Benefit Access Road Map

Understanding the unmet basic needs of Linkages families, followed by knowing the terrain of available public services, both local and statewide, then gathering the right players to create protocols that ensure better access to the services and resources available in your county. Use the tips and resources contained in the road map steps below to guide your planning process.

1. Determine which target populations have unmet basic needs that could be addressed by access to public benefits.

Your Linkages program focuses on specific families who are involved both in Child Welfare Services and CalWORKs. A Benefit Access strategy encourages counties to expand Linkages services to a broader group of families–especially those in your county who are traditionally underserved. In this step, spend time with your Linkages team to identify families in your county who have basic unmet needs and are experiencing barriers to accessing available benefits.

Possible families:

  • Foster youth emancipating from CWS
  • Noncustodial parent
  • Parents not eligible for CalWORKs
  • Relative caregiver
  • Undocumented parent

2. Review the available benefits in your county.

In addition to public benefits available across California (see Statewide Inventory of Public Benefits), each county has a unique array of services generated by local organizations and institutions wanting to meet specific human needs within the community. While gathering the total array of services offered in your county into one place may seem a daunting task, having it will enable more workers to help more families receive benefits. If your county currently does not have this kind of inventory, see the examples in the Resource column for how other counties have organized theirs. Knowing that services are available will also help determine how to successfully match needy families with available services.

 Experience tells us…


  • Several Linkages counties   have web sites providing similar information to 211

3. Choose the target population where significant unmet needs intersect with available benefits.

You know who the needy families are in your county; you have a list of services available both statewide and locally. The next step is to study the intersection of these two information sources to determine which target population in your county you want to match with which available services..

Experience tells us…

  • Start with families lacking the most basic needs and match them to the most readily available services
  • Once this core population is being served, consider expansion to other needy families


4. Gather a planning team to design the benefit access strategy.

The specific steps for delivering services within Benefit Access need to be proposed, vetted and confirmed. To do this, create a planning team with members who are familiar with:

  • Your target population (e.g. Emancipated Youth)
  • Your county’s Linkages program (e.g. Linkages Coordinators)
  • The benefits needed by the target population (e.g. TAY or ILP program manager)
  • Protocol design and development (e.g. Supervisor or Policy Analyst)

Experience tells us…

  • Bring the right people to the table, who have influence in the areas of expertise you need
  • Consider methods to ensure quick access to benefits & assurance of follow-through
  • Strategize together to find ways to prioritize access for this population


5. Establish the policies and procedures to guide Benefit Access strategy.

How will families in Benefits Access be documented? Who records which services they receive and how is that communicated to other workers? The specific steps around identifying specific families, matching them to services, conducting the services and documenting the results are all part of a Benefits Access protocol your county will need to establish.

Experience tells us…

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel! Learn from other counties to build or refine your benefit access strategies and protocols.
  • Communicate new protocols to involved staff to ensure full understanding of their role in carrying out the strategy and how their actions will help vulnerable families connect to benefits.
  • Designate a Linkages Coordinator or another position to be a point person about your new benefit access protocol. Having a go-to person helps others troubleshoot kinks in the process (especially in the beginning).

6. Implement Benefit Access strategy.

At this point, your county is ready to launch its Benefit Access strategy. The steps laid out in the Implementation Planning Road Map from the Assessment & Planning Toolkit provide useful guidance for this final task.