Case Manager Corner: 11/12/2020


- Jill Gellibert at CHS
- Amanda Followell, Niki Putsolka, Lisette Colon, Angela Findley at OHU
- Sherry Bickel, Lakesha Brathwaite, Emily Kue, Michelle O'Connor at Devereux


Children's Home Society

The CHS management team recognizes Jill Gellibert as one of those case managers that is truly passionate about all families that she serves. Jill is bilingual (speaking Spanish and English, with Spanish being her native language), and such, she is assigned many cases where the families she serves only speak Spanish. Jill is culturally diverse and is able to make a connection with clients that do not understand CHS’s mission, and may have a poor perception, misunderstanding, or even no understanding of the Child Welfare System in general, as this is not available to some clients in their country or origin.

Several months ago, Jill received a case that had just re-located to Lee County prior to case transfer, which is well over 2 hours away from our Greater Lakeland office.   The family only speaks Spanish, and the investigator disclosed that the family was very hesitant to cooperate with services, as they were untrusting of the Department.  At case transfer, our Case AIM team immediately sent out the Out of County Services request to Lee County requesting courtesy supervision for the family.   This was quickly arranged through our CBC and Jill was able to make contact with the family and the OCS worker.   Because OCS was already in place, Jill was permitted to have the OCS worker complete the initial home visit with the family, however given her understanding of the situation, Jill requested to make the initial contact with the family herself to begin building a positive relationship with the family right from the start, because Jill saw this as being in the best interest of the children.  Jill anticipated that the trip would take her about 6 hours, since she typically spent about an hour during an initial contact with the family and considered driving time, however Jill ended up spending about 2 and a half hours in the home getting to know the family.  She was able to provide the family with a good understanding of why we are involved in their lives, and explain the different roles of DCF, CHS, OCS and the different service providers that the family would need to engage with.  More importantly, Jill was able to establish a connection with the father and help mend the family’s poor perceptions of “The Department”. Where he was initially fearful that our ultimate goal was to remove the children, he now understands that our true purpose is to strengthen the family, while keeping the family together as a single cohesive and strong unit. We were able to successfully close this case at disposition with the children remaining with their father, leading to decreased time that the children were open to dependency services, and allowing them to continue heal as a strengthened, family unit. To note, this was a child-death case, and at the recent child death review after closure, Jill advocated that additional education be provided to areas highly populated with undocumented families, surrounding emergency medical care and treatment available in the Polk/Highlands/Hardee area.

Jill has another family that was involved with CHS for non-judicial services. Our reason for involvement was due to concerns that the family did not understand the medical needs of one of the children, who had a diabetes diagnoses. The family only speaks Spanish, and appeared to lack the ability to fully understand the situation. Jill jumped into action, and immediately assisted the family with contacting CMS, and helped with the transition of ensuring a nurse that spoke Spanish was assigned to help the family. As many of the resources available required the family to read, Jill went as far as to go online and research about diabetes herself. She familiarized herself with the diagnoses, so that she could help reiterate what she had learned in her interactions with the family. She made flashcards cards for the family, where she printed photos of foods that were good for the child to eat, along with foods that were too high in carbs and would cause the child’s blood sugar to spike. Jill helped the family to develop non-professional supports through the child’s school nurse, who agreed to continue to help monitor the family after case closure, which will help reduce recidivism within our system of care. 

Jill has a way about her presence that helps her families feel at ease. She is able to connect with her clients, and get to the root of the issue, and help put supportive services in place. If there is not a service available for her client, she advocates for a service or consults with her supervisor on an alternative way to help her families. Being able to communicate with clients efficiently in their primary language is key to maintaining good rapport, and minimizing miscommunications. Jill has continuously been able to show that she understands the importance of positive engagement with her clients, and the positive outcomes that will come as a result. 

Jill goes out of her way to help her teammates on a regular basis when there is a need for translating. She recently went out with a co-worker and ended up spending half of the day at a client’s home and walked them through applying for benefits available to the family through Access Florida for the five children that were eligible for benefits. On top of that, she spent additional time setting up a tablet that CHS purchased so that the family would be able to continue with telehealth at case closure. While these may seem like simple tasks, for a family that primarily speaks Spanish, with a case manager assigned that is not fluent, this creates a barrier. If the case had closed without ensuring appropriate community supports were in place, Jill knows this would not be setting the family up for success. She is an everyday hero to the families and children that she serves.


One Hope United

OHU DCM Amanda Followell and CMS Niki Pustolka went above and beyond over a weekend when they attended family day for a child in a DJJ commitment in North Florida.  The teen they went to see has no living parents or appropriate familial or non-relative connections in his life. The child was a habitual runner, has threatened CM Followell on numerous occasions as well as threatening to destroy property, burn down cars and to make case management’s life as hard as possible. While frustrations would sometimes run high, CM Followell and CMS Pustolka never gave up on this child.  They continued to pick him up each time he ran, spent hours driving around Hardee County looking for him, and were always there when the child needed to talk, needed a stern taking to or when the child felt no one in his life cared about him. No matter how hard he tried to push them away, both let the child know that they would not give up on him and that they cared about him.  The child was recently sentenced to a lengthy commitment and has had a hard time adjusting to the structure and rules in the facility.  When family day was offered to this child, he called CM Followell and CMS Pustolka and asked them if they would come to see him as he had no one else to call.  Without hesitation, both agreed and obtained permission to make the trip to see him. It would have been so easy to say no or to find an excuse not to make this trip, however CM Followell and CMS Pustolka saw this as an opportunity to prove to this child that they meant what they said and were there to support him, no matter what.  Thank you, Niki and Amanda, for all you have done for this child and all that I am sure you will continue to do for him!


OHU DCM Lisette Colon has been working tirelessly with the mother of six children. Five of the children have been out of mom’s care since August of 2019. The mother has unfortunately gone through three different Case Managers throughout the life of her case, and now Lisette is the 4th.  Since obtaining the case in July 2020, Lisette has managed to help mom keep her newborn child in home safely. Mom has engaged in all services requested, was able to obtain her driver’s license, buy a vehicle that can accommodate all 6 children AND CM was able to get mom into transitional housing on 10/30/2020 where she can be reunified with 2 of her 5 children soon. Mom was referred to NTF housing and they assisted in paying her first month’s rent at the transitional housing. Mom is in search of a home to rent that will accommodate all 6 children and Lisette is helping her search…even driving around the community looking for places that may not be listed. Lisette has been a strong advocate for this mother, despite not being able to reunify the mother 3 weeks ago as planned. She has been a strong support system between the mother and foster parent, who also co-parents very well with mom. Hopefully by the end of December, mom will have all of her children home and Lisette will have been a HUGE contributor to this success story.


OHU CM Angela Findley has acquired a few cases that involve parents who have significant mental health issues. The parents are reluctant to engage in services; however, Angela continues to provide positivity and encouragement to the parents when the smallest steps are made towards meeting their own mental health needs.  Many days are tiresome and trying for the CM and there are days where the light at the end of the tunnel moves further away, but she continues to press on for the wellbeing and safety of the families and children. She was recently assigned a case that posed a barrier not normally seen by Case Managers – religion. Angela strived to meet the parent’s expectations regarding how their children can dress and what activities they can and cannot participate in with respect to their religious beliefs while the children are in out-of-home care. The initial couple of months, while in contact with the parents, was unpredictable and took up most of her weeks. Angela was able to establish good communication with the parents while keeping them informed and gathering their approval for the children to participate in activities new to them, and wearing clothes they would not normally wear while in their mother and father’s care. Some of the parents’ requests seemed outrageous to a person outside of their religion – that their girls wear full-length skirts while swimming! Angela maintained her composure, kept her personal beliefs to herself, and respected the parents’ religious requests to the best of her ability. She was able to establish normalcy for the children in a way that satisfied everyone, while positively engaging with the parents and advocating for more visitation between the parents and children. Angela truly went above and beyond the call of duty and deserves accolades for her ability to handle such a difficult situation in such a positive manner. Rock on, Angela Findley!!! 



DEV Case Manager Sherry Bickel has been so positive in working with a child with high needs in efforts to stabilize him while he await placement into a SIPP placement. He is scheduled to enter his SIPP placement on 11/3.

DEV Supervisor Lakesha Brathwaite and Case Manager Emily Kue were instrumental in helping a child to transition from a SIPP placement to a more traditional setting. The youth has been in a residential placement for over a year and they have been there step-step in working with the SIPP provider and other providers for a smooth transition. He entered his new placement on 10/28/2020.

DEV Lead Case Manager and Life Coach Michelle O’Connor has worked diligently with an APD child and her siblings to transition them all to a relative placement, who will continue to remain as a connection for the APD child (who will remain in her APD home) to ensure her needs are met.