United Methodist Committee on Relief

Case Managers Learn to Partner with People

Catherine Earl, UMCOR’s Disaster Response executive, urges case managers to treat Hurricane Sandy survivors as people.
Case management is a person-to-person ministry. Here, Hurricane Sandy survivors discuss their recovery plan.
Chris Heckert

By Susan Kim*

June 7, 2013—In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a group of volunteers went to work on the home of a storm survivor. As they approached the house, they began to grumble.

“This is a nice-looking house.”
“Look, he has a boat – and a jet ski!”
“That's more than what I have in my house.”
“Why are we helping him?”

But there was more to the story. The homeowner, due to job cutbacks related to the economy, was living on a financial edge before the storm ever hit. His brother-in-law, who lived nearby, moved his boat, Jet Ski and truck to the man's home, which was on higher ground. Now the man's home, in addition to being damaged, had become a storage site for his brother-in-law's possessions.

“We cannot let appearances allow us to jump to conclusions,” explained Catherine Earl, US Disaster Response executive. “It doesn't mean this person ran out with his FEMA money and bought a new boat, truck, and Jet Ski.”

Earl told this true story while training a group of case managers in New Jersey who will help Hurricane Sandy survivors continue on their path to long-term recovery. The case managers work for Catholic Charities, Future with Hope (a disaster-recovery program administered by the United Methodist Greater New Jersey Annual Conference), World Renew, and Caregivers of New Jersey.

Case management is one of UMCOR's well-respected niches within the disaster response community. During the past two decades, UMCOR has honed an underlying philosophy of care that moves disaster survivors beyond file folders and into a holistic plan for recovery that addresses physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

As Earl offered a two-day training, she urged case managers to treat Hurricane Sandy survivors as, simply put, people—not victims or tally marks on a form. “They're people,” Earl said. “As case managers, we are partnering with people who survived Hurricane Sandy.”

The case managers also learned about the phases of disasters, the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the guiding principles for their work, among other skills and practices.

Krista Johnson, a case manager for Catholic Charities, said she attended the training to become more skilled at approaching clients. “I wanted to know: what are some really good first questions to ask the clients?”

Other case managers learned more about the transition into long-term recovery. “Since Sandy happened in October and it's now June, I'm looking to transfer from responding to the initial disaster into long-term recovery,” said Andrea Wren-Hardin, a Future with Hope case manager.

Earl encouraged case managers to explore their new roles within New Jersey's long-term recovery. “Case management is one of the most unique ministries you can possibly do,” she said.

Your gift to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, will help UMCOR continue to train others in the unique ministry of case management over the long-term recovery from disasters.

*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to

Your gift to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, will help UMCOR continue to train others in the unique ministry of case management over the long-term recovery from disasters.

Case management is a vital ministry that helps see disaster survivors through recovery. Watch this UMCOR video to learn more.