Tag Archives: case management

Successful Family Reunification Takes Preparation and Hard Work

June marks National Reunification Month, a time when agencies are celebrating successful efforts to reunify children with their families. It’s widely recognized that whenever possible and safe, the best home for a child is with his or her family. International Social Service, USA (ISS-USA) believes this is true regardless of where the family resides.

At ISS-USA, intercountry case managers work to reunite US-born children with relatives in other countries, foreign-born children with relatives in the US, and immigrant children separated from their families during a migration. ISS-USA also supports efforts to reunify children with a parent in another state.

While these reunifications are important to celebrate, it is worth noting the process and hard work the reunification entails. Often when a child enters the child welfare system, efforts to identify, assess, and reunite with family require communication and collaboration among a variety of stakeholders, including across state and country borders. Here is an example of this process from a case ISS-USA worked on:

Anya was 7 year old in the care of the Portuguese social service system. Her father, a US citizen, was living in New Jersey with his parents. ISS-USA conducted a home study with him to make sure his home was safe and helped him obtain court-ordered drug testing and a psychological evaluation. The case worker also conducted a community resource assessment, highlighting local area resources that would help Anya acclimate to her new home. Upon receiving a positive report, the Portuguese court granted custody to Anya’s father and he flew to Portugal to bring her home. Once back in New Jersey, Anya and her father received visits from the social worker every over month to make sure she was adapting well to her new environment.

For children separated from family at the US border with Mexico, reunification is often carried out without any preparation and little notice. ISS-USA has been awarded funds to support the pre-departure planning and reunification of children with their families in Guatemala and Honduras. Here is an example of a case in which a child was separated from her father at the border:

Rosalie was six years old when she traveled from Guatemala with her father to the US, but they were separated at the border and he was immediately deported. A pro-bono attorney working on Rosalie’s case referred her family to ISS-USA for safe repatriation planning. A local social worker visited Rosalie’s family to understand their situation and needs. On the day Rosalie returned to Guatemala, the social worker supported the cost of travel from their rural community to the airport and worked with local officials to ensure Rosalie would be released to her parents. A week later, the social worker traveled to their home to bring essential items, including school uniforms and supplies. She enrolled Rosalie and her younger brother in school, helped them get check-ups at a local clinic, and helped their father with a career transition. Six months later, the family reported feeling thankful and supported.

Celebrating reunification means celebrating the efforts that parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and other fictive kin who care deeply for children must undertake to achieve reunification. Whether it’s participating in family-based interventions to allow for a child to safely remain with his or her caregiver, undergoing a variety interviews and assessments, or attending multiple court hearings in a different time zone or language, reunification can be a long, invasive and often expensive process. This month we honor all those who are working tirelessly to give children permanent homes with family.

To learn more about ISS-USA or to refer a case, visit our website www.iss-usa.org.

What if International Social Service, USA Ceased to Exist?

Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?[i]

In 1946, George Bailey, portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in the film, It’s A Wonderful Life, contemplates ending his life as he faces enormous struggles to save his family and community. He is given the opportunity to look at the life his family and friends would have had if he not been born. He realizes that, despite feeling inadequate and despondent, the things he had done throughout his life had, in fact, made life better for many people.

Loosely based on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the film allows us to take a moment and reflect on what we have done over the course of our lives that has been of benefit to others. This is true of both individuals and organizations. So we ask, what would be different for the tens of thousands of children and families International Social Service (ISS) and ISS-USA have served since 1926, if we did not exist?

If ISS-USA did not exist, children we have served would not have been connected to their families or moved to permanency. These children would have stayed in foster care or institutional care and aged out without ever having had a permanent family. This would have increased the likelihood that they would end up homeless, addicted, or the victims of a violent crime.

Children who are repatriating to their home country would not have a plan in place to safely reintegrate into their family and communities. These children would be at greater risk for being trafficked, forced into work without pay, or sexual exploitation. Their families would not have been connected to services that can support their safety and well-being.

Adult international adoptees would not have found and connected with their biological families, leading to feelings of loss and grief, problems with developing an identity, reduced self-esteem and self-confidence, increased risk of substance abuse, and higher rates of mental health disorders, such as depression and PTSD. [ii]

More than 4000 judges, lawyers, social workers, and other child advocates would not have been trained on responsibilities and best practices in international child protection under federal and international laws. This would have meant that these key stakeholders in child protection might not have made the correct decisions in each child’s best interest.

ISS-USA has been, for nearly 95 years, providing cross border case management to any child or family in need of services. We know our work has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and families and we will continue to work to ensure that no child is separated from her family longer than is necessary.

While things are very different today than they were a few months ago, ISS-USA has developed new and creative ways to make sure we can continue to support our clients and the children and families they represent.

To support ISS-USA on Giving Tuesday Now (May 5, 2020), visit our website, www.iss-usa.org.

Notes:

[i] It’s a Wonderful Life. Directed by Frank Capra, performances by James Stewart and Henry Travers, RKO Radio Pictures, 1946.

[ii] https://centerforanxietydisorders.com/what-problems-do-adopted-adults-have/

What is Case Management?

Earlier this month, the ISS-USA office moved to a new building. Anyone who has experienced the stress of an office move can relate: finding a new space, hiring movers, setting up the internet, and so many additional elements must be coordinated!

Luckily, ISS-USA employs many case managers who are experts in coordination.

Case management and social work have been linked since the early days of the profession. Today, case management is a skill set primarily practiced in fields of social work, nursing and other human services, and is commonly used to address needs of vulnerable populations. There are numerous definitions for case management, in both the U.S. and international contexts. Definitions of Case Management all include a few basic tenets:

Improving well-being:
The goal in case management is to improve outcomes for individuals or families by connecting them to services and supports that meet their individual needs. This may be related to dealing with an illness or injury, ensuring a child in foster care is cared for while awaiting permanency, or supporting individuals with substance use and mental health issues.

Case-specific:
While the ultimate goal in case management is improved wellbeing, the route to get there looks different for each person. One patient with a chronic illness may need support with medication management and affordable housing. Another patient may need help accessing reliable medical care, managing bills, and finding daycare for her dependent children. Goals are set by based on the individual receiving support, and plans to achieve these goals require that person’s active involvement and buy-in.

Multiple Service:
Since every case plan looks different based on individual needs and goals, case managers cannot provide each needed service directly. Rather, they work with service providers across a variety of disciplines to coordinate referrals, appointments, services, and follow up. For many, interrelated issues such as medical care, housing, and substance abuse cannot be addressed by a single entity. Having a single case manager to serve as the contact person helps ensure each need is addressed with timely follow up and coordination.

At ISS-USA, case management follows the same basic principles when working on cases of children and vulnerable adults crossing international borders. Case managers are responsible for understanding the unique needs of each case and coordinating services between authorities and providers in two countries or states.

For example, six year old Melissa, a client of ISS-USA, was taken into care in Israel as a result of signs of neglect by her mother. Her father lived with her grandparents in Michigan and requested custody of his daughter. The ISS-USA case manager worked with our partner in Israel to provide the judge a home study on the paternal relatives in Michigan to ensure the home was safe, and a community resource survey to identify the educational, medical, recreational, religious and community supports that would be available to Melissa in the U.S. After a judge granted custody to Melissa’s father, ISS-USA helped coordinate travel and post placement follow up to make sure Melissa is enrolled in school, being followed by a pediatrician and adjusting to her new family environment.

Case managers rarely are rarely in the spotlight, but provide an essential specialization. Next time you are sitting with a family member in the hospital, looking to support a vulnerable child, or simply embarking on a move, think about how much you’d like a case manager on hand.

To learn more about ISS-USA’s services for children and families, visit our website, www.iss-usa.org. To register for ISS-USA’s upcoming October conference, “Beyond Separation: Protecting Cross Border Families,” use this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/beyond-separation-protecting-cross-border-families-two-day-conference-with-training-institute-tickets-63113700778.