Let’s Talk Case Management: The Benefits of Trafficking-Specific Trauma-Informed Case Managers

Sep 19, 2019 | by Sam Baeten

The Salvation Army STOP-IT Program supports survivors by offering three main types of services: a 24-hour hotline, the Drop-In Center, and one-on-one case management. One-on-one case management is available to anyone with a lived experience of human trafficking. Participants served can be minors or adults, can self-identify as female, male, transgender, or Gender Non-Conforming (GNC), and have any immigration status. Today, we highlight some of the elements of case management and the benefits of having a case manager who is sensitive to trauma and trained on the nuances of human trafficking.

Case Management Philosophies

STOP-IT is dedicated to restoring choice by supporting and advocating for survivors of labor and sex trafficking. Through our direct services and collaboration with community partners, we facilitate an individual path to healing for each survivor. A survivor of human trafficking  is eligible for case management if they have self-identified needs they want to work on with the assistance of a case manager. One of STOP-IT’s core values is grounded in self-determination and choice. This is applied in practice by having the survivor identify what they need help with versus the case manager pointing out the person’s goals or trying to persuade them in a certain direction. This allows the survivor to navigate the relationship with the case manager and eliminate some of the power dynamics that are innate between a participant/survivor and a case manager.  Our case managers recognize that each person’s lived experience is unique and no participant should feel forced to share details that would make them uncomfortable. Case managers consistently express that they are glad the survivor is sharing their time and interested in achieving goals, and what they choose to share is completely to their discretion.  Case managers work to meet the participant where they are while maintaining appropriate boundaries and managing expectations with the case management program.


STOP-IT’s intake sheet has fill-in-the-blank sections to all questions, allowing participants to identify themselves as they choose and to complete the information they feel okay with sharing. At intake, case managers provide a goal sheet to help the participant organize their top three to five goals and identify some actions steps to reach these goals. Case managers discuss barriers to reaching these goals and list them on the form, which helps the participant and the case manager understand some reasons as to why obtaining this goal might be difficult and allows the case manager to understand the participant’s situation better without probing direct questions.

Services Provided Through Case Management

STOP-IT’s program staff walk alongside survivors to find appropriate shelter, sustenance, medical and dental, to connect them to appropriate substance use treatment, mental health services, legal immigration relief, legal assistance on family and civil matters, job training and educational programs, to provide advocacy and information on crime victims’ rights, to provide emotional support as survivors navigate through various systems and pursue short and long term goals, and to assist with transportation and financial assistance. 

Trafficking-Specific Emotional Support

Trafficking-specific case managers understand the dynamics of human trafficking and some of the issues survivors face.  Case managers realize that “just leaving” is not a feasible response when there are tactics of manipulation and threats being held over the participant.  It is important that the case manager validates the participant’s emotional responses and decisions to demonstrate alliance and unity to the overall goal of the participant leading a life of choice.  At the same time, case managers, who possess Masters degrees in social work, ensure that participants are aware of their role in providing that emotional support, which is not the same as therapy. Case managers often provide referrals to more clinical and long-term therapy if that is what the participant needs.

Access to External Resources (Housing, Transportation, Legal Aide, Therapy, Day Care, Employment, School, etc.)

STOP-IT case managers work hard to find and create reliable relationships with service providers in the Chicagoland area and utilize internal and external resources, including the connections built through the Coordinated Service Referral Network of the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force.  A case manager will utilize the goal sheet to understand the barriers the participant has already faced when trying to reach a specific resource and explore what other avenues they can try.  The case manager can start the process of making a referral to a program or organization, with permission from the participant, then, connect the participant and help guide that interaction.  Case managers want to keep participants included and engaged in the whole process so participants know what the case manager is doing on behalf of them.

Basic Needs (Food, Hygiene, Clothes, etc.)

Participants may not have access to consistent basic needs.  Case managers have the ability to provide some of the basic needs a participant might have, and connect participants to community resources that focus on a particular need long term, or ask for donations if the participant is in need of something specific.

Advocating and Collaborating with Other Participant Systems

There are times when participants come into the case management program already working with other organizations or systems. Case managers can offer to work with those other programs if the participant is interested and feels that would be helpful.  At times, participants worry about being outed as a survivor when a case manager collaborates with another program, so it is important the case manager and participant discuss what language the case manager is to use and how the case manager should introduce themselves. Often, case managers will simply use the language of working for the larger Salvation Army to avoid breaching confidentiality, if that is what the participant prefers.

Trial Support and Safety Planning

Some participants are involved or are going to be involved in a prosecution against their trafficker. This can mean that they have to testify and share explicit details of their lived experience, which can be painful and invasive. Case managers can support the participant in the court process and be a friendly face during a difficult time. For others, they may still be in their situation and wanting to discuss safe ways to leave or ways to keep themselves safe.  Case managers can complete a safety plan with the participant including healthy coping mechanisms, hotline numbers, and safe people. The STOP-IT case management program works to help connect survivors with resources in their community and create a safe and healthy relationship in order for the participant to achieve their goals.

If you know someone interested in the case management program pass along the STOP-IT 24-hour hotline number at 877-606-3158.

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