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Tip of the Week: Case Management Standard 1 – Define Case Management

By Dan Fotoples, J.D., M.A., Director of Content Development, TNG Consulting, LLC

NABITA membership has more than doubled over the past couple of years. To orient new members seeking to implement the NABITA Case Management Standards and Best Practices, and to provide long-standing members an opportunity to review, NABITA is launching a Tip of the Week series specifically focused on the Case Management Standards and Best Practices.

NABITA published the Case Management Standards and Best Practices to provide guidance to members and practitioners. The standards provide a structured process to case management delivery. As such, the standards apply to institutions without a dedicated case manager as much as institutions that employ case managers. The standards serve as an anchor for consistency and equity in settings with decentralized case management responsibilities across multiple professionals or offices.

Standard 1: Case managers have a clearly defined role and purpose that includes providing goal-oriented and strengths-based assessment, intervention, and coordination of services to students experiencing academic, personal, or medical difficulties.

Standard 1 outlines several important concepts in case management: goal-oriented, strengths-based assessment, intervention, and coordination of services. Taken together, these concepts form the foundation of case management practice and trace the arc from intake to assessment to intervention to skill building. Let’s explore each in turn:

  • Goal-oriented, strengths-based assessment: Assessment should be goal-oriented and strengths-based. Case management must always begin with assessment so the case manager understands students’ challenges and has a sense of the scope of the problem. Without an assessment, designing effective interventions and solutions is significantly more difficult. Additionally, case management services should always have a goal; otherwise, services lack intentionality and may have an indefinite timeframe. Being goal-oriented does not necessarily mean solving all the challenges students face. Being goal-oriented is not an all-or-nothing proposition. A realistic and defined goal may mean helping students overcome certain challenges or develop specific skills to address them. Being goal-oriented does not require solving all problems, but it does provide direction to case management services. Finally, assessment should be strengths-based, helping the case manager understand the skills and strengths the student possesses. Assessing and understanding students’ strengths will impact goal setting, problem-solving, and effective interventions.
  • Intervention: Case management services focus on providing interventions to address risk, challenges, and stressors. Often, students are unaware of their options to resolve or address their circumstances. Some interventions may be simple and straightforward. Others may be complex, requiring collaboration between multiple offices or stakeholders on- and off-campus. Interventions may take many forms, such as helping students navigate a university process, obtain academic accommodations, or develop skills to cope with stressors and non-academic challenges. Interventions are situation specific – as customized and unique as the challenges facing students.
  • Coordination of services: After assessing students’ circumstances and working to design an effective intervention, successful case management ensures that students make the connections they need to access a resource, build a skill, or achieve their goals. Taking that extra step to make a warm introduction, or to follow up after students access a resource, is critical. For various reasons, students may struggle to follow through with their case management plan. As a result, coordination of services is not simply a matter of making introductions or pointing students in the right direction. Rather, quality case management continues to monitor and provide support until students demonstrate an ability to continue on their own.

Assessment, intervention, and coordination of services form the case management structure necessary to help students experiencing academic, personal, or medical challenges. Given the myriad of difficulties students may face, grounding case management services in the foundational concepts in Standard 1 sets students and case managers up for success.

Continue to read Standard 2.