5180 Department of Social Services
Program Descriptions


The Department's public assistance programs provide financial assistance to California residents who are unable to support themselves. This program is comprised of five components:
  • California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)
  • Other Assistance Payments, including Foster Care, Adoption Assistance Program, Refugee Cash Assistance, and Food Assistance Programs
  • Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment Program
  • County Administration and Automation Projects
  • Disaster Relief

The objectives of this program are to provide temporary financial assistance to eligible needy and dependent persons to enable achievement of self-sufficiency or to provide safe living environments for vulnerable adults and children, and to monitor, administer, and improve the quality of all welfare services.

4270010 - CalWORKs:
The CalWORKs program is California's version of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. CalWORKs is California's largest cash aid program for children and families and is designed to provide temporary assistance to meet basic needs, such as shelter, food, and clothing, in times of crisis, while encouraging personal responsibility. CalWORKs includes specific welfare-to-work requirements and provides supportive services, such as child care, to enable an individual to meet these requirements. Child care services currently are provided through a three-stage system to current and former CalWORKs recipients with children through the age of 10 (or up to 12 under certain conditions). Stage One is administered by the Department of Social Services, and the Department of Education administers Stages Two and Three. Parents have the right to choose child care among center-based, family child care home, or license-exempt providers. CalWORKs families are then able to meet both goals of moving from welfare into the work force and engaging children in child care and development services.

4270019 - Other Assistance Payments:
The Foster Care program provides support payments to relatives, foster family homes, foster family agencies or group homes for children who have been removed from the custody of a parent or guardian as a result of a judicial order or voluntary placement agreement due to findings of abuse, neglect or exploitation. This program is administered by the counties in accordance with regulations, standards, and procedures set by the Department of Social Services as authorized by federal and state law. The Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program provides support payments to relative guardians of children who were previously in the foster care system.

The Adoption Assistance Program provides financial support to families adopting a child with special needs or to facilitate the adoption of children who otherwise would remain in long-term foster care. This program is administered by the counties in accordance with regulations, standards, and procedures set by the Department of Social Services as authorized by federal and state law.

Refugee/Entrant Cash Assistance is provided to refugee/entrants who do not qualify for CalWORKs or Supplemental Security Income. These individuals include refugees, Cuban and Haitian entrants, Cuban medical professionals, asylees, certain Amerasians from Vietnam, Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrants, and certified victims of human trafficking. Benefits are available for a maximum period of eight months.

The Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program provides cash aid and social services to noncitizen victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and other serious crimes who meet the income and eligibility requirements. Benefits are available for a maximum period of eight months for adults without children and up to 48 months for families.

The CalFresh Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program and federally referred to as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provides for improved levels of nutrition among eligible low-income households by offering them a benefit amount, posted to a debit card, for the purpose of purchasing food. The cost of CalFresh benefits is borne entirely by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The CalFresh Employment and Training Program requires certain non-assistance CalFresh recipients to participate in employment and training activities.

The Department also administers the state-only California Food Assistance Program to provide food benefits to legal immigrants who meet federal SNAP eligibility criteria except for their immigration status.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program provides USDA commodities to 58 California county local food banks for distribution to the working poor, low-income, unemployed, and homeless persons. The USDA food is distributed to eligible recipients for household consumption or used to prepare and serve meals in congregate settings. This program is also supplemented with food purchased by food banks using private donations and taxpayer contributions generated through a state income tax checkoff, as well as surplus fresh fruits and vegetables donated by farmers and businesses.

4270028 - Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment Program:
The federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides cash grant assistance to aged, blind, or disabled persons who meet the program's income and resource requirements. California supplements the federal SSI payment with a State Supplementary Payment (SSP). The SSI/SSP program is administered by the Federal Social Security Administration which determines eligibility, computes grants, and disburses the combined monthly payment to recipients.

4270037 - County Administration and Automation Projects:
Federal, state, and county governments share the cost of operating expenses and the salaries and benefits of county staff who administer public assistance programs.

Federal, state, and county funds are used to finance major data automation projects of the Department of Social Services.

4270046 - Disaster Relief:
The objective of the Disaster Relief Program is to provide monetary assistance to individuals and households who have suffered eligible losses from a Presidentially-declared disaster that are not covered by other federal, state, or private assistance programs.


The Department of Social Services monitors and oversees the operational program aspects of social services programs through the development of policy, regulations, and procedures for the delivery of services to clients, and the monitoring and evaluation of services delivered.

4275010 - In-Home Supportive Services:
The In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program provides services to enable eligible persons to remain safely in their own homes as an alternative to out-of-home care. Eligible persons are aged, blind, or disabled persons who receive federally funded Medi-Cal or otherwise meet the program's income and resource requirements. There are four programs that provide in-home care: the Personal Care Services Program, the IHSS Plus Option Program, the Community First Choice Option, and the IHSS-Residual Program.

4275019 - Children and Adult Services and Licensing:
The Children's Services component consists of three major areas: Child Welfare Services, Adoptions, and Child Abuse Prevention.

Child Welfare Services provides emergency response, family maintenance, family reunification, and permanent placement services for abused and neglected children and their families, as well as services to assist transition age youth who are emancipating or have emancipated from foster care. The program also provides for training and technical assistance for administrators and staff.

The Adoptions Program: (1) provides agency adoption services through a mixture of state and county adoption agencies; (2) conducts studies of all independent adoption placements through state offices and three county adoption agencies; (3) provides technical assistance and support to public and private adoption agencies on adoption-related matters including agency, independent and intercountry adoption; (4) reimburses licensed private adoption agencies for expenses incurred in placing special needs children; and (5) provides adoptive home recruitment activities through direct and contracted services.

The Child Abuse Prevention Program provides funding, training, and technical assistance for the development and sustainability of child abuse prevention and early intervention programs, education and outreach materials, activities, and services for at risk families and their children.

The Department also has County Services Block Grant funding which includes Adult Protective Services. In this program, counties provide appropriate Adult Protective Services to California's functionally impaired dependent adults and the aged who live in their own homes.

The Community Care Licensing Program is a regulatory enforcement program with the responsibility of protecting the health and safety of children and adults residing or spending a portion of their time in out-of-home care. The program includes prevention, compliance, and enforcement components.

4275028 - Special Programs:
The Department has several special programs that include the following: Specialized Services, Access Assistance to the Deaf, and Refugee Program Services.


The Title IV-E Waiver Capped Allocation Project (CAP) is a federal waiver demonstration project in California. This project will provide participating counties with flexibility in their use of federal and state foster care maintenance and administrative funds that were previously restricted to payment for the care and supervision of children in out of home placements and administrative expenditures. Under the CAP, participating counties will receive a capped allocation of their Title IV-E funds to provide direct services to children and families.


The objective of this program is to determine an applicant's medical and/or vocational eligibility for disability benefits and provide administrative services to other agencies.

4285010 - Disability Evaluation:
The Disability Evaluation Program determines the medical, vocational, and/or functional eligibility of California residents applying for benefits under Title II (Disability Insurance), Title XVI (Supplemental Security Income), and Title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act. Eligibility is determined by the severity of the individual's physical and/or mental impairment(s) and overall ability to engage in substantial gainful employment.

4285019 - Services to Other Agencies:
In addition to providing support services for its programs, the Department of Social Services provides general administrative services, such as personnel and accounting to the State Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Health and Human Services Agency. The Department provides services to the Medi-Cal Program in the form of state hearings and public information services.


The objective of the Administration program is to provide overall management, planning, policy development, and administrative support services to other departmental programs.