California Transforms Their Welfare-to-Work Programs

The Situation.  The state of California is home to one of the most influential welfare-to-work programs in the nation. The California Welfare Directors Association (CWDA) began a research-based initiative to shift from a more compliance-oriented approach to a more family-focused, goal-oriented approach.  Mathematica Policy Research invited GLP to join this multi-year effort that would require sharing information and training staff in the new tools, processes, and approaches developed from pilot sites in multiple offices across all 58 counties.   

The Journey.  GLP was involved from the start in reviewing early assessment data from counties and naming implications for the new approach. We also contributed to the creation of tools for county administrators as well as frontline staff. We helped problem-solve around how to share information and conduct training across such a large and diverse population with a combination of innovative online and in-person events.

We were leaders in developing facets of the project to share research and results in ways that any local office could access at their convenience including: the initial CalWORKs 2.0 website; regular webinars featuring researchers and local practitioners trying things out, and field newsletters that were intentionally educational and informative.  We also designed and produced training videos and other training materials in ways that gave counties with varying training budgets access to resources that anyone could use.  For example, the Evidence-to-Practice training modules developed here are being used throughout the country to help staff unpack relevant research, apply it to their settings, and practice ways to interact with clients in ways that align with latest research.

The Impact. GLP accompanied lead teams from 10 counties over the course of 9 months so that they could provide invaluable input into the early concept testing, the draft materials, the training materials, and more. As we connected with the field over time, we discovered how counties were using the guidelines and resources from the initiative to strengthen their programs. Here’s one short reflection on the potential of CW 2.0 on staff and on clients: The Road to CalWORKs 2.0.

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