Disaster Case Management

The Disaster Case Management Program (DCM) is a time-limited process that involves a partnership between a case manager and a disaster survivor (also known as a “client”) to develop and carry out a Disaster Recovery Plan. This partnership provides the client with a single point of contact to facilitate access to a broad range of resources.

The DCM process involves:

  • Assessment of the client’s needs caused by the disaster
  • Development of a goal-oriented plan that outlines the steps necessary to achieve recovery
  • Organization and coordination of available resources that match the client’s needs
  • Monitoring recovery plan goal progress
  • Client advocacy if necessary

Learn more about Disaster Case Management: 2015 Immediate Disaster Case Management Concepts of Operations


Prior to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, there was no federal authority to fund disaster case management. Consequently, case management relied on donations and volunteers. Many of those affected were already depending on federal assistance programs or suddenly found themselves in need of human or medical services. A case management system was necessary to manage these large scale displacements. Specifically, the system needed to assess individual and family needs and connect people with the appropriate services both in the short and long term.

Congress passed the Post Katrina Emergency Reform Act of 2006 in recognition of the need for coordinated case management services. The Act authorized the development of these services, stating, “the President may provide case management services, including financial assistance, to state or local government agencies or qualified private organizations to provide such services to victims of major disasters to identify and address unmet needs.”

Drawing upon lessons learned, ACF developed a model approach to disaster case management. The ACF model is based upon the principles of self-determination, self-sufficiency, federalism, flexibility and speed, as well as support to states. Individuals and families focusing on their own needs, resources, and interests are far more likely to reach favorable results for themselves and for the broader community. States, tribes, localities and individuals delivering needed benefits and services to disaster victims should not be financially disadvantaged by their compassion and generosity. The purpose of disaster case management is to create a coordinated system that provides disaster survivors with a single point of contact to help them achieve pre-disaster levels of functioning and equilibrium.

The ACF DCM model is unique because it:

  • Creates a comprehensive individualized recovery plan for each disaster survivor
  • Is based on the principles of self-determination, self-sufficiency, federalism, flexibility and speed, and support for states
  • Integrates with and augements existing state, local and voluntary programs
  • Utilizes existing resources, including professional volunteer organizations
  • Scales to meet the needs of an impacted state