Released: June 4, 1996


The Grand Jury received a request to examine the cost of health services, human services and public assistance within the county. The fiscal year 1995-96 county budget for these services is $165.4 million. (See Exhibit A.) In addition, the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services (DSS) administers Medi-Cal benefits of $165 million and food stamp benefits of $17 million. These amounts bring the total federal, state and county taxpayers' outlay in Santa Barbara County for one year to $347.4 million.

The Grand Jury noted that the largest single cost in the county budget is Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). For the fiscal year 1995-96, that particular budget item for Santa Barbara County is $54,681,949. Consequently the Grand Jury chose to take a closer look at AFDC and a program called Greater Avenues to Independence (GAIN). GAIN is a state-mandated employment services program administered by the county Department of Social Services (DSS) Employment Services Division. The program provides employment-related services and training for applicants and recipients of AFDC.


To ascertain the effectiveness of the Greater Avenues to Independence Program (GAIN) as implemented by the county Department of Social Services (DSS) and an outside contractor for the GAIN program, Curtis and Associates.

To determine outcomes from DSS and GAIN providers in helping clients to obtain work and thereby reduce AFDC needs.


The Grand Jury reviewed the county budget of the affected agencies as listed in Exhibit A. It interviewed the Director of the Department of Social Services (DSS), social workers, teachers, eligibility workers, case managers and employees of Curtis and Associates.

The Grand Jury looked at GAIN client surveys, examined test results and interviewed some of the current clients participating in the GAIN program.

The Grand Jury also studied the January 10, 1996 "Proposed Redesign for Welfare" published by the State of California Department of Social Services. (See Exhibit B.)



In 1932 the federal government under President Franklin Roosevelt enacted the National Recovery Act, (NRA), which initiated the welfare concept. Welfare was designed to act as a safety net to provide emergency aid to unemployed persons for a limited time. The original intention was not to foster third and fourth generation recipients.

Long term welfare dependency is a concern at the national, state and county levels of government.1 The President of the United States and the Governor of California are both calling for change, as are the nation's taxpayers.

The national concern for welfare reform has generated considerable media attention. Ideas being discussed include:

The Grand Jury can touch only the surface of welfare reform proposals. Not examined are other debated elements in the social fabric of the nation including abortion rights, adoption, birth control, same sex partners, and cohabitation.

In the continental United States, California has the second highest welfare grants. The state accounts for 27% of all monies spent nationwide for AFDC grants. It has 17% of the nation's AFDC caseloads even though it has only 12% of the U. S. population.2

In 1994, California provided assistance to an average of 2,700,000 people each month. The federal and state grants for AFDC in California totaled approximately $6.7 billion.3 Single parent families with dependent children comprise 84% of California AFDC cases. Thirty-two percent of AFDC families conceive additional children while receiving AFDC.4

In Santa Barbara County single parent families with dependent children comprise 66.8% of the county AFDC cases. Currently the county funds about 28,000 AFDC cases involving approximately 48,000 people. Each case includes all members of the family unit.

The county department that administers AFDC is the Department of Social Services (DSS). It is comprised of one director, three deputy directors and approximately 500 staff members in 10 Divisions.


To understand the scope of present day welfare, the Grand Jury looked at the sources for welfare funds for Santa Barbara County as provided in the 1995-96 DSS Program Manual. Out of the $92 million total federal, state and county expenditures administered through DSS, the net cost to the county for these entitlements and appropriations totals almost $9 million. Percentages of this $92 million are given below as follows:

Entitlement				Federal %	State %	County %
AFDC Administration			50.0		35.0		15.0
AFDC Grants				50.0		47.5		  2.5
Food Stamp Administration		50.0		35.0		15.0
General Relief				                                              100.0*

GAIN					50.0		35.0		15.0

An entitlement is a government program that guarantees and provides benefits to a particular group. An appropriation is a legislative act that authorizes the expenditure of an amount of public funds. *General Relief recipients do not receive AFDC.


All levels of government have been trying to find better ways to serve the AFDC client population. The state has tried several different programs to create stepping stones for AFDC recipients to become self-sufficient. One of the programs is the "Work Pays Program." Through this program when clients themselves obtained employment, the AFDC would supplement their income with earned income credit, child care and other work-related expenses. The AFDC payment would then be reduced accordingly and clients would become more confident and self-sufficient. (For an example of the Work Pays program see Exhibit C.)

Another step toward progress for AFDC recipients came with implementation of the GAIN program that helped clients learn job search skills which aided them in securing employment. In addition, they continued to receive the benefits of the Work Pays Program including the earned income credit, child care and the other work-related expenses.


In September 1993, Santa Barbara County initiated a GAIN pilot project with the opening of a GAIN Self-Sufficiency Center in Santa Maria. The county project set up a parallel tracking system for welfare clients through the DSS and an outside contractor, Curtis and Associates. To eliminate bias in selection, applicants to this program were divided into groups and served by the DSS or Curtis on the basis of their Social Security numbers. Clients with even numbers went through the DSS; clients with odd numbers went to Curtis.

When observing the DSS mode of operation, the Grand Jury found that DSS workers helped AFDC recipients with sensitivity and care. However, testimony to the Grand Jury indicated that the DSS traditional case management approach of the social worker counseling an AFDC family was not as productive in securing employment for AFDC applicants and recipients as compared with the approach used in the Curtis centers. At these centers AFDC participants are encouraged to seek employment as a first activity. According to testimony, the traditional case management orientation seemed to result in more clients becoming dependent on welfare while the newer Curtis program approach resulted in clients becoming more self-sufficient by finding employment.6

Prior to the pilot program, DSS used the Life Style Inventory (LSI) test. For the pilot program, Curtis used (and continues to use) this test to predict the personal psychological orientations (thinking styles) that contribute to success in the GAIN program. Curtis implements a cultural shift as part of the test. This factor is added to account for biases and beliefs of those people tested. Paradoxically, results from this testing indicate that those AFDC recipients who possess a "comfort zone" attitude created from assured receipt of AFDC funds are also the same group most likely to be successful in the GAIN program.7

Results of this pilot project in Santa Maria, which ended on August 31, 1995, showed that:

With the initial success of this pilot program in Santa Maria, the DSS implemented a new, blended system of administration between the DSS and Curtis in September, 1995 at the Curtis Self-Sufficiency Center in Santa Maria. This collaborative approach aims to improve GAIN outcomes through a more effective use of the sociological training of the DSS workers and the specific self-sufficiency approach of the Curtis workers.

Assembly Bill 1371 was passed in September, 1995 and implemented January 1, 1996. This legislation amends the GAIN law based upon the recommendations of the Governor's GAIN Advisory Panel. (See Exhibit D.) Because of changes to the GAIN project from AB 1371, all AFDC applicants currently can be assigned to the Curtis GAIN program unless the DSS defers applicants at the intake interview based on established state mandates. There still is a segment of the population that needs individual intervention by experienced social workers to be able to overcome barriers to self-sufficiency. Santa Barbara County also maintains an active Non-GAIN Education and Training Program (NET) to meet the child care needs of AFDC recipients who are in vocational education and training.

In January, 1996, a self-sufficiency center was opened in the City of Santa Barbara operating under the existing contract with Curtis and Associates. This center is enabling DSS to eliminate the backlog of AFDC participants in Santa Barbara. It also serves increased numbers of AFDC recipients now with the GAIN program. A third center will be opened in Lompoc as funds become available in 1997.

The following charts illustrate the dramatic progress of the Curtis GAIN program since its implementation in 1993-94. The DSS Director presented these charts to the Board of Supervisors in March of 1996 when they approved the "GAIN Plan Update for Fiscal Year 1995-96.9


The Curtis Self-Sufficiency Model is based on the following principles:10

When the client first reports to the GAIN program at the self-sufficiency centers, Curtis counselors explain their program step by step. Then the client signs an agreement pledging to follow the program. "To do" lists are made and followed. Goals are established. Budgeting of time and money are taught.

Clients participate in a four-week Job Club which is an intensive job search workshop. This workshop consists of up to 10 days of instruction designed to motivate, prepare and train participants to seek, obtain and maintain employment. The rest of the time is spent in supervised employment searches designed to ensure a high rate of successful placements. All Job Clubs are directed by the Curtis staff at their centers in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.

The focus of the GAIN program is on the actual job search. As the job search progresses, the Curtis GAIN staff provides supportive services, such as child care, transportation and work or training expenses.

Recipients who need remedial education first go through the GAIN program. Then they are scheduled for remedial education, English as a second language, or high school equivalencies as needed. The way the program is now organized, the clients' lack of education and possible learning disabilities are not addressed until the end of the program. The Grand Jury was told that approximately 50% of AFDC recipients in Santa Barbara County have the equivalent of a second grade education.11



Testimony from social workers indicated that a persistent problem with enforcing GAIN program regulations is non-compliance. Some clients do not cooperate with program rules. The Grand Jury was told by DSS staff that state regulation time lags are too long between actions to ensure compliance. If an AFDC client registers for a specific program offered through the DSS and does not comply with the action needed to participate in the program, then the DSS must notify the person in writing of his/her non-compliance. Subsequently, various appeal periods dictated by state mandates can result in over 60 days before sanctions can be imposed. Furthermore, clients "start and stop" during enrollment in the GAIN program in order to keep AFDC checks coming. The Grand Jury was told by DSS staff that some recipients abuse the system to obtain continuing benefits.

Testimony by employees to the Grand Jury focused on other problems to be considered:

Past Financial Audit

The last internal financial audit of the GAIN program by the Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller's office occurred in 1994. It spotlighted areas where cost savings and improved efficiency could be realized. While the audit found that Curtis was achieving its program goals and reducing the number of people remaining on AFDC, the audit also indicated the following problems areas:

Although the majority of these problems have been addressed in some manner, testimony to the Grand Jury said that continued review and consistent monitoring could lead to continued improvements.

Male Involvement Program

Because of the high teenage pregnancy rate in Santa Barbara County, the state targeted the county to participate in the state-sponsored Male Involvement Program. Klein Bottle Youth Programs is the lead agency that will administer this program in which the county has qualified for a share of a $7 million state pregnancy prevention grant. The goal of this program is to teach males about the responsibility of parenthood and avoidance of unintended pregnancies. Organization for the program began March 1, 1996, and the program will be in effect until July 30, 1998.

Both DSS workers and Curtis employees said that many school age pregnant teenagers are from broken homes. The fathers of their babies average 22 years of age. Many of these fathers are not willing or financially able to assume the responsibility of a family. The interviewees said that the fathers' help would lead to a more solid home base for the children but that it is difficult to change habits and cultural customs that have existed for years.

Additional Steps

Just as California is trying the Male Involvement Program, other states and counties are experimenting with further pilot programs to increase the efficiency of service deliveries and humanize the worker/client relationship. Moving GAIN programs physically out of the DSS buildings into separate facilities created a better orientation for the AFDC recipient to succeed. Some additional programs being tried also attempt to deliver the services in a more accessible manner: distributing food stamps through ATMs, social service employees delivering services at schools, or setting up neighborhood counseling centers.

Federal and State Interaction

The AFDC grant is one of the largest financial grants to the county. The federal and state governments threaten changes and cutbacks in financing the program. The Grand Jury found that Santa Barbara County DSS had anticipated cuts and changes to welfare programs when it implemented the GAIN pilot project and requested waivers from state mandates to do so. Because the DSS Director sought and received a waiver from state mandates, it could provide an employment emphasis from the first day of client participation in GAIN. A redesigned waiver request was granted effective October, 1995. This new waiver allows more participants in the county to reap the advantages of AB-1371 by streamlining the appraisal process.


The California Department of Social Services has proposed a redesign of the welfare system for state and local agencies. (See Exhibit B.) The GAIN program would be a stepping stone to programs listed in this proposed redesign. This proposal awaits action by the federal government.

Under this proposed welfare system, the state would provide broad oversight of a locally administered welfare delivery system. This would be accomplished by establishing new minimum standards for eligibility, benefits, and length of time on aid. There also would be establishment of performance-based outcomes to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of the service delivery structure and its operators.

The proposed program would be locally administered under contract with the state. Counties may continue to be the local entities administering welfare. Each county would continue to be responsible for its share of the cost of the welfare program as well as its continued administration of the General Relief Program.

Local administering entities will be given the flexibility to determine how to deliver the services necessary to meet the performance outcome objectives of the redesigned welfare program. This would include the ability to directly deliver services or contract with existing or newly-formed provider networks.

The proposed redesign would also permit the integration of interrelated service systems at the local level to best meet the needs of children and families. The goal is to eliminate duplication of services.


COMMENDATION: The Grand Jury commends the Director of DSS and Regional Vice President of Curtis and Associates and their staffs for effectively implementing the GAIN program in Santa Barbara County.

FINDING 1: State and federal mandates can hinder the social worker in accomplishing needed changes.

FINDING 2: The GAIN program is effective and cost efficient as administered by Curtis and Associates. The Board of Supervisors has renewed and extended the Curtis contract. FINDING 3: The experience with GAIN shows that education and skills are key factors of self-esteem and self-sufficiency. FINDING 4: There is a lack of enforcement measures to make AFDC clients comply with procedures and too long a gap in reducing benefits to those abusing the system. FINDING 5: Management of the social workers' time is crucial to serving clients' needs. Too much paperwork reduces time for training and client interaction. AB 1371 has begun the streamlining process to reduce paperwork. FINDING 6: States and counties are experimenting with pilot projects to increase the effectiveness of AFDC grants. FINDING 7: Klein Bottle Youth Programs has secured a state grant for a "Male Involvement Program" to teach males about the responsibility of parenthood and avoidance of unintended pregnancies. AFFECTED AGENCIES (California Penal Code Section 933c requires that comments to Grand Jury Findings and Recommendations be made in writing within 60 days by all Affected Agencies except governing bodies, which are allowed 90 days. The Grand Jury requires all responses be submitted on computer disk along with the printed response): END NOTES

Back to Menu