By Victoria Metcalf
Special to Plumas News
Already working on the 2020-21 fiscal year reporting, Department of Social Services Director Neal Caiazzo reported semi-annual trends for the last half of 2019-20.
Appearing before the Plumas County Board of Supervisors, Caiazzo said that cash assistance is up slightly and CalFresh caseloads are up by nearly 200 over the same time last year.
“The report provides information regarding public assistance caseloads and workload trends for services that are offered by the Department of Social Services,” Caiazzo explained in his report.
Caiazzo reported on case count, workload, application data, referral and other information through June 2020.
Welfare to Work and Public Assistance
“The overall trend for applications has been upward,” Caiazzo explained.
The average number of applications for the first half of this year was 262 a month. About one year ago the average was 230 per month.
“COVID-19 (does not appear to have had a significant impact on applications received,” Caiazzo said.
Clients are now encouraged to fill out applications online and then submit.
In this same area, MediCal health insurance received the most applications of all, he said.
The average number of CalWORKs cases per month in Plumas County was 123 at the end of June. That is relatively steady, according to Caiazzo. As a comparison, he said there were 121 cases in December 2019.
“The continued stability of the case count is highly encouraging and leads the department to maintain that our local economy is improving,” Caiazzo said.
There are also a number of cases where a non-needy close relative is providing care for an eligible child.
Looking at CalFresh, a supplemental nutrition assistance program is continuing to see a growth in the program and its caseload. For the six-months leading up to December 2019, the average monthly caseload was 1155. For the six-months ending June 30, the caseloads increased to 1338.
“For working people, CalFresh supplements their purchasing power,” Caiazzo explained. These are the people who are low-income; yet don’t earn enough to meet their basic needs.
Caiazzo went on to say that the number of participants who are 55 or older, and individuals with disabilities are increasing. “It was less likely to see people in those areas applying,” he said.
The case count for the state’s insurance program continues to grow. Active cases continued to grow by about 120 cases per month during the first six months ending June 30.
Those eligible for the expanded MediCal program are 138 percent of the feral poverty level or less. “For a single individual that roughly translates into about $1,467 per month,” he said.
For a single working person that is about $17,609 a year. For a family of three with an annual income at 138 percent of the poverty level that is $29,974 or less.
The average caseload in 2017-18 was 3,081; in 2018-19 it was 3009; and for the last fiscal year it was 3,265.
In 2012 the state had the department begin operating the Adoptions program. That includes services and benefits as mandated by the Welfare and Institutions Code.
Services include home studies, training for adoptive parents, and case management. Adoptive families also qualify for cash assistance. The caseload was 70 adoptive children to 41.
Child Welfare Services
For the first six month of the target fiscal year, the department averaged about nine-child abuse investigations per month. “It is likely that referrals decreased during the ‘stay at home’ order,” Caiazzo said. This is because families had fewer opportunities to meet with teachers and other observers outside the home where reporting suspicious circumstances are mandated.
“We have continued to experience significant numbers of cases where the precipitating factors leading to abuse and neglect are associated with substance abuse, in particular methamphetamine, but also alcohol and other drugs,” Caiazzo explained.
“Substance abuse and the resultant failure to fulfill a parenting role is the foremost reason that children are removed from unsafe environments,” he added.
Children in the Child Welfare Services System
Some children can stay in the Child Welfare System longer since the passage of Assembly Bill 12 in 2012. This is so they can complete their education or so they can secure independent housing. Currently there are four children who fit this program. “This circumstance has generated an increase in the case count, which is not directly associated with new detentions of children,” he said.
The department is continuing its trend toward placing foster children with relatives and with non-related extended family members. “This has placed us in a position where we are less reliant on foster family agencies and foster homes for placement resources,” Caiazzo told the board.
Despite this practice continuing, there is a need for foster family homes and agencies. “This is particularly evident when the department detains children with special needs as there are fewer foster homes or group homes that provide the specialized care needed by these children.”
Adult Protective Services
The department usually receives eight referrals a month for situations involving abuse or neglect of the elderly or disabled people.
In the last six months of the fiscal year, the department received 42 requests for investigation.
In-Home Supportive Services
Better know as IHSS, the caseload has increased slightly over the first six months of 2020. The average case count went from 337 to 359.