Building Strong Systems

California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)

Updated November 2018

This benefits and work supports initiative of the California Department of Social Services provides eligible families with cash aid and services. California Community Colleges operate more than 100 California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) programs that offer participants education, training, personalized supports, and job opportunities.

The target population for services is students who are CalWORKs/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash aid recipients, and whose education programs have been approved by a county as part of its Welfare-to-Work Plan. Services are available for up to 48 months.

Funding comes from state appropriation that counts toward California’s Maintenance of Effort requirement to provide support for select services at the same level every year. Set funding is dedicated for work-study, child care, and job development.

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There could be opportunity to combine CalWORKs programs with Extended Opportunity Programs and Services/Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education (EOPS/CARE) programs to create a robust set of services. This could help move CalWORKs from a “process and paperwork” verification system to providing more intensive supports.

There could also be opportunity to connect programs that are separate today. For example, CalWORKs Americans With Disabilities Act funds could be allocated for adult schools and Regional Occupational Centers and Programs based on a local county’s CalWORKs plan. CalWORKs could raise awareness of this relationship and form collaborations based on shared goals and aligned responsibilities within the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, and connect to local Student Education Plan and Student Equity & Achievement Act efforts. 

Connecting CalWORKs with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act career pathways and identified in-demand sectors could help target specific industries with a skills shortage, engage employers based no occupational targets, and produce skills in students that are portable between employers.

CalWORKs could utilize Linked Learning, Adult Education Block Grant contextualized integrated instructional strategies, and targeted work-study aligned with career technical education coursework. This could improve delivery through Integrated Education and Training and work-based learning by giving CalWORKs access to participant-focused and evidence-based instructional practices.

Access comparative information in a print-friendly PDF.

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California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)

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