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 these programs 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. Stages Two and Three are administered by the Department of Education. Parents have the right to choose child care among center-based, family child care homes, 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 assistance payments to relatives, foster family homes, foster family agencies, short term residential treatment centers 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 assistance 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.

California also provides cash assistance to eligible refugee/entrant populations via the following programs:

  • The Refugee Cash Assistance provides cash grants to refugees/entrants in their first eight months in the United States (U.S.) provided they are not otherwise eligible for categorical welfare programs.

  • The Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program provides culturally and linguistically appropriate child welfare, foster care, and independent living services to minors who do not have parents in the U.S., or who enter the U.S. unaccompanied by a parent, an immediate adult relative, or an adult having documentable legal evidence of custody of the minor.

  • 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 (under CalWORKs).

The CalFresh Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program and federally referred to as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provides 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 provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for populations eligible to receive federal benefits. Legal immigrants who meet SNAP eligibility criteria but are ineligible for federal benefits due to their immigration status are served under the state-funded program known as the California Food Assistance Program. The CalFresh Employment and Training Program requires certain non-assistance CalFresh recipients to participate in employment and training activities.

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 check-off, 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 is a cash assistance program for low income 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 who 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 California Department of Social Services oversees and monitors the administration of social services programs, which include child welfare, adoptions, licensing and special programs. The department is responsible for development of policy, regulations, and procedures that govern the delivery of services to children, families and other recipients, and the monitoring and evaluation of the service delivery system.

4275010 - In-Home Supportive Services:
The In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program provides in-home services that enable eligible individuals to remain safely in their own homes as an alternative to out-of-home care. Eligible persons are low-income aged, blind, or disabled individuals who either qualify for federally funded Medi-Cal or meet the program's income and resource requirements. There are four programs that provide in-home care: the Personal Care Services Program, IHSS Plus Option Program, Community First Choice Option, and 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 and prevention services to protect abused, neglected or exploited children. The services are provided through an integrated services delivery system that provides intensive services to families to promote child safety, permanency and well-being with the goal of allowing families to stay together in their own homes, or arrangement for the child's placement in the safest and least restrictive home-like setting. Services also include assistance to youth who are emancipating or have emancipated from foster care. The program also provides training and technical assistance to county administrators and staff.

The Adoptions Program provides support services to children and adoptive families through a collaboration of public and private adoption agencies in the state. Agency adoptions provide adoption services through public and private agencies for children who have been abused, neglected or exploited and are under the jurisdiction of the county or tribal court. Services include adoptive placement screening; home studies; reimbursement of non-recurring adoption expenses for adoptive parents; training, recruitment and retention of foster parents; and technical assistance and support for inter-country adoptions. For independent adoptions, the public agency investigates a proposed adoption and provides a report to the court when the biological parents place their children directly with adoptive parents of their choice.

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 Adult Protective Services program provides funding for counties to address reports of physical and financial abuse and neglect or exploitation of elder or dependent adults and provide intervention, as necessary.

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

4275028 - Special Programs:
The Special Programs provides funds for Foster Care Burial, Assistance Dog Special Allowance, Access Assistance to the Deaf, Refugee Programs, Immigration and Naturalization Assistance Services and Legal Services for Unaccompanied and Undocumented Minors.


The Title IV-E California Child Well-Being Project is a federal waiver demonstration project in California. This project provides participating counties with a capped federal grant that in turn provides flexibility in the use of federal and state foster care maintenance and administrative funds on program and services expenditures that were previously unallowable.


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.