Social services programs see increases, decreases in programs

More applications are coming into the Plumas County Department of Social Services, Director Neal Caiazzo told members of the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 11.

While applications for the state’s CalFresh program are up, CalWorks is showing a steady decline.

Caiazzo was before supervisors presenting his semi-annual report on trends experienced by social services.



“The overall trend for applications has been upward,” Caiazzo explained about numbers in the areas of Welfare to Work and Public Assistance.

The average number of applications for the second half of 2019 was 262 with a high of 349 in August. “Just over one year ago the average was 230 per month,” he explained.

Touching on CalWorks, Caiazzo said there is a steady decline in applications due to economic development and more jobs that are available.

CalWorks is a public assistance program that provides cash aid and services to families that meet state requirements.

The average number of open CalWorks cases each month was 120. “The case count has continued a pattern of relatively steady decline over time,” Caiazzo said.

By the fiscal year end in June 2019, there were 125 CalWorks cases in the system. By the end of December that number was 121. “That represents the lowest count of cash assistance cases since July 2018,” he said.


Aside from increased job availability, Caiazzo said that many of the families are non-needy relative cases where a close relative is providing care for an eligible child.


CalFresh is the food stamp program for people with low or no income who meet federal income eligibility guidelines.

“Typically we see a spike in August,” when Feather River College students begin to arrive, Caiazzo said. FRC’s financial aid staff usually encourage students to signup for food stamp assistance. Students are eligible for assistance if they are enrolled in a work/study component.

Social services is also seeing more applicants who are 55 or older, and people with disabling conditions. In the past these people were less likely to apply, he noted.

Caiazzo said that social services also works with the Plumas County Public Health Agency to pinpoint elderly people who might qualify for CalFresh benefits.

“People are starting to feel more comfortable applying for benefits,” Caiazzo told supervisors. Older generations typically think they should be responsible for themselves, but are beginning to understand that there is no judgment attached to assistance.


Through efforts from both departments there is a spike in the elderly population now accepting assistance, he added.

This chart shows 4 1/2 years of CalWorks open cases for Plumas County. Fiscal year 2015-16 had the highest number, with nearly 180 cases. There are periods during 2018-19 when cases were at the lowest. During the last three years the average caseload was 120 for 2017-18, an average of 108 for 2018-19, and an average of 111 for the current fiscal year. Charts courtesy of Plumas County Department of Social Services

“For working people, CalFresh supplements their purchasing power,” Caiazzo said. Despite improvements in the economy and more job opportunities, case counts are likely to remain higher.

Looking at the number of cases for the last few years, an average monthly caseload for 2017-18 was 1,084. That increased in 2018-19 to 1,138, and went up again this year to an average of 1,155.



Medi-Cal is continuing to experience steady growth although the number of active cases might have leveled off during the past six months.

“The department has believed for some time that case counts for this program would eventually level off as the number of eligible recipients gets saturated,” Caiazzo said. “It is reasonable to think that the department has reached that point.”

The average monthly caseload in 2017-18 was 3,081, in 2018-19 it was 3,009, and for the current fiscal year it is 3,149.

There is also the expanded Medi-Cal program. Eligibility begins at a single person earning $1,354 per month $16,248 annually. A family of three can earn $27,730 or less. These figures are  138 percent of the federal poverty level or less.

Aid to Adoptions

Adoption assistance to parents is on the decline, according to Caiazzo’s information. Currently 41 children make up the department’s caseload. That is down from 70 in the past.


The overall decline is that many of the children have aged out of the system. “On rare occasions adoptive placements fail and the children must be placed in foster care,” he explained.

In 2012, the local department began operating adoptions programs as mandated by the California Welfare and Institutions Code.

Services include home studies, training for adoptive parents and case management. “Adoptive families also qualify for cash assistance under the Aid to Adoptions program,” Caiazzo said.

WPA rates

Caiazzo also included information on the CalWorks work participation rates program (WPA). He said that periodically the state provides counties with a summary of their federal WPA rate data.

“California has continued to make improvements in WPR rates and Plumas County has been among the top tier, particularly in respect to small county rates,” according to  Caiazzo.

In 2014, Plumas County’s performance for two-parent households at 40.5 percent was slightly below the statewide average of 40.8 percent.


Considering all families for the same time, the Plumas rate was 30 percent and the statewide rate 42.1 percent. Plumas was rated 22nd best in the state for 2014. “It is clear that Plumas performed very well compared to other small and medium counties,” Caiazzo.

Social services division — child welfare services

The emergency response unit for Child Protective Services averages about 15 investigations for child abuse every month, Caiazzo said.

Supervisor Lori Simpson asked if investigations are down. Caiazzo explained there are fewer investigations during the holidays and summer because there are fewer people to do the reporting. Teachers and other school personnel, including nurses, are at the forefront of child abuse suspicion reports. These people are among the mandated reporters.

August and September are the months when reporting is traditionally at its highest, he added.

Substance abuse, especially the use of methamphetamine, is a leading contributor to child abuse, Caiazzo said in his report. Alcohol and other drug use are other contributing factors.


Child in the system

For the children in the child welfare services system, there is a new trend toward placing children in the homes of relatives and non-related extended family members when it comes to foster care practices.

“While we expect that trend to continue, there remains a need for foster homes for children who come into our system,” Caiazzo explained to supervisors last week.

Places for children with special needs are in demand because there are few foster homes and group homes that provided specialized care.

An assembly bill in 2012 changed the law so that some children stay in the child welfare system longer so they can complete their education or secure independent housing.

Currently, Plumas County has four children who are on an education plan or living independent, according to Caiazzo. This has meant an increase in the case count that is not directly tied to new detentions of children.


Adult protective services

The department usually receives about 16 referrals per quarter concerning abuse or neglect of the elderly or disabled adults. “During the three-month period that concluded in September, the department received 27 requests for investigation,” Caiazzo said.

This is the fifth consecutive quarter, which includes a 15-month period, where referrals are above average. “The department has not identified any particular reason that referrals are growing other than good public awareness of potential threats to the safety and well-being of elderly and/or disabled persons,” Caiazzo said.

In-Home Supportive Services

This fiscal year, 2019-20, 352 cases were reported. The In-Home Supportive Services caseload had held steady for an average case count of 320 per month for the past 27 months.

Simpson pointed out that she’s learned that one million more IHSS workers were needed by 2020 for the aging population. “Now we’re at 2020,” she said. “It’s just going to grow. We need more of that care.”