Magazine article Policy & Practice

Sustaining Linkages in San Luis Obispo County

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Sustaining Linkages in San Luis Obispo County

Article excerpt

San Luis Obispo County is a semi-rural county located along (he central coast of California, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, San Luis Obispo County has 269,637 residents. The current unemployment rate is 9.4 percent. The poverty rate was 13.2 percent in 2009. The San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services (DSS) administers Child Welfare Services (CWS), participant services (consisting of CalWORKs/ Welfare-to-Work or foster care or general assistance, CalFresh, and Medical), and adult services programs and serves approximately 12.8 percent of the county's residents.

The county DSS identifies Linkages as a partnership between CWS and participant services. This partnership provides families with a collaborative approach to case management and services. Staff engages families in a coordinated and supportive manner to establish a cooperative foundation for future relationships and to assess family concerns, strengths and resources.

The DSS implemented Linkages in 2005, and instituted many changes to support a single point of entry for families. Regional managers became responsible for managing staff across all programs and staff was colocated in each regional office. Social workers were assigned to a unit with a single program assignment. Assignments consist of Intake, Emergency Response, Dependency Investigation, Family Maintenance/Family Reunification, Licensing, Placement or Adoptions. Participant services--employment resource specialists--became integrated caseload managers. Their caseload consists of a primary cash-based program (CalWORKs/Welfare to Work or foster care or general assistance) CalFresh, and medical services. In addition, an employment resource specialist IV position was created to specialize in employment services, serve as a community liaison, facilitate family team meetings, and mentor the employment resource specialists. In order to coordinate case plans with the family and collaborate to provide services, a confidentiality policy was introduced, authorizing DSS staff to internally share relevant information. A Linkages database was developed to identify families involved with both CWS and participant services. Staff would then make entries to document coordinated case plans and track collaboration efforts and families' progress.

In 2009, an evaluation of the Linkages database showed that it was not being utilized because staff had to manually enter the majority of data. Because of the database's complexity, staff was not using it as a resource to identify families involved with both CWS and participant services. The Linkages database was then redesigned to minimize repetitive data entry, improve accuracy in identifying families with cases in common, and to increase staff tracking of a family's progress. In addition, a Co-Case Management Tool (CCMT) was developed for participant services staff to manage their CalWORKs families Wei fare-to-Work, Time-on-Aid, and Linkages activities.

The CCMT provides a centralized and efficient CalWORKs caseload management system to support participant services staff collaboration, supervision and management reports. The CCMT automatically populates CalWORKs participant data, as well as the majority of Welfare-to-Work activities and Time on Aid data. The data is updated from CalWIN on a daily basis. The CCMT enhances internal reporting capabilities to identify targeted linkages populations, such as Welfare-to-Work Sanctioned families and families eligible for CalWORKs Family Reunification Services.

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The Linkages data collection system was integrated into the CCMT. The Linkages section enables employment resource specialist IVs to document collaborative efforts in serving a family and the date a coordinated case plan was signed. This date is then used to track the results of the family's future self-sufficiency and child well-being. …

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