The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Findings From An Extended Case Management U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 10:45 AM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon C, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Stacey A. Shaw, MSW, PhD Candidate, Columbia University, New York City, NY
Patrick Poulin, MSW, Executive Director, International Rescue Committee, Salt Lake City, UT
Purpose: Current United States refugee resettlement services are often inadequate to help refugees become self-sufficient and fail to promote holistic wellbeing and community integration for incoming families. This evaluation considers 434 newly arrived refugee households that participated in an Extended Case Management program from March 2009 through July 2011 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The evaluation explores how employment, wellbeing, and service needs changed over the course of participation in this program.

Methods: Every three months in the process of service delivery, caseworkers conducted a language specific assessment with at least one adult member of the household. To measure wellbeing, caseworkers asked clients to choose a number to describe how well they felt their household was doing in each area (overall adjustment, health, employment, finances, education and language, housing, and family/community). As an indicator of integration, caseworkers also asked clients whether or not they needed assistance with a variety of services in 6 specific categories. Households were also asked to evaluate agency services. Additionally, employment outcomes were tracked over time. To consider possible factors associated with wellbeing, integration, employment, and perspectives on agency services over repeated assessments, generalized estimating equations (GEE) were used. Multivariate models included the following covariates: employment status, country of origin, household type, English ability, literacy, education, employment history, whether or not the family had a caseworker from the same country of origin, and time in transit (number of years between leaving the country of origin and resettlement to a third country).

Results: Substantial improvements in wellbeing and reductions in needs in relation to health, employment, finances, housing, education, and family/community circumstances were observed over the course of two years. Variations in wellbeing and integration over time were related primarily to English ability at arrival, household type, country of origin, and employment status. Education, employment experience prior to arrival, and literacy were also associated with some outcomes. Employment increased dramatically over time, with at least one person employed in over 75% of households that had reached 24 months of extended case management support.

Implications: Rapid and substantial improvements were observed over the two-year period among refugee groups with diverse backgrounds who participated in this extended case management program. As families and individuals adjusted to life in the U.S. and found jobs, they reported that their wellbeing improved while their needs for outside assistance decreased dramatically. Despite the challenges inherent to standardizing programs for such diverse clientele as resettled refugees and despite the difficulties of outcome measurement, this report shares a practical model of service provision that is focused on the foundational resettlement goal of employment, while incorporating supportive services to enhance wellbeing and integration experiences. Intensive and extended case management services are necessary to assure that newly arrived refugees gain sufficient access to health care, mental health care, affordable housing, English language training, child care, transportation, and other fundamental services.