Kris’ Corner – A Day in the Life of a Foster Care Case Manager

by Andra Martinez

As I have mentioned previously, as a foster parent licensed through Children’s Bureau, for each case you will have a DCS family case manager (FCM) and a case manager from Children’s Bureau.  

So why the overlap? Or is it overlap? There is a bit of overlap but the overarching reason is simply to be a backup to the FCM and to provide the best possible support to the foster family. Children’s Bureau caseworkers are much easier for the foster parents, or anyone involved in the case for that matter, to get in touch with should the need arise. This is by virtue of the fact that their caseloads are much smaller than a DCS FCM. I’m not sure the current number, but when our son was in care a few years ago, our FCM had, on average, 36 cases she had to balance. By contrast, a range of only 9 to 12 cases are on the plate of a Children’s Bureau caseworker.  

That said…what does a typical day in the life of a Children’s Bureau caseworker look like? Clearly, each day is going to be slightly different, but undoubtedly all CB caseworkers would agree that it runs the gamut of what they might do in a typical day. 

To give some structure to a “typical” day, I sat down with CB case worker Leslie (not her real name) to get more insight into how her workdays look. 

Most appointments or meetings for a case worker begin at 9 o’clock, but that’s not when her workday starts. The workday typically begins around 7:00 or 7:30. If foster parents are not calling or texting at that point, caseworkers might take advantage of that time to catch up on paperwork from the day before.  

So, as I said, the day’s scheduled meetings/appointments often begin at 9:00 and typically consist of 3 to 4 appointments over the course of the day. It may not sound like much but it could be anything from attending court (which can be a good amount of waiting, because it doesn’t always begin at the time it is scheduled), to staffing, to a family team meeting to home visits and a myriad of things in between.  

Plus, there can always be a non-scheduled meeting which is more along the lines of a crisis and those (for obvious reasons) are not scheduled. 

As an aside, case workers have to submit notes from all meetings they attend. ALL.OF.THEM. Can you even fathom what that would be like? 

Oftentimes the appointments on the calendar are spread on all sides of town. This is because they often include several different parties, so multiple schedules are taken into consideration. The day often involves time spent in the car traveling to and from different sides of town. 

A home visit, for instance, is going to include time talking to the foster parents to ensure their needs are being met and to answer any questions they have; but such a meeting also includes interacting with the child or children. Case workers might interact with a wide range of ages in the course of a single day; it can vary from a newborn all the way up to a 19-year-old who’s in collaborative care.  

I’m going to digress for a moment and give a glimpse of what a case worker’s visit with a child may look like (in case you are new or haven’t made the leap into foster care just yet). For a younger child, the goal is to ensure that the foster parents have what they need to care for the child…clothing, diapers, wipes, etc.  

When the children are a little bit older, it might mean getting down on the floor and playing and interacting with them. This could be asking questions about their favorite activities or foods, talking about school or playing a game together. 

And then when they are much older, it might mean being involved in some of their life skills or collaborative care work. Leslie shared a recent experience she had that illustrates the kind of “above and beyond” work that a Children’s Bureau case worker is able to do for a child in care.  In this situation, she was helping an older teen work on her transportation skills. She was in transition out of care but still needed to work on some of her life skills. She was able to get a job but had no way to get there…so Leslie helped her work on that transportation goal over the course of three different days.  

The goal was for the teen to be comfortable and confident riding the public bus system. The first day, the child rode in Leslie’s car and they followed a bus, just to see the rhythm of it, how often it stopped, what happened when it stopped, etc. The next time they met, they mapped out where they wanted to go, and used the bus schedule to figure out how to get there together. And on the third day, the child chose where she wanted to go, and had to get herself there on the bus, and Leslie met her.  

So, you see, not all of the case manager’s time is taken up with traditional-style meetings. Sometimes, it’s working one on one with foster kids…helping them develop life skills that they need in life outside of foster care, and at the same time creating opportunities for attachment.  

That’s just a little bit of insight into a Children’s Bureau case worker’s “typical day”. Clearly, no two days are alike, but they often have the same flow…and more importantly, the same purpose: to serve their foster families and the kids for whom they care. 

 Sincerely, 

 Kris