The occupation of case manager and program coordinator is somewhat esoteric. For people in the community — from my personal friends to donors — the work of program staff in a mentoring organization like the Buddy Program may not be well-understood.
Because I am extremely proud of the work that my colleagues and I do, and because my work is made possible by the support of the community, I felt it would be interesting and informative (if also providing some accountability) to quickly set out a day in the life of a case manager at the Buddy Program.
9 to 9:30 a.m.: Prepare file for screening of a volunteer. Fingerprint card, other background checks, interview. The screening of volunteers takes about two months — a very important process because of the nature of matching adults with children in the community.
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.: Interview of potential volunteer. The interview is this long because it must serve as a way of finding out the volunteer’s interests and personality as well as suitability and appropriateness for spending time alone with a child in the community. After the interview, submission of background checks and follow-up information.
11:30 a.m. to noon: Phone call with parent of a child in our program. The family is in crisis because the child’s father lost his job and they are not sure how they are going to be able to pay rent, grocery bills, etc. My master’s degree in education, in addition to my professional experience, gives me the skill to help this family navigate the emotional and practical challenges of this life change.
Noon to 1 p.m.: Coordination of services with area organizations and above family to help them access emergency funds to be able to eat and pay rent. Documentation of conversations and process.
1 to 3:30 p.m.: Team meeting. Discussions include: policy allowing Buddies to raft together, a new opportunity to offer Little Buddies free bikes, discussion and editing of mentor self-evaluation process, discussion about Little Buddies on the wait list, new Little Buddy referrals.
3:30 to 5 p.m.: Intake discussion with a new Little Buddy and his family. I interview the parents separately from the child — the parent interview asks questions about family dynamics, the child’s interest and personality and any concerns the parent has for the child. The child interview asks questions of the child to find out what he would like to do with a mentor, why he would like a mentor, and any activities he would like to try or enjoy doing. After this initial interview, I maintain a connection and relationship with the child and family throughout his time on the wait list and as a Little Buddy.
5:30 to 6 p.m.: Prepare for a “pairing,” when a Little Buddy and Big Buddy meet for the first time at the child’s home.
6 to 7 p.m.: Conduct the pairing. We discuss expectations, policies, activity ideas, best ways of communication, and they make their first plan for an activity together. We take their picture, and they are officially Buddies!
7 to 7:30 p.m.: Back to the office to document the pairing and wrap up the day.
This entry sets out some of the most fundamental work that I do at the Buddy Program; it is not all-inclusive. It gives me deep satisfaction to nurture the relationships that I have with individuals from families to volunteers to school counselors and other local social organizations, and as a coach to mentors and their Little Buddies, ultimately knowing that I’m playing a formative and positive role in our collective future.
Sarah Evans is a senior case manager and program coordinator for the Buddy Program.