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August 21, 2016 – Nevada County is rich with non-profit community-based organizations that provide an array of services to families in need.  The Nevada County Department of Social Services (DSS) partners with many of these local organizations to deliver services funded through the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Program. On first glance, services like domestic violence counseling or parenting classes may not seem “employment related,” however these issues, if unaddressed, cause many parents to miss work or not be able to work as consistently as an employer would expect.

To improve utilization of community based services, last year DSS developed a weeklong workshop called CalWORKs Connect, where service providers come to the CalWORKs office to meet newly enrolled CalWORKs participants and present their services.  The workshop is offered once per month with the goal to create a “warm handoff” to service providers resulting in increased CalWORKs participants’ utilization of these services.

In July this year, the program agenda was revised to meet additional gaps in participant needs, adding Sierra College, Western Sierra Medical Clinic, Behavioral Health and the Alliance for Workforce Development to the presenters list which also includes Community Recovery Resources, Partners Family Resource Centers, KARE Crisis Nursery, Nurturing Parenting Program, Nevada County Works!, West America Bank, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition, Public Health, Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, and Community Legal.

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After 12 months and 12 workshops, the results show the program is working.  Both participants and presenters report increased utilization of services, shorter lag times between referrals and services beginning, and improved outcomes for CalWORKs families.  To date 102 participants have attended CalWORKs Connect and attendance has been increasing each month.

At the August CalWORKs Connect Graduation Ceremony last Friday, the largest cohort yet, eleven participants, shared aloud their employment and life goals in front of their families, classmates and County staff, solidifying what they learned during the workshop about themselves and the resources available in the community to help them to reach their fullest potential.

For more information, contact Mali Dyck, CalWORKs Program Manager at (530) 470-2631 or mali.dyck@co.nevada.ca.us.