A Juma case manager’s days are filled with unique challenges and complex problem solving. Ultimately, each solution boils down to one simple element: Trust. For Juma’s case managers, Christopher Fascenda and Amanda Sandoval, forming positive, affirming relationships with Juma youth is the beginning of finding solutions together.
“[For youth], who often feel like outsiders–turning that into a feeling of safety in this relationship and giving them a space to talk about things that are heavier–I love how real and wonderful of a relationship you can develop,” Christopher says. Amanda nods her agreement, explaining that for her, as a recent college graduate, working with young people who are similar to her in age is a strength when it comes to building those relationships and earning the trust it takes to understand and resolve barriers. “The fact that we’ve gotten to this position where they trust me and feel comfortable with me—that’s huge. It’s such a highlight,” she says.
The case manager role was added to Juma’s program model to support young people facing increasingly difficult barriers to success such as unstable housing or homelessness, challenges related to involvement with the foster care system or juvenile or criminal justice system, and more. Together, they work to identify barriers, find appropriate resources and then ensure youth connect to those resources. With the help of a dedicated staff member who specializes in barrier removal, young people facing these hardships have a much greater chance of succeeding at Juma and beyond.
“When I first started in October , I had barely finished onboarding when I was asked to support a young person who would be losing their housing in two weeks. It was a big challenge because there are not a lot of housing resources available for youth,” Amanda recalls. “The day that she was losing housing was the day it all came together. She didn’t end up having to use a temporary shelter at all. It was very intense but it was a good kick start into the position because I felt like if I could accomplish that in such a short period of time I could handle any of the challenges ahead.”
For both Christopher and Amanda, even when they are not able to provide exactly the solution they would like for a young person, they know the value of the relationship is still an important lifeline for that youth. “You do it because you enjoy the clients,” explains Christopher. “You enjoy them as people. And you want to help them.” For the two case managers, being there for Juma youth, even when not in the midst of a crisis, is an opportunity. At the end of the day, they’re there for their young people in whatever capacity they need, whether that is guidance or a listening ear.
In the future, Amanda and Christopher look forward to continuing to shape the role of case manager at Juma and also expanding their reach. Amanda is currently working with Juma’s Human Resources department to develop a fully fleshed out transportation policy to help youth get where they need to go while Christopher is working with partner organizations on an initiative to make affordable housing easier to access. They are both excited to be at the very beginning of this chapter of Juma’s history and to help define what a case manager can be for Juma youth. “There’s rapid change that comes with this age group,” says Christopher. “The amount you can change by doing a good job is really powerful.”