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Learning from Each Other: Staffing Strategically to Provide Effective Case Management in Perth Amboy, NJ

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Agency: Perth Amboy Housing Authority
(Size of WtW Program: 160 vouchers)

Challenge

PHAs strive to help Welfare to Work (WtW) voucher families obtain and retain employment. Families that participate in the program must receive adequate case management and support services to achieve this goal. While proper case management can help clients to develop the skills needed to be successful employees, the process of managing cases is often labor-intensive and time-consuming. WtW sites typically have limited staff and financial resources, making it difficult to provide the case management WtW voucher clients need.

Solution: Leverage Resources across Programs and Devote Adequate Staff to Support Case Management and Supportive Service Provision

The Perth Amboy Housing Authority leverages staff, funded from multiple sources, to develop an effective case management model. Staff positions are supported using Section 8 administrative fees, FSS Coordinator grant funds, New Jersey Department of Labor funds, and ROSS grant funds. Five staff members share case management responsibilities for WtW voucher families. Open communication, information sharing, and team monitoring of each client results in effective tracking of both program successes and cases of non-compliance.

Implementation

Case management at Perth Amboy involves the following activities: helping families to set goals, monitoring progress in achieving these goals, making referrals to supportive service providers, and maintaining effective internal staff communications.

Staffing. Cases are divided among staff, all of which work closely with the WtW families on an individual basis, as follows:

  • Social Services Administrator - Conducts the initial intake by meeting with the family one-on-one to discuss needs, review family obligations, and prepare the FSS contract. The Social Services Administrator also conducts outreach and builds/maintains partnerships, monitors the program, writes grants, and supervises staff.
  • FSS Case Manager - Provides case management, client updates, home visits, and credit repair for families.
  • WtW Case Manager - Meets with WtW voucher recipients, conducts case management, and monitors program compliance.
  • Employment Developer - Assists with job searches and resume/cover letter writing, and provides transportation to job fairs.
  • Program Assistant - Conducts mass mailings, updates participant information, and makes phone calls.

Goal setting is a client's first step to success in Perth Amboy's WtW program. During the family's initial visit, the case manager uses an intake form to conduct a needs assessment. The case manager uses this meeting to provide an orientation to the program and to begin establishing goals. A participant's needs and status is listed on a needs assessment matrix, which is regularly updated. This matrix also enables the PHA to quickly notify clients about trainings, workshops, employment, and programs based on their individual needs, as recorded on the matrix.

Monitoring starts once a client has identified goals and is committed to participating in the WtW program. When a goal is achieved, case managers follow-up to ensure every task has been completed. For example, if a client says that they have completed their GED, a certification must be presented along with a note from the instructor stating that they attended the course. Phone calls are also made by staff members to confirm a client's attendance at various activities, including employment and school.

Every six months an update form is forwarded to families. The form assists in monitoring whether the family is actively working to achieve their goals. In cases where families fail to meet the program's work requirements, case managers either call the family or send them a letter. Perth Amboy requires families to complete 30 hours of work or work-related activities per week. Clients are then asked to schedule an appointment with their case manager. During the meeting, the case manager and client agree to a plan to assist with re-entry into the workforce or participation in an appropriate work-related activity. Clients sign an agreement form and have 30, 60, or 90 days to meet the work requirements. The case manager arranges a meeting every 30 days to ensure the person is on-track.

Referral to supportive services. Perth Amboy has developed a strong network of local supportive service agencies to which it can refer FSS and WtW families. This referral network is critical to Perth Amboy's ability to meet the needs of its clients. Partnerships with local agencies include the Perth Amboy Adult School, Catholic Charities, United Way, County College, Medical Center, YMCA, and many more. Perth Amboy also hosts many services, trainings, and workshops in-house, including the Affiliate One-Stop Career Center, credit counseling and money management services, computer training, and GED/ESL classes.

Staff communication occurs during every stage of a client's involvement in the program and is a vital part of Perth Amboy's case management success. Staff members hold "case conferences" in which each case manager is responsible for updating the master matrix for their respective clients. Every case is discussed individually and information is distributed among staff, thereby informing all staff of the status of each participating family.

Results

With a good case management and monitoring system in place, it is easy to track client successes. The following approximations from 2000-2002 can be made using Perth Amboy's matrix as a tracking system:

  • 8 participants obtained their GED
  • 13 participants are enrolled in college (2-year, 4-year, and certificate programs), 2 have applied, and 3 have completed their certificates/degrees
  • 35 participants completed a skilled training program (Trade School, Computer Training, Certified Nursing Assistant Program, Home Health Program)
  • 47 participants completed a life-skills training program
  • 140 out of a total of 160 WtW families participate in the FSS program (total FSS enrollment is 223).

Contact: Nilda Delgado, PO Box 390, 881 Amboy Ave, Perth Amboy, NJ 08862, 732.826.3110 x627,
Nilda@perthamboyha.org

Source: Presentation during the WtW teleconference call, "Models of Case Management" (August 8, 2002) and written materials

 
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