Back to school is a major transition for all families with school-age children. For parents of children with special needs, good planning and consistent support can help make the transition run smoothly for the child and the entire family.

That’s where case management can help. 

Z Smith is a Children’s Case Manager at Pine Tree Society and experiences firsthand every day the difference case management makes for families.

“Families often feel isolated and don’t know what’s available to them,” Z said. “When parents come to us, they are happy to have someone to help. They’ve been doing it on their own for so long, we help take the pressure off and it’s a relief.”

Z helps parents learn about and acquire all the services their children need at school, at home and in their community. The first step is getting to know the family and learning about the child’s goals and what they need for services. In addition to parent-teacher conferences, parents of children with special needs attend Individual Education Planning (IEP) meetings and oftentimes also have a Behavioral Health Professional (BHP) to follow up with at school.  

“Schools have a legal responsibility to meet their child’s needs and I advocate to hold schools accountable and be sure those needs are met,” Z continued. “I go with parents to the various meetings and take notes. Families can feel anxious and there is a lot of information to process. I ask questions that the family might not think of and, as the school year progresses, I follow up all along the way.”

Z coordinates and communicates with the child’s team at school to ensure the IEP is being followed and visits during the year to monitor progress and provide educational observations of how the child is interacting and functioning in the school environment. 

“I make sure everyone is on the same page and has the same goals. If something’s not happening, I reach out and make sure that it does. Once a month, I meet face-to-face with the child, and often the family”

From simple things to more complex, Z does whatever she can to support the family.  

“I have one mom who didn’t know what she needed to get for school supplies,” she recalled. “I took the load off by calling the school to find out, then reached out to a local organization to request supplies and back to school clothing.”

Transitioning to Kindergarten is a particularly big moment in a family’s life. Z sets up meetings with school staff and joins the family to walk around the school, meet the teachers and see the classrooms. She finds it helps families to have someone there to support them.  

The transition from high school to adulthood is equally big.  

“Planning the transition from high school to adult life is the perfect time to partner with Pine Tree Society’s Case Managers,” Z concluded. “We’re experts in individualized planning for transition and are here to help break the process down into manageable steps. Our highly experienced team knows the resources available in Maine and New England and will support you through every step at school and beyond.” 


Pine Tree Society’s Children’s Case Management is currently operating without a wait list. Contact us today at 207-386-5952 or via email

To be eligible for Pine Tree Society’s Case Management, the child must be 0-21 years of age and be enrolled in Katie Beckett/MaineCare. Private pay is also an option. There are specific requirements regarding a child’s diagnosis. Instructions for Katie Beckett enrollment and a full list of diagnosis are available on the Pine Tree Society website at this link.

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