. We talked to our program coordinators, Eliz and Stephanie, and we consulted with the members of our Family Advisory Council. These conversations led to even more insights about how we approach our work, and how the families themselves perceive our role—and they further fueled our desire to pick a name that is more aligned with our philosophy. After many terrific suggestions—drumroll please—we will now be offering Family Coaching to all the participants in our programs. “Coaching” captures the spirit of our support: we help our families learn the skills they need, give them the equipment, and then watch from the sidelines while they head for the end zone.
It’ll take all of us a while to make this switch, both in print and conversation, but we’re excited to reframe the vision of how we help families. Change takes time, but if our work at Family Promise Metrowest has taught us anything, it’s that slow, thoughtful transformation is the change that lasts.
How Do We Support Families?
Our Shelter and LIFE Program Coordinators, Stephanie and Eliz, are passionate about supporting families in need. Over their years of service, they have both helped so many parents navigate countless challenges and successfully rebuild their lives. The key to their success: an unwavering faith in their families’ ability to create the change they need. To understand their approach, our Administrative Assistant (and LIFE Program graduate) Bianca had a conversation with them both so they could share their philosophy and practices directly with us. Check out the video below to hear their powerful words.
Reflections from Our Families
To understand the impact of family coaching/case management from our families' perspective, we reached out to a few individuals in our programs to ask about their experience. Here’s some of what they shared.
When you first came to Family Promise, how did your case manager help you?
J: I was feeling like I had nobody. You know what I mean? Before I felt hopeless…she gave me hope.
Y: She was super helpful in every way, with the paperwork, telling me about the program. She was knowledgeable, and she really cared. Most people are not like that nowadays. It’s nice to have someone that was going above and beyond expectations.
R: She helped me try to pinpoint our needs and address them right away. She gave us the best help we could possibly get.
M: She gave me a lot of attention, and she was very polite and nice.
What kind of support did you need most from your case manager when you entered our program?
J: Everything! I didn’t have a house. I was basically in the streets with my son. I had a job and a car, but I didn’t know where to start.
Y: I needed help finding a place!
R: Housing support, shelter-wise and then helping with finding a place to stay, an apartment. Also, a direction on what’s next and what’s the best thing to do.
M: I needed help with my rent because it’s just me and my granddaughter. I have custody of her, but because she has some problems, I can’t leave her alone. I work as a CNA and I need double shifts to pay the bills, so I work on weekends. My granddaughter also needs therapy to make her healthy in her brain and mind, but it’s a long wait list. What are the lasting lessons your case manager helped you learn?
J: She helped me learn how to budget my income and save money, how to get things done. She helped me set goals for my life.
Y: She’s been really great communicating with me, she’s always kept me up to date.
R: The budgeting and how to allocate the finances, and how to make sure we are on top of our things all the time.
M: She taught me not just about the money, but support and friendship. Você não está sozinho...you are not alone. And that we can find people for sharing—that’s hard to find. They are really a friend we can trust, we can talk with. Their help is not just with material things, it’s like in solidarity. They make us know that we can do it. What advice would you give a new FPM family about working with a case manager?
J: Confia en ella, ella es una buena persona. Trust her, she’s a good person. She’ll be supportive. She’ll give you hope and help you to have a vision forward. You'll feel like you’re in good hands.
Y: She will go above and beyond to help—always there to answer a question, call back, email. She’s always on top of it and has a lot of resources.
R: Be very open, honest, truthful. Always give them information that is going to help you out in the long run. Don’t hide anything, they’re here to help you. The more they know, the better they can help.
M: I would tell the family that they can trust them. They are going to find a lot of love, friendship, everything like what a real family can do for us. They are kind of a real family.
Remembering Our Friend & Champion,
Early this week, we received the heartbreaking news that one of our most dedicated champions, Bob Brack, passed away. Well-known and admired by our staff, we always appreciated his warm and personal greetings and treasured his advice and reflections about our work. The sincerity and generosity with which he supported our families has been transformational in so many ways. His legacy, which we know is shared across our entire region, will be lasting.
Case management was one area where Bob felt we shined, and he talked about it often as a reason for his ongoing support. In honor of Bob, we’d like to share an interview we conducted with him in 2018 for our annual report. His thoughtful wisdom resonates as much today as it did then.
Thank you Bob for everything you did for our families and for our organization. We will miss you deeply.
—The Families & Staff of Family Promise Metrowest
Over the years, Family Promise Metrowest has witnessed countless transformations in the lives of the families we serve. While their achievements are a testament to their motivation and hard work, there is another essential factor to their success: our donors. Without all of you, the programs that serve them would not be possible. With fierce competition between the 33,000+ nonprofits registered in the Commonwealth, why do our donors choose Family Promise Metrowest? To understand better, we spent time with one of our long-time supporters, Bob Brack. The former CEO of Barker Steel Company and a well-known local philanthropist, Bob not only gives generously to nonprofit organizations, he also takes the time to fully understand the mission and programs of the organizations he supports. He is deeply invested in our community, and eager to help fulfill its most pressing needs. Over the years, Bob has offered significant funding for our SAIL and LIFE programs, and was one of the first major donors to the capital campaign for our Day Center. The following are excerpts from our conversation.
FPM: As a successful businessman, how did you end up turning your attention to the nonprofit world?
BB: My late wife, Joan, worked in special education in the Natick school system. I learned so much from her—what she was doing as a teacher but also as a case manager for children in need. In February 1986, she came home and explained that there was a student who was homeless, sleeping in his car. I couldn’t imagine that someone in our town could be living on the street. We decided to invite the student to stay with us and he ended up becoming a part of our family. As a result, I saw firsthand the difference you can make in one person’s life. This really marked the beginning of my involvement in organizations that support families living on the edge.
FPM: How did you learn about the work of Family Promise Metrowest?
BB: My family belonged to the Eliot Church in Natick, one of FPM’s network congregations. I also was serving on the board of the Foundation for Metrowest. Through my involvement with these organizations, I met FPM’s first director, Beth Cooper, in 2010 and learned about the work you were doing for the homeless with the support of local congregations. It was clear you were making a real difference in people’s lives. I already understood the importance of case management, which was key to your approach, so I was eager to get more involved.
FPM: You’ve been so responsive to our needs as we’ve grown over the last few years. Which projects have been most meaningful to you?
BB: The challenge of operating from the old Day Center in the basement of one of the congregations was significant. Over the years you had clearly outgrown the space, for both the families and the staff. I was so excited when I learned you were in a financial position to purchase a building and I wanted to be one of the first donors to support this new chapter in the life of Family Promise.
I also remember when you started the SAIL program. A family had been in shelter for a year and even though they were ready to move out in every other way, they weren’t financially able to make the leap yet. You recognized that there was a gap to fill. They needed subsidies to help with the transition and case management to continue to reach their goals. Helping to support this program was pure common sense.
And now the LIFE program is another an important piece of what you are doing—keeping families in place to avoid becoming homeless. Again, providing the case management along with financial support makes such a difference. It is a wonderful model.
Working with Family Promise has been a privilege—what has been happening over the years is amazing. The bottom line is, any time you see an organization making a difference in people’s lives in a sustainable way, it encourages people like me to give support in any way they can.
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