California Department of Social Services

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Department of Social Services
Agency overview
Jurisdiction California
Annual budget US$ 19.7 billion (2011)
Agency executive
  • Will Lightbourne, Director
Parent agency California Health and Human Services Agency

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) is a California state agency for many of the programs defined as part of the social safety net in the United States, and is within the auspices of the California Health and Human Services Agency. Federal and State funds for adoptions, foster care, aid to the disabled, family crisis counseling, subsistence payments to poor families with children, child welfare services and many other efforts are distributed through this department. The department is headed by the Director, Will Lightbourne.

Its mission is "to serve, aid and protect the needy and vulnerable children and adults in ways that strengthen and preserve families, encourage personal responsibility, and foster independence."


CDSS has more than 4,000 employees in 54 offices throughout the state and is responsible for:

  • CalWORKs, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare-to-work program
  • CalFresh is the California implementation of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp program, which provides financial assistance for purchasing food for those in Poverty in California
  • Ensuring efficient, accurate and equitable delivery of payments and benefits
  • Providing services that foster self-sufficiency and dignity
  • Providing social services to the elderly, blind, disabled and other children and adults
  • Licensing and regulating foster homes, group homes, residential care facilities, day care facilities, child care facilities and preschools
  • Evaluating eligibility of applicants for disability-related benefits for certain federal and state programs, including Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability and Medi-Cal


The Department of Social Services is divided into 10 divisions, with programs, branches, and agencies under those divisions:

  • Administration
  • Legal
  • Children and Family Services
  • Community Care Licensing
  • Disability Determination Service
  • Adult Programs
  • Welfare to Work
  • Human Rights and Community Services
  • State Hearings
  • Information Systems

The department's director receives $340,000 per year in pay and benefits, making the job one of the highest paid state officials in California.[1] To avoid the state wage law cap of $165,000, the compensation package is paid through Santa Clara County, with the state reimbursing the county.[1] It was authorized by Health and Human Services Agency secretary Diana Dooley.[1] The CA Women and Children Commission, set up to advocate the needs of California Women/Children, total budget is 72,000 (usd) less than the Director of Social Services(not including benefits). A State compensated social services worker receives from 48,000 to 75,000 usd per year.


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