Day in the life of a Case manager and Useful Strategies

Case management services at the Literacy Zones can now be viewed as family centered services or career case management counseling. The families are the nucleus with the programs and services as wrap-rounds.

As professionals we are trained to implement interventions for the families in which we service; as a result of the families and or individuals previously seen as incapable of solving their own problems and not wanting assistance to help them overcome the multitude of societal barriers that they face. What I have learned over the past two years is that the traditional way of servicing both families/individuals is no longer applicable. Due to the current economic downturn families and or individuals want to feel they are a part of the decision-making process and they welcome the assistance; however as professionals we should align the programs and services where the families /individuals needs are and provide the programs and services to meet their diverse needs.

A typical day for a case manager at the West Syracuse Literacy Zone

Case managers perform a myriad of duties for the clients they serve. The following encapsulates one day of appointments, phone calls, interactions, and problem solving that this case manager navigated one grey day in January. * All names are pseudonyms.

The first week of 2011 was snowy and cold. I arrived at the West Literacy Zone’s Family Welcome Center around 8:30 a.m. I greeted my co-workers, booted up my computer, checked my emails and voicemails, and made a quick spin through the ESL/GED class where students were trickling in for the 9:00 a.m. class before heading to the West Side Learning Center.

The West Side Learning Center is a school for adults learning English run by the Syracuse City School District. It is located on the West Side in a quadrant of Syracuse that houses many Hispanic families. Recently, more refugees have moved to the West Side because of available and inexpensive housing and the convenient proximity to their English language school.

Just after 9 o’clock I met with Ada*, a 30 year old mother of four from Puerto Rico. She wants her GED. She has three sons who live with her who attend different schools and a daughter who lives with her father in Puerto Rico. After completing the Case Manager’s form with her it became clear that her mastery of English was better than her Best Plus scores revealed. I recognized her from JobsPlus! (an agency that assists Temporary Assistance (T.A.) recipients with job readiness skills) when I was an instructor and she sat in my three week class there honing her job preparation skills. She has an active T.A. case and is looking for a job. Her sons are enrolled in the Say Yes to Education Program at their respective schools. She understands that the Say Yes program will make it possible for her sons to attend college at no expense for tuition, books, and fees. Ada said she attends PTO meetings at each of her son’s schools and always meets with their teachers at the arranged parent/teacher conferences. At her house every evening she clears the kitchen table and sits with her sons for two hours while they help each other with homework.

I recommended that she attend the ESL/GED class offered at the West Literacy Zone’s Family Welcome Center. She is also a prime candidate for Learner Web and Career Zone.

Just before Ada left, Khaled knocked on the door. Khaled is a young man from Iraq with limited English skills. In the past I’ve helped him complete his insurance forms months after he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. I also made calls to the health center, the hospital, and the ambulance company to clarify his Medicaid information. He was being billed for thousands of dollars and was being told that he had no insurance. After many phone calls, his medical bills were finally cleared. Today he came in with a letter saying that his Temporary Assistance case was closing, effective January 1, 2011. The form gave no reason. I called the Department of Social Services (the 18th caller in line) and was eventually told that he had been mailed two letters in December asking for a statement claiming where he got money to pay for non-food items. Khaled had his backpack with an assortment of official letters he received from T.A., but none of the aforementioned letters. I asked the worker if he could be given an extension since his understanding of English is very limited and our site was closed for the Christmas vacation. I was transferred to a supervisor (I think) but got an answering machine (without an identifying name) and left a message. So I called the main number again knowing I’d get another worker and tried again. The second worker said he’d need to reapply and it would be 45 days (the minimum time)) for his case to re-open. In the meantime I called his landlady (at his request) who said that he is a model tenant and she would be happy to provide him a landlord’s form as soon as needed.

He left around 10:30 and headed to the Civic Center (which houses the Department of Social Services) to apply once again for a T.A. case. He’ll continue with English classes and I’ll continue to help him navigate paperwork and community agencies. We’ll need to work with his landlady and hope she won’t evict him for non-payment of rent until his T.A. case opens again in late February (barring any delays.)

Martino popped his head in to say hello and that he’d be starting advanced ESL classes at the Syracuse Educational Opportunity Center Monday, January 10th. Martino is a single 35 year old Sudanese refugee who lives at the YMCA. (A year ago he told me how, as a boy of 12 or 13, he witnessed the murder of his entire family in Sudan. He’s been on his own for over 20 years.) When I met him he was living at the Rescue Mission, a temporary shelter that he overstayed by six months. I spent many phone calls talking to his worker at the Rescue Mission, a social worker at Upstate where he was treated for a chronic back injury suffered on the job, and the case worker at the YMCA where we were trying to get him a room. He is now waiting for social security to place him on disability. He has an active T.A. case that pays $300 rent to the Y, and provides him food stamps, and $16 twice a month.

I waved to Abdali who was sitting in the adjacent classroom whom I hadn’t seen in two months. She is a 28 year old Kuwaiti (Bedouin) woman who lives with her parents, brothers, and sister and works the third shift at a Syracuse manufacturing plant. Back in November she mentioned that she was having a lot of stomach pain and that she wasn’t able to each much. When I suggested that she see a doctor she said it was too expensive and that her family didn’t have enough money at the time for another doctor’s visit. She receives no health insurance through her job and I soon found out that although all her family has Medicaid, she doesn’t. Together we went to the Health Center and met with the Total Care Representative to get her signed up. She was hesitant and said something about her father not wanting her to do it. The Total Care Rep gave her two forms to complete: one for her employer and one for her father (in the role of her landlord.) I didn’t see Abdali in class the next couple of weeks and knew she was planning her wedding that was due to take place in late November or early December. I got a call from a mutual acquaintance that the wedding took place on the first Friday in December. I didn’t see her in class all through December and her teacher confirmed that she hadn’t been attending.

In January there she sat in class seated beside her mother. She came into my office after class and closed the door. She shook her head and said things weren’t going well. Her husband won’t let her work. Her father, her mother, her brother, and her boss all pleaded with him (at her request) to no avail. She looked miserable (only a month into her married life.) I asked her (knowing the answer) about the possibility of divorce in her culture, and she confirmed what I knew. She is especially concerned because her husband is not currently working either. I told her I would start thinking. (And she is still without medical coverage.)

After she left I called Vera House, an agency that addresses and assists people with domestic abuse problems, and asked if anyone there had any experience working with Arabic culture gender issues. I was given a name and number of an Arabic speaking worker. I left a message and hope the contact may know how to communicate with Abdali’s husband and get her back into her job. Later I spoke to someone else who works at Vera House who faxed me the Domestic Violence Identifier Wheel that highlights relationship problems particular to Middle Eastern and Arabic women. I’ll have to think about how to present this to Abdali next time we meet.

As I walked back to the main office I saw Tahmina who is a married 30 year old Sudanese refugee and mother of four who regularly attends the ESL/GED class at the West Literacy Zone Family Welcome Center. For the past ten weeks she was an unpaid intern at the Onondaga County Public Library (a new initiative created by the library for refugees.) As the internship ended she was encouraged to apply for a paid part-time job at the library. Since she hadn’t heard anything, she assumed someone else got the job. I called the library and was told that the person hiring hadn’t even started the interview process. (She later got a call requesting an interview. We’re still waiting to hear if she’ll be offered the job.)

My morning at the West Side Learning Center ended. I wrote my notes, organized my files, checked my voicemails and emails, packed up and ran across the street to pop my head into the afternoon GED class at the Huntington Family Center. I briefly spoke to two students just before class started at 12:30.

Diane is a 44 year old white woman who is a recovering drug addict. She’s been clean for five years. She lives with her mother and is estranged from her three grown children (all of whom live in the Syracuse area.) At the end of 2009 she was laid off from her job in a manufacturing plant. She’s been collecting unemployment since then. Diane suffers from manic depression and confessed that she tried to commit suicide five times. When I first met her I connected her to ARISE where she met with a representative who helped her apply for Social Security Disability Insurance and to get her the medical care she needs. Her unemployment ran out December 31, 2010 now she’s waiting to hear from SSDI.

I then had a very brief conversation with Madeline who is a 49 year old white woman who is progressing well in class and will soon take the practice GED test. I suggested that she think about community college or a training class once she has her diploma. Madeline has a speech impediment and uses a walker.

I returned to the West Literacy Zone’s Family Welcome Center where I ate a quick lunch and started phoning students on my “to call” list.

First, I called Melody who is a 20 year old African American mother of a four year old. She just returned to Syracuse from the Albany area. She lives with her father and is a very recent drop-out from the Job Corps after her cousin could no longer take care of her daughter. Since I had met with her last, she got a job at McDonald’s. I told her she could start the GED class at the Huntington Family Center the following week.

After that I called a list of students who have not been attending class regularly. When the student answered he or she usually assured me that they would be in class the following day. Other times, I dealt with an answering machine, sometimes waiting up to a minute (or two) listening to music before I was able to leave my voicemail message.

I made notes of my student interactions on the monthly tracking sheet and made a record of my phone calls. I checked my emails again, then logged off my computer, closed my notebook and appointment book, cleared my desk and headed out into the snowy streets of Syracuse to make my way home across town.

And that is a day in the life of a SCSD Literacy Zone Case Manager!

Typical day for a case manager at the Long Island City Literacy zone …

Consists of scheduled appointments as well as servicing walk-in customers. The inquiries can range from assisting with applying for SNAP or any other public benefits or helping a customer identify their strengths and weaknesses to decide on a new career path. In addition, providing customized workshops for students and the greater community is a part of the case manager’s day.

Typical case management Scenarios at the Long Island Literacy Zone:

M.H. first sought assistance in November of 2010 after the case managers visited his pre-GED class to provide an orientation to case management services. As an immigrant from Bangladesh without a GED or high school diploma, Mr. H was struggling with low wages and limited opportunities for advancement in his part-time job at Dunkin Donuts. Although Mr. H's participation in the pre-GED class at the Adult Learning Center helped improve his preparation for the GED exam, he remained frustrated with his situation of under-employment. With the assistance of the case managers, Mr. H was able to access additional resources to advance his job readiness and career prospects. Mr. H worked closely with the case managers to refine a resume and cover letter and to research his career options. Once Mr. H had identified plumbing as a career path of interest, the case managers referred him to free vocational training at the NYC School of Cooperative Technical Education, where he would be able to take evening classes in convenient proximity to his workplace. Mr. H now has a plan in place to advance his career with a union apprenticeship in plumbing following his Co-op Tech coursework.

E.M. and his twin brother C.M. (age 62) first sought service in March 2011 as students in the ABE class at the Queens Library Literacy Zone. Although CM was in receipt of retirement benefits both brothers were living off of his wages alone. E.M. was interviewed, and counseled by case manager to apply for public benefits for senior citizens. E.M. was approved for full benefits, which includes cash, food stamps and Medicaid. Both brothers since attending the Adult Learning Center have progressively moved up and is now attending our partnering agency NYC Department of Education studying for their G.E.D’s.

T.L. first sought assistance in June 2011 as a student in the advanced ESOL conversation class. T.L. is married and has 2 small children. Although, she obtained a high school diploma from her native country of Indonesia she struggled with conversing in English. She completed the summer program and was interested in becoming an Administrative Assistant. After meeting with case manager and completing the self-sufficiency calculator test. T.L. decides that the best educational route for her to take would be to attend a free training program. T.L. was referred to Grace Institute a non-profit organization dedicated to providing women who are transitioning back into the workforce with the necessary skills to become an Administrative Assistant. As part of the training program T.L. was required to find an suitable internship that would work around her children’s schedule. Once again, she contacted the case manager for assistance and she is currently interning with the Queens Library Literacy Zone. Talk about coming full circle.

J.M. first sought assistance in April 2011 upon referral from the branch library customer service representative. A local resident of the Queensbridge housing projects Mr. M became unemployed after 20 years of service as a local truck driver. As a result of his former employer’s decision, to merge the company with a larger trucking company, this requires all drivers to possess a current and valid Commercial Driving License. Mr. M was struggling with finding suitable employment and could not afford to pay for the CDL course based on his unemployment benefits. He decided to visit the public library seeking assistance with writing his resume. The customer service representative referred him to the case manager for assistance with other employment options; CM interviewed Mr. M and realized that he would be a great candidate for the Brooklyn Workforce 1 center, which primary goal is to provide assistance with technical and green careers. Mr. M enrolled at the Brooklyn Workforce 1 and successfully completed the CDL course. As of today, he is currently employed for 8 months as a driver with one of the nation’s largest transportation companies Stevens Transport.

Definitions of the various types of services Literacy Zones Can provide:

Public Benefits services: include information about government benefits, recipient rights, and government agency procedures, facilitation of eligibility screenings, assistance with applications for benefits such as food stamps, cash assistance, and SSI, filling service gaps through referrals to community resources (e.g. food pantries), and assistance with managing limited financial resources (e.g. referrals to credit counseling services).

Immigration services: include referrals to community organizations providing services and advocacy for diverse immigrant populations, assistance locating native-language resources, information about the immigration process, and referrals to legal service providers specializing in immigration law.

Housing services: include assistance with applications for public housing and affordable housing, referrals to eviction prevention programs, and assistance with housing-related information.

Employment services: include assistance with job applications, resume development assistance, referrals to job training and vocational programs, referrals to career counseling and workforce development services, and assistance with access to career-related information.

Childcare, Youth and Family services: include assistance with applications for subsidized childcare, referrals to childcare and parenting support organizations, information about the public schools and parental rights, referrals to child advocacy organizations, and assistance finding a childcare provider.

Legal services: include referrals to domestic violence service providers, assistance obtaining information about legal rights, and referrals to organizations that offer free and low-cost legal advice, representation, and advocacy.

Healthcare services: include referrals to community healthcare providers, assistance with access to health-related information, assistance with applications for Medicaid, Family Health Plus, Healthy New York, and other government subsidized health insurance programs, and referrals to programs that help cover prescription costs.

Education services: include information about higher education and vocational education options, assistance with financial aid applications, information about receiving credit for educational credentials granted outside the U.S., and referrals to local educational institutions and training programs.

Forms, Questionaires, and PowerPoint’s for Case managers to use when initially getting started with a students.

(Please note that these resources were provided by the Syracuse Literacy Zone, feel free to adapt as needed)

Resources for Accessing Benefits Across New York State

Multiple Service Screening and Assistance

My Benefits NY

This New York State benefits screening web site provides information on health and

human services available throughout New York State. Information about eligibility,

required documentation, and application procedures is available for Food Stamp Benefits, Temporary Assistance (aka Cash Assistance), tax credits, Home Energy Assistance/HEAP, Health Insurance (including Medicaid, Child Health Plus, Family Health Plus, and Healthy New York), Women Infants and Children/WIC, and prescription drug insurance coverage for seniors.

F·E·G·S Health and Human Services System

The mission of F·E·G·S Health and Human Services System has remained constant for almost three-quarters of a century: To meet the needs of the Jewish and broader community through a diverse network of high quality, cost-efficient health and human services that help each person achieve greater independence at work, at home, at school and in the community, and meet the ever-changing needs of business and our society.

FEGS resource and referral line:

212 524-1780 – for all services at FEGS; youth, individuals, families, mental health, developmental disabilities, residential, domestic violence, employment, case management and more

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance

The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) is responsible for supervising programs that provide assistance and support to eligible families and individuals.

OTDA’s functions include: Providing temporary cash assistance; providing assistance in paying for food; providing heating assistance; overseeing New York State’s child support enforcement program; determining certain aspects of eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits; supervising homeless housing and services programs; and providing assistance to certain immigrant populations.

Employment Services

A List of One Stop Centers:

EITC is one of the Largest Antipoverty Programs, Four of five people eligible for the credit claim it.

Eligibility requirements:

Additional Job search engines:

Housing and Social Services:

Family, Youth and Childcare Services:

212 524-1780 – for all services at FEGS; youth, individuals, families, mental health, developmental disabilities, residential, domestic violence, employment, case management and more.

A program of Citizens' Committee for Children of New York, Inc. (CCC) that brings the perspectives of a diverse group of young people to the issues that affect them and challenges them to make the city a better place for children, youth and families.

Legal Services:

An Agency dedicated to protect and strengthen the legal rights of people in New York State who are poor, disabled or disenfranchised through: systems change advocacy, training and support to other advocates and organizations, and high quality direct civil legal representation.

Healthcare Services

Prescription Drug Coverage

Immigration Services

Services Provided include:

USCIS Public Charge Fact sheet:

This four-page guide summarizes the immigration status requirements as a condition of eligibility for noncitizens residing in New York State who are applying for public benefits. The immigrant eligibility rules of the following public benefit programs are outlined:

BRIA is the Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, located within the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA).

Pamphlet on BRIA:

Public Benefits and Financial Services:

CCCS is a non-profit community service organization that provides free and confidential counseling and will refer you to an accredited affiliate in your area if additional services are required.

Tax Preparation Services:

Veterans Assistant Services:

We are proud to offer Priority of Service to veterans and their eligible spouses. This means that if you served in the military, you will:

Disability Assistance:

OTDA’s functions include: Providing temporary cash assistance; providing assistance in paying for food; providing heating assistance; overseeing New York State’s child support enforcement program; determining certain aspects of eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits; supervising homeless housing and services programs; and providing assistance to certain immigrant populations.

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Other Services:

U.S. Government Information, by Topic covers government related topics from Immigration to healthcare and many more

NYC Specific Services:

Access NYC is the New York City benefits screening web site (similar to MyBenefits NY except NYC residents can not apply for services online – only pre-screening services available.) Some services on the site require the user to register for a free account.

Referral source for city government and services.

The Self-Sufficiency Calculator for New York City was developed by the Women's Center with the support of the United Way of New York City and enhanced with the support of the Robin Hood Foundation, to help working adults or adults just reentering the labor market get the work supports they need to stay in the workforce. The Calculator is a computer-based tool that:

NYCETC has become the leading "one stop shop" for news, information and resources for New York City's workforce development system. In the past three years, NYCETC has produced a set of unique resources to make timely information about workforce development policies, best program practices, funding opportunities and NYCETC advocacy efforts available to thousands of education and training practitioners, city and state government officials, foundations, employers, researchers, advocates, the media and other stakeholders. These resources have included: (1) a monthly e-newsletter -- which, due to its popularity and our readers' demand for more information on a more frequent basis, became a weekly e-newsletter starting in Oct. 2007 (the NYC Workforce Weekly); and (2) a comprehensive website (, which is currently undergoing a major upgrade in order to enhance users' access to the information resources.

New York City residents can use this site to screen for eligibility for the

Administration for Children’s Services subsidized childcare programs. The

screening process guides eligible users to lists of participating providers as

well as application forms and required documentation.

Website designed to assist youth and providers in locating services in the areas of: health, education, employment and more

Central and Upstate New York Specific Services:

Housing Services:
Home HeadQuarters is a not-for-profit organization committed to creating housing and related opportunities that improve the lives of underserved Central and Upstate New York people and revitalize the communities in which they live. Established in 1996, Home HeadQuarters offers Nationally-certified Homebuyer Education for first time homebuyers, financial and homeownership counseling, Foreclosure Prevention and real estate planning and development. Home HeadQuarters is also one of the largest regional providers of affordable home and energy improvement loans and grants to area homeowners.

Legal Services:

Healthcare Services:

Childcare Services:

Career Services:

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