The Managerial Nature of Case Management

Essay by sharonulysses April 2009

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The prominence of case management as a service delivery method and as an area of study for social workers has increased in the past decade. Although case management has its roots in the earliest helping efforts of the social work profession (Ashley, 1988), only recently has this method received a considerable research and practice commitment. (For example, Social Work Research & Abstracts added case management as a separate section in its service methods section in 1989.)This paper emphasizes the managerial nature of case management. The case manager is compared with managers in general, the properties of case managers are delineated, the complexities of managerial work are outlined, and the importance of improved case management is discussed. However, one caveat must be noted at the outset. The theoretical model presented in this article was developed through observations of chief executives of business and human services organizations. As a result the model represents a mosaic for prototypical managers that does not always equate with the realities experienced by practicing case managers.

Moreover, pertinent issues such as client self-determination and autonomy, which distinguish the power relationships between employers and employees from case managers and consumers, militate against the wholesale translation of the model from one type of manager to another.

Circumstances unique to case management, such as large caseloads, varied expectations on the substance of case management, and organizational barriers, are discussed. Nevertheless, the fundamental objective of this article is to provide case managers with a different way of looking at the nature of their work.

The significant attention case management currently enjoys is the result of a number of factors. First, the philosophical and theoretical bases of case management enable it to be used with a wide range of clients. Within the past five years, journal articles have focused on case management...