The Case for Holistic Case Management

Hello and welcome to issue #3 of the CDFF Newsletter Series: Learning for Immigrant Justice. In this issue, we introduce the concept of holistic case management and explore how it can be a powerful tool for meeting the legal and humanitarian needs of migrants.

During his recent State of the Union address, President Joe Biden briefly mentioned a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers while at the same time asking Congress to send additional enforcement officers to the border. It was a disappointing departure from his administration’s early promise to prioritize immigrant justice, and it underscores the urgency of investing in immigrant communities and supporting their efforts to provide essential support to their communities.  

Read on to find out what holistic case management is and how it can be an effective and efficient way to support migrants at the border and beyond.
What is Holistic Case Management?
Holistic case management is a service provision model that views the client as a whole person and attempts to meet the entirety of their needs. Migrants have multiple needs – legal aid, housing, food, transportation, job resources, mental health counseling, language translation services – that are intertwined.  
Holistic case management consolidates legal and humanitarian assistance into one organization, streamlining the process of providing aid and giving the client one point of contact. For example, a client can walk into a single organization and get legal representation, access to housing, and resources for mental health. Without holistic case management, a client would have to navigate their way through many organizations – a challenging proposition given the language barriers and cultural differences faced by many migrants.

Organizations that can meet the immediate humanitarian needs of migrants can then facilitate more effective legal services (including alternatives to detention) when their clients are no longer in crisis mode. Clients can focus on addressing their legal needs when they no longer have to worry about where they will sleep or how they will get their next meal. 

Holistic case management is not just a short term solution. Some organizations, such as Al Otro Lado, provide support via holistic case management to clients on a long-term basis. Guided by their principles of family unity and continuity, Al Otro Lado helps clients with resettlement and integration into communities. They help clients find ESL classes and provide mentors for career counseling. “We work with families to address their immediate needs and work toward their long term goals,” explains Al Otro Lado’s Legal Director Karlyn Kurichety. “We provide holistic legal and humanitarian support from the point they enter the U.S. all the way up until they apply for citizenship.”

The Integration of Legal and Humanitarian Services

Many of CDFF’s nonprofit partners already practice holistic case management by offering both legal services and humanitarian aid to clients. 50% of the legal nonprofits funded by CDFF also provide migrants with humanitarian services, accomplishing this by providing those services in-house or by partnering with other organizations. With CDFF funding, humanitarian nonprofits are able to integrate legal advocacy and representation into their services by hiring attorneys. Legal nonprofit partners reported that they collaborate with humanitarian partners by offering legal training workshops at those organizations.

Funding Holistic Case Management

The holistic case management approach is being elevated by some funders as a best practice for meeting the needs of migrant communities. In addition to providing individuals with comprehensive care, organizations that practice holistic case management can be effective advocates for policy change because their work is informed by a broader view of their clients’ experiences.

Nonprofits looking to expand their services and provide holistic case management need to take the time to identify the staffing capacity and resources needed to implement this approach. Providing holistic case management requires more than simply hiring a single staff member. It is often necessary for legal nonprofits, for example, to bring on board a team of social workers who can handle heavy caseloads and support one another.

Karlyn Kurichety of Al Otro Lado also advises that funders understand how holistic case management is an ongoing strategy and that clients can be served by an organization for years. According to Karlyn, “organizations need long-term funding and resources to build out a structured program with concrete goals.”

If funders are not able to make a long-term commitment, a starting point on the journey to implementing holistic case management would be to seed collaborations between legal and humanitarian organizations. 

Funders could help advance holistic case management approaches by:


  1. Providing grants to support collaboration between legal and humanitarian non-profits.
  2. Funding not just organizations, but also coalitions and networks of organizations so they can coordinate services for clients and collaborate on holistic case management strategies.
  3. Talking to grantees to find out who their trusted partners are, encouraging collaborations between the groups, and funding the partner organizations in tandem with grantees. 
  4. Supporting leadership development that will enable organizations to adopt holistic case management strategies.

Holistic case management as a method of providing coordinated legal and humanitarian services needs to be elevated, supported, and funded. The findings from our assessment of the California Dignity for Families Fund indicate that holistic case management is an effective and efficient way to meet the needs of immigrants and refugees.

We encourage funders interested in addressing the urgent and ongoing needs of migrants at the border to invest in organizations and collaboratives employing this service provision model. 

Learn more about the California Dignity for Families Fund:

Learn More
Thank you for reading this issue of the CDFF Newsletter Series! Stay tuned for next month’s issue, where we will explore the role of BIPOC leaders in nonprofit organizations and the importance of investing in BIPOC- and migrant-led organizations.
Copyright © 2022 GCIR, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email either because you joined a GCIR funder group or because you requested to receive this newsletter through our website, by email, or at an in-person event.

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 2178
Petaluma, CA 94953

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can unsubscribe from this list.