Mike Bell is the team leader of Pine Tree Society’s Children’s Case Management program. We recently caught up with him to talk about how he helps parents connect with the services and resources they need for their child.
What is case management?
Case managers are there to help take the weight off. When a parent reaches out to us, some families know what they’re looking for and some don’t. Our case managers help parents figure out what services and resources fit their needs. We empower the family and help them manage things on their own by connecting them with the right resources, giving them support and making them aware of what’s out there for services.
Who are your programs designed to help?
We serve kids from a young age up until they are 21 years old. If a baby has a chronic medical condition, we’re also able to provide help to them when they are just months old. Depending on where somebody falls in that range, it could be anything from working with families when their kids are first diagnosed to the other end of the age range when their child is transitioning to adulthood.
How does your team work with families?
One of the first steps we take is to develop an individualized treatment plan for the child. We do that by listening to the parents share their challenges and by getting to know the child and learning their strengths and interests. We sit down with the family to talk, learn and figure out what’s needed. A big part of what we do is to look at the child’s abilities and strengths and weave that into our approach. For example, a 14-year-old girl we work with is really into cooking. So we took that strength and used it as a building block for her to also work on her social skills by taking a cooking class.
Do people have to travel to your offices?
We are flexible about where we meet and accommodate what works best for families based on what the goals are. As case managers, we want to get to know a child in different environments. We’re mindful of what’s needed in a meeting and we do whatever is easiest for the parent. The important thing is that the family gets what they need for help. We often meet at a child’s school or home or at our offices in Auburn and Scarborough.
Is there a recent success that stands out to you?
We work with a grandmother who was having a really tough time raising her grandsons, all with special needs. She has her own medical needs and was pretty overwhelmed trying to manage these energetic young boys. Our first step was to build her trust so she would share what she was being challenged with. There were a lot of trust issues within her family. We worked through that and she’s now open to letting us help, which is a very big thing for her. As a result, we were able to bring providers and services into the home that they didn’t have before. The early childhood and direct home supports and services we’ve helped them establish are huge for her and the boys. Recently, she thanked us, which sounds like a very small thing, but, to us, it was a very big thing because we had worked so hard to earn her trust and her feelings of gratefulness were pretty cool to see.
Why motivates you in your job?
It’s motivating when I see the weight lifted off people’s shoulders. I love it when a family that is incredibly overwhelmed and stressed and doesn’t know where to turn gets to the point where they don’t need us anymore because they have found what they need.
Who is eligible and how do they become eligible?
To be eligible for Pine Tree Society’s case management services, the child must be 0-21 years of age and be enrolled in Katie Beckett/MaineCare. Private pay is also an option. There are specific requirements regarding a child’s diagnosis. Instructions for Katie Beckett enrollment and a full list of diagnosis are available on the Pine Tree Society website at this link: https://www.pinetreesociety.org/children-and-families/case-management-children/