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The Vital Role of Case Management & Service Planning

Case management is the central component in the provision of comprehensive victim-centered services to trafficking victims. The case manager performs multiple roles as point person, victim advocate, and facilitator of communication in order to help the victim navigate complex criminal justice and social service systems. Providers should create a case management plan and review it verbally at each meeting with a client. Case management is one of the most vital services required by victims, as well as one of the most time-intensive.

Victim Assistance Training (VAT) Online has four sections: Basics, Core Competencies and Skills, Crimes, and Specific Considerations for Providing Victim Services

The effectiveness of case management depends on a case manager's ability to establish rapport and a trusting relationship with the trafficking victim, and to identify and access local, state, and federal resources to address the victim’s needs comprehensively. Case managers should consider the following factors:

Identification of primary case manager. Depending on the structure of your task force and the resources of the victim service providers involved in task force operations, there may be different agencies involved in case management and delivery of direct service assistance based on the characteristics and needs of an identified victim. It is helpful in these situations to identify a primary case manager for each victim to decrease confusion for the victim and streamline communication between various victim service providers and with law enforcement partners. Case managers should enthusiastically request and/or provide (based on the specific case and expertise) technical assistance, co-case management, and cross-training. These practices support consistent evaluation of procedures to increase efficiency and effectiveness and add to the national knowledge base regarding best practices. See Section 3.1 on Victim Services Committee for assistance in this area.

Smart Practices for Responsible Case Management

  • Identify appropriate services. Few victim service providers offer a comprehensive array of services to all types of trafficking victims in-house. To address the victim’s needs, a diversity of service providers are needed as Task Force partners. Use your Victim Services Committee to map out potential needs and identify appropriate resources.
  • Understand the limitations of each service provider’s response capacity and the funding restrictions under which they operate. For example, service providers that typically work with homeless youth may not be equipped to assist adult victims, and immigrant-serving groups may not be allowed to provide services to U.S. citizens.
  • Remember that needs assessment is not a static step, but rather an ongoing process of engagement. As one set of needs are met, another may be identified, particularly as the victim’s case moves through the criminal justice process.

Protection of victims’ rights and informed consent. The concepts of informed consent and confidentiality are often new to victims. It is important to review documents related to these concepts on a consistent basis. Signed consents should be narrow in scope and time-limited. Even when a consent form is signed, it is useful to remind the victim verbally of this fact prior to sharing a new piece of information with an outside agency. This reminds victims of their choices and control over their story and personal information, while reassuring victims that their dignity and trust is imperative to a positive, collaborative relationship. See Section 3.2 on issues impacting confidentiality within task forces.

Goal setting and individualized service planning. The best service plan is in the survivor’s own words and is not standardized. Quality service plans are survivor-driven because each survivor is different.

Initial and ongoing assessments. These assessments are necessary to identify each victim’s accomplishments and strengths and current or new service priorities in need of support.

Locating appropriate resources and services to address the victim’s needs and goals. It is important to make sure that any referrals offered to victims espouse a similar commitment to client-centered, trauma-informed support services.

Review of roles and responsibilities. Keep in mind that a large number of new people have just been introduced to the victim. It is important to regularly review the roles of the case manager, attorney, investigator, prosecutor, and others.

Monitoring circumstances that may impact the victim’s safety. Safety planning should be conducted at every meeting with a victim.

Clinical case conference reviews. Case conferences should be held to review the progress, needs, and impediments to safety or self-sufficiency experienced by victims. The case conference may involve the victim services or case management team and at least one professional with clinical and trauma expertise to assist case managers in identifying potential resources, strategizing for individualized service delivery, and creating appropriate and sometimes unique interventions for this vulnerable population. This professional may be a part of the organization’s staff or brought in to provide supervision, but it is typically a licensed social worker. It also makes sense for the victims to be a part of these meetings, as it increases their understanding of roles and allows all to hear their needs, concerns and confusion, and who is accountable.

Smart Tip: Task forces should ensure that any strategies for providing services for victims of human trafficking include case management, as it is vital to ensuring that victims do not fall through the cracks of the multiple systems involved in their treatment and care.

Communicating and following up with professionals within criminal justice and/or social service systems. Advocate on behalf of the victim as needed to help reduce barriers, and monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention in meeting the victim’s needs and achieving the client's goals.

Identification of service gaps. Case conferences can provide the opportunity to identify service gaps and strategize possible referrals to new providers to ensure comprehensive victim assistance. These issues also may be broached more broadly by the victim services committee to increase the investment and solicit the expertise in creating a more comprehensive response by the task force to any and all victims.

Regular case coordination meetings. Depending on the complexity of the case and the needs of the victim, the case manager, along with the victim’s attorney, and other individuals providing different services to the victim, may meet on a regular basis. These meetings can help ensure that the victim’s needs are being met and provide accurate updates about the case status to everyone involved. This may include various nongovernmental victim service providers and system-based individuals, as well as child protection and/or law enforcement officers. In such cases, it is critical to clearly define limitations on what can and cannot be shared among the different participants to protect victim confidentiality.

Remember that while case management often is coordinated through victim service providers at nongovernmental organizations, it also may be coordinated through public agencies such as child protection agencies or system-based advocates and victim-witness professionals based within law enforcement agencies. It is most effective when done in partnership.

For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 4.3 The Vital Role of Case Management & Service Planning.