The initial and most critical components of programming for Dreamers are individual youth case management (for both academic and developmental), and the relationships established with the Dreamers and with their parents/guardians.  Program planning begins with home visits and school collaboration; gathering baseline data, for each Dreamer, to identify the strengths, interests and challenges of each, and what strengths-based programming will best support that child in reaching their personal goals and full potential. 

Dreamer Case Management is the long-term guidance and facilitation of an individual Dreamer’s  growth and development.  Dreamer Case Management is the primary responsibility of a Program Director, as a Dreamer progresses from elementary through high school and into post-secondary school.  In high school, the College and Career Department begins to share some aspects of case management, providing services that prepare Dreamers for post-secondary education, and then assuming the Case Manager role, when the Program Director (PD) position ends after high school graduation.   

Dreamer Case Management is the process of: 

1) building and maintaining relationships with individual Dreamers and significant people who impact their lives, 

2) providing services or facilitating referrals to services, and 

3) tracking information to document the work done and monitoring and progress.  

This individual work with the Dreamers targets both achievement in academics and the development of social, emotional and life skills. PDs may assign smaller groups of Dreamers to each AmeriCorps or other staff member, who will meet monthly with a rotating group of Dreamers to check in about school and home life, any needs the child has, assess academic performance, and set and monitor progress toward goals.  However, these should supplement and not replace one-on-one interaction between the PD and each Dreamer.  Initial meetings and interviews (Home Visits) are the foundation of early case management, along with gathering baseline achievement data on each Dreamer. 

Components of Dreamer Case Management

Relationships are the fundamental core of the “I Have A Dream” Foundation’s approach.  For case management, relationships are built by a PD that are in direct support of their work to know, support and guide the efforts of an individual Dreamer.  This is the key factor in the success of the PD’s work.  The PD’s relationship with the Dreamer will be the single most powerful tool in their efforts, and will impact the Dreamer’s ability to set goals and follow through, make good choices, and achieve goals.  Likewise, the PD’s relationship with the Dreamer’s parents, and other significant people in their lives, will be critical to their ability to provide effective case management.  Through relationships, and careful case management, the PD plays a role in improving a parent’s ability to support their child’s growth and education in the same ways that the PD will model (setting goals, following through, making good choices, etc.

PDs cultivate relationships with individuals through the following methods of operation:

Home Visits  

The first home visit is conducted, for each Dreamer, by the PD, in the PD’s first three to four months in the role.  At this home visit the highest priority is to begin building relationships.  That is, the focus should be on listening, getting to know the people with whom the Dreamer lives, with a casual and friendly approach.  The PD will also check basic data, like contact information, name spellings, emergency and medical information, and collect the final enrollment forms to complete that packet, etc.  An interview form should be completed as a part of initial enrollment, however, this should be attended to either at the end, or in a second meeting that can be arranged at the end of this first meeting.  Home visits continue throughout the life of a Dreamer Class and should be conducted annually, at a minimum.  

At these meetings the PD, parents and Dreamer review the Dreamer’s goals and make a success plan, defining the roles of each.  This is also a good time to renew/resign the original agreement with parents, and clarify roles.


While the greatest number of interactions with a Dreamer may be in group settings (for example, day-to-day after-school programming), individual conversations are critical to solidifying a personal relationship, and gaining access to a more complete picture of the Dreamer’s life.  Specifically, the PD will personally conduct a one-on-one meeting with each Dreamer, at least once each year.  Other program staff members (AmeriCorps) may be assigned the task of formal goal-setting and check-ins.  However, the PD’s relationship with the Dreamer is the highest priority, and the PD will ensure they maintain that one-on-one relationship. The PD will also create opportunities for other positive adult role models and relationships, such as one-on-one tutors, and a mentor match for each Dreamer, as appropriate.  Interactions with all supporting adults will be documented and be part of the PD’s case management for the individual Dreamer.

Routine Interactions  

PDs become a part of the Dreamer’s daily life.  The PD runs an afterschool program, days off school and weekend activities, a full-time summer program, support in school classrooms, and extended field trips that the Dreamer attends.  These programs are designed to address a compilation of the needs identified for individual Dreamers, to build community, and to guide and instruct each Dreamer in the skills that will lead to success.  Through these consistent interactions, the Dreamer learns to trust the PD, and understand them as a person who is there for them and is committed to their success.

Providing Services  

Given the information the PD has gathered through relationships and data, regarding the individual strengths, interests, and challenges of each Dreamer, the PD guides the Dreamer to participate in programs and activities offered, provides specific services that the Dreamer needs to progress (anything from eyeglasses to specialized academic support or a mentor match), and is a trusted confidant.  


When the Dreamer’s needs are outside the scope of “I Have A Dream” services, the PD will research as necessary and facilitate access to other agencies and resources.  For example, “I Have A Dream” does not have a funding source for financial assistance in a family crisis such as making rent, or paying for a prescription medicine.  However, there are other organizations who can help.

Holiday Dreams Gift Program  

The PD’s role in the annual “I Have A Dream” holiday gift giving program, is to coordinate a wishlist for each Dreamer family, translate it as needed, and provide the list to the central office staff member who will then match that wishlist with a donor.  Donors shop for and wrap gifts for each individual in the family.  The PD then coordinates distribution to families, often as a part of the annual holiday party organized by parents.

School Supply Drive  

“I Have A Dream” may provide each Dreamer with a backpack at the beginning of each school year, filled with school supplies, or partners with a program that can provide this resource.

Dreamer Enrollment and Class Data Setup  

At the launch of each new Cohort of Dreamers, the PD participates in introductory meetings for parents, and then provides the follow-up to gather and complete all enrollment forms and materials.  These materials and data are then entered in the “I Have A Dream” database (Salesforce) and used by the PD to create rosters, and other organizing lists of information.  In addition, the PD completes an initial interview with families, and gathers baseline academic data from teachers.

Definition of Dreamer and Dreamer Guest  

See official policy at the “Enrolling Dreamers” section for enrolling and withdrawing Dreamers.

Dreamer File Checklists  

There are three checklists that aid PDs and the College and Career Department in maintaining hardcopy Dreamer records.  See more information in the Dreamer Records section.

Case Notes  

Case notes are the process of documenting information gained through conversations with the Dreamer and others, that summarize the Dreamer’s current situation.   The PD will enter Case Notes in that section of Salesforce, at least once each semester, ideally each time they have extensive contact with a Dreamer parent/caregiver or Dreamer Scholar.  Other staff members may also complete this task, but the PD must be well aware of both the information itself, and what is being entered in Salesforce.  

Success Plan and Goal-Setting  

At each appropriate interval (semesters, summer, special incentive program, etc.) the PD will guide each Dreamer in setting goals for the given timeframe.  These goals are documented (see sample templates included in this section), along with the plan for how they will achieve the goal, and become the Dreamer’s plan for success.  Goals related to grades, school attendance, and personal goals, are entered in Salesforce annually for each individual Dreamer, with the PD’s assessment of whether goals were met (see Data and Assessments section of this manual).

Program Attendance  

Each day, program staff will enter attendance for each Dreamer’s, and all supporting adult’s, in the Salesforce database.  This data is used to monitor individual attendance for case management, and report on overall attendance statistics.

Grant Requirements  

The PD tracks and submits data and receipts needed to satisfy specific grant requirements when implementing grant funded programming.  

Database entry and maintenance  

The PD will use the “I Have A Dream” database (Salesforce) to maintain current records related to Dreamers and Supporters for their Dreamer Class.  These records provide both operational and reporting tools for organizing and managing data and programming.

Case Management Basics Checklist

  • Conduct home visits at least once each year, and twice if possible.  If not twice, connect with parents in other ways, to maintain that relationship and to ensure that you are not at crossed purposes.
  • Attend parent/teacher conferences, but avoid replacing a parent at a conference
  • Attend all special education and/or intervention types of meetings about the Dreamer and facilitate participation by the parent as needed.
  • Consult with teachers and specialists about individual students.
  • Consult with principals, to maintain that connection, which is especially helpful in times when you need their support or guidance.
  • Have a monthly individual check-in sheet for ALL Dreamers. You and your staff will check in with each student once a semester to see how things are going. 
  • An operational support caseload for AmeriCorps members is typically 15-20 Dreamers.  
  • An example of a way to ensure periodic check ins, and provide an opportunity for Program Coordinators (AmeriCorps members) to build and maintain relationships is to give each an operational “caseload.”  Then rotate taking individual Dreamers to lunch during the school day.  Notes on what’s discussed go into Case Notes in the Salesforce database.
  • Enter at least two or more Case Note entries per student in the database each year. 
  • Gather baseline data on Literacy and Math performance (iReady and other scores)
  • Gather data on school attendance, teacher assessments, special services, etc.
  • Success planning and goal setting – Dreamer Success Plan form (see sample below)
  • Annual PD Goals Met and Achievement Assessment  (see Data & Assessments)
  • PD meets monthly with ED or VP of Program to discuss individual Dreamers

Tips on Speaking with Dreamers

  • Always keep the Dreamer and their best interests at the center.  
  • Often, it’s best to let the Dreamer direct the level of detail.  Focus on simply answering the question, for example, rather than an in depth lecture on the topic. 
  • Use statements like:  (then briefly paraphrase what they’ve said)
    • Tell me about…
    • So that sounds…
    • I hear that you… (feelings, reflecting what they said)
    • It sounds/seems like…
    • You feel…
    • So what happened was…
  • Use open-ended questions like: (Use wait time to allow them to fill the empty space) 
    • How… Why… Tell me… In what way…
    • What do you like to see change?
    • You mentioned…. What is frustrating to you about that?
    • Why do you think that happened?
    • What do you think you should do?
    • What was it like for you…
  • Don’t make assumptions
  • Avoid bringing up information they haven’t yet shared with you 

Recording Case Notes:

  • Add a Case Note when a significant situation arises that impacts the Dreamer or their family
  • Case Notes are best written in 3rd person
  • Be as objective as possible and try to record what the DREAMER said
  • Any of your own notes and perspectives should be clearly identified
  • Do not make inferences or pass judgment