Clients take the driver's seat

North Texas Catholic

March 2, 2020

clients in lobbyclients in lobby
From left: Research and Evaluation team members Bridget Hennessy, Sarah Dunham, Trenton Ormsbee-Hale, and Dr. Jennifer Strand at Catholic Charities Fort Worth. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)


“Susannah,” a 23-year-old single mother, admitted that she once felt like a victim of what she referred to as “so many horrible life circumstances” — a family history of abuse, poverty, and addiction. Things dramatically changed in the way she thought of herself, she said, when she began meeting with her case manager at Catholic Charities Fort Worth.

“I walked into my session, and my case worker invited me to sit behind the desk, while she sat across from me, and she told me that I was in charge of running our meeting,” Susannah marveled.

She continued, “Instead of her telling me what I needed to do, and how I needed to change, it was my job to review my current challenges, and brainstorm with her about the ways that Catholic Charities can partner with me to help me find a job, go back to school, and be a better parent. It felt really empowering. And she’s been with me all the way in working on achieving those goals.”

Dr. Jennifer Strand, CCFW’s director of Research and Evaluation, said she was glad to hear about Susannah’s positive experience. “And we don’t want it to stop there,” she cautioned. “A member of our team of design and evaluation specialists joins clients and case managers at these sessions, so that we can appropriately survey the client and staff member about their interactions and continually evaluate the short- and long-term effectiveness of what we are doing to lift clients out of poverty.”

Dr. Strand and her team of three research specialists are focused upon what is known in the world of social sciences as human-centered design.

“This approach allows us to design services that conform to the needs and strengths of the client, rather than asking clients to conform to the needs of our program,” Dr. Strand said. “This means getting to know them, asking them to help us to understand their experiences, and working with them to define their needs. We are committed to supporting them, rather than taking away their dignity by imposing our perspective upon them.”

After establishing this understanding, CCFW case managers work with clients in problem solving. Difficulties in finding affordable childcare, mental health services, or reliable transportation are common challenges and ones that can be effectively addressed, often with the help of CCFW’s strong network of community partnerships, Dr. Strand explained.

“By using these proven, evidence-based methods in working with clients, while continually evaluating the results of their work, we are seeing impactful benefits,” Dr. Strand said. “Catholic Charities Fort Worth is committed to making sure that our work is effective. It’s inspiring to see that commitment in action each day.”

For more information about CCFW, visit CatholicCharitiesFortWorth.org or call 817-534-0814.

clients in lobby

“Susannah,” a 23-year-old single mother, admitted that she once felt like a victim of what she referred to as “so many horrible life circumstances” — a family history of abuse, poverty, and addiction

Published (until 2/20/2030)
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