California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)


CalWORKs is an adult program that uses Supported Employment to apply the evidenced-based practice of Individual Placement and Support (IPS) to help clients compete in the workforce.  IPS uses an intensive multidisciplinary team approach with a team made up of a Clinical Coordinator, Clinicians, a Case Manager, and an Employment Specialist.  A team approach is vital to the success of the program which is to remove barriers to employment or education.  Services are individualized, focused on the client’s strengths. When available there are “Life Skills” groups.


The CalWORKs (CWs) program is a time-limited program that provides financial assistance to eligible needy families with (or expecting) children to help pay for housing, food, utilities, clothing, medical care, and other necessary expenses.

Generally, CWs is available to:

  • Families that have a child(ren) in the home who has been deprived of parental support or care because of the absence, disability or death of either parent.
  • Families with a child(ren) when both parents are in the home. but the principal earner is unemployed.
  • Caretaker relatives of a foster child(ren)

Limitation on the program:

  • With the passage of Welfare Reform in 1996, and the later implementation of California’s CalWORKs Program in January 1998, the receipt of cash assistance in California became subject to a 24-month time limit for most adults. The 24-month time clock starts as soon as the participant's aid is approved

Supportive Services to help overcome employment barriers:

  • Domestic Violence services including counseling, medical and public health information, parenting skills training, financial planning and relocation activities;
  • Substance Abuse services including evaluation and treatment;
  • Mental Health services (depression, anxiety, etc.) including assessment, case management, treatment and rehabilitation



PACS offers mental health services to CWs participants in Service Area 5 and Service Area 8. Clients are referred by their Gain Social Worker (GSW) at the Department of Social Services (DPSS).  There is a thorough clinical assessment that includes information about presenting problems, symptoms, psychiatric history, daily functioning, work history and screening for co-morbid substance abuse. This is used to determine an appropriate treatment plan.

Treatment interventions focus on ways to minimize or eliminate barriers to successful employment or education. The team works with the client to incorporate their short- and long-term treatment goals and are reviewed every three months by the clinician with the client.


Many modalities can be used to remove the barriers to employment. Some of them are: individual therapy, conjoint therapy, family therapy, group therapy, participation in the “Life Skills Support Group,” evidence-based practices, medication support by a staff psychiatrist, crisis intervention, case management including linkages that move clients towards self-sufficiency and other rehabilitation services.

“My case management team is awesome…my employment specialist focused on helping me maintain work and assist with any obstacles that may arise…such as my search for safe and decent housing.”  LR

A critical part of the CWs program is the evidenced-based Individual Placement and Support (IPS) practice.  It focuses on a curriculum that helps a client prepare and apply for employment.  The EBP usually takes 12 months and are individualized, focused on client strengths, and long-lasting. The IPS Program at PACS has maintained a consistently strong success rate.

“Until I came here, I had no faith in the system at all…. But you guys, you’re different…you have really helped me. I know you guys care.” - MN

When there are sufficient participants, Life Skill. Depression and Anger Management groups are offered.



“I am happy to report that I am a fully different person than the one who walked in ten months ago. I know that what I have learned about myself and the ways I view my life from a psychological perspective will help me for the rest of my life. “M” has helped me in an immeasurable way, going beyond the normal call of duty to ensure my mental well-being. I feel blessed to have been her client. Having experienced multiple therapists throughout my life, I can without doubt confirm that “M” is the most thorough counselor I’ve ever come across. I looked forward to our appointments, and therapy really worked for me. I am eternally grateful for her efforts, professionalism, and care. Most of all, I appreciate her genuine concern— it meant the world to me.”  RS


J., a 25-year-old African American female client, had been receiving therapy and case management services at PACS, through the CalWORKs program for 13 months. She was referred by her GAIN worker after she requested a mental health referral. When she arrived for her initial assessment, she was 5 months pregnant, homeless for two years, living at a temporary day shelter, and lacked support from family or friends. Unemployed for two years and feeling sadness and hopelessness, she was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. She began with weekly individual therapy sessions and case management services to address her urgent housing need.

This is an edited exit interview on her last day of therapy with her therapist, MS. J leaves the CWs program and PACS mental health services because she has a fulltime job at LAX. Her baby was born safely and has moved from temporary shelter housing to Section 8 Housing.

(J. agreed for her story to be used.)

Can you describe yourself as you were when you first came to PACS for therapy at the start of January 2018?

I was an emotional wreck. I had lost all hope. I did not believe that it would ever be OK again and I was ready to give up as a person. I was homeless and had been for two years, living in a car, outside and in shelters. I didn’t want to ask for help. I thought I could figure things out for myself, like I had always done. And finally, I figured that I just couldn’t.

What were your expectations about PACS and therapy and how did it compare to the reality of it?

When I first came, I really didn’t want to, I thought “this isn’t for me.” I convinced myself to come, by telling myself “I’ve just got to do this,” a final push. The reality was that it was a big help and a big relief. In the therapy, I was letting stuff go, the anger, depression, hurt, the crying. I learned a different way to be- that I can ask for help if I need it. That some people do care and that some people in the world are sincere and kind. I hadn’t ever experienced this before.

Can you share more about your feelings about PACS and the people you worked with here?

PACS was a center point for me. Here, I was able to express my thoughts and opinions and to get clarity. Before, I didn’t have anyone to tell anything to. I used to think everyone was judging me and that no one could understand where I came from. I was 5 months pregnant when I came to PACS and even though I was homeless, I didn’t expect housing help here, I just thought I would talk about my problems. Once I got here, I learned that they have people for everything, this person for this and this person for that. The people here were putting in a lot of effort and it is really special.

I was at a point where I did not believe in people anymore and here, I gave them a chance to help and they actually came through for me, this is remarkable!

What are you taking away from your year of mental health services at PACS?

I learned a different way to deal with the world. I learned that I can ask for help if I need it. I learned that some people do care. That some people in the world, like the people that helped me at PACS, are sincere and kind. I had never had this experience before.

Today, 13 months later. I have a healthy daughter that I love and am motivated to create a great life for. When I was 9 months pregnant my therapist at PACS found me a shelter, a place I could live safely and comfortably and bring my daughter back to from the hospital (Upward Bound House, Santa Monica). When she called me that day and told me to come right away because she had found me housing, I didn’t believe here, but I came anyway because I trusted her. It was a miracle. That same day I got a safe place to live and a few weeks later I brought my daughter home to a warm home that was my own. My therapist and case manager at PACS helped me to get approved for a Section-8 housing voucher and I received it one month ago. My case manager, even when I was frustrated, she kept calling me and was there for me when I had to go to the interviews at the housing office. I am currently looking for permanent housing. I also started a full-time job at the airport and have been earning a stable income and saving money for our future.

I am very grateful for PACS!

What are your goals for the future?

I am going back to college for an RN program. I will graduate that program and eventually I will become an MD, either a pediatrician or an Ob-Gyn. I plan to own a house, have savings for my daughter, and to keep taking care of my daughter and myself.