Last fall, *John arrived in the U.S. as a refugee with his family---but safety was only one of the challenges his family faced.  He needed to work, but his wife was struggling with a debilitating heart condition; his daughter was suffering from unstable diabetes; and his brother was confined to a wheelchair.  After learning about the family’s circumstances, WRDA staff and volunteers began planning to meet their many needs.

Helping clients in complex situations requires coordination of efforts, collaboration across services and programs, involvement of the church, and community volunteer support.

The first year of resettlement is crucial in every case---especially in complicated situations.  Therefore, staff across WRDA programs come together weekly to coordinate services and track client progress.  The meeting is comprised of representatives from each area of service: initial resettlement, medical, education, employment, and counseling. And while the weekly meeting is not the only time for staff collaboration, it is key.

"The purpose of the case briefing meeting is to help staff coordinate and plan services, as well as communicate client progress," said Susan Sperry, Refugee Services Director.

With the goals of stability and progress toward healthy integration, the staff share information and collaborate on problem-solving.  At the intervals of 3, 7 and 11 months post arrival, each household or individual case is reviewed and staff identify key areas for follow-up and service provision. Individuals or households struggling to adjust receive the benefit of a multi-tiered coordination of services.

Every case is different; therefore, the intensity of services varies too.  According to Sperry, a team-based approach to case management is the most effective because refugees receive the layers of care needed to be successful in the U.S.

"The goal is to have each refugee family well-grounded by the end of the first year," said Sperry.

And while there is no exact definition for success, the vision of World Relief is to see people transformed economically, socially and spiritually, which can be understood in terms of some key benchmarks:

  • The ability to pay bills, which means the individual or member of the household has a job with a steady income
  • A network of support in the community, which includes friends, neighbors, churches, faith communities, and other service providers

Working together across disciplines and integrating volunteers, the team is able to address multiple and complex challenges in ways that individual workers cannot; for example, John and his family.

After securing a handicapped-accessible apartment for the family, their case manager brought together the medical coordinator and a representative from the education and employment teams. Together, the team prepared a proactive plan for stabilization and provided updates on the family’s progress during their weekly case briefing meeting. The plan was discussed with John and implemented through a combination of staff and volunteer activity designed to meet the goals of stability and progress toward healthy integration.

Within three months, John secured a job, his wife had heart surgery, both John and his daughter learned how to manage her diabetes, and the entire family was connected to volunteers from a local church. 

Click here to learn more about the departments that make up Refugee Services at WRDA.

* For the protection of the client, we have changed his name to John for the purpose of retelling his story