CalWORKs Primer

California’s welfare program is at the center of the state’s budget debates. CCRWF’s updated and newly released CalWORKs primer can help you deepen your understanding of the history, purpose and structure of this essential social service program.

Understanding CalWORKs: A Primer for Service Providers and Policymakers (2nd edition) reviews the major laws, programs and financing mechanisms for California’s welfare program. The primer also provides a profile of welfare families and highlights some of the key issues confronting practitioners and policymakers.

Understanding CalWORKs is one in a series of primers offered to assist practitioners and policy leaders in advancing their basic knowledge of complex social service systems. Originally published in 2002, this 2nd edition of the CalWORKs primer was made possible due to support from the Zellerbach Family Foundation.

This primer and a companion publication on Child Welfare Services also support Linkages, a statewide effort to coordinate welfare and child welfare programs in California.

Recommended Citation:

Reed, D. F., & Karpilow, K. A. (2010). Understanding CalWORKs in California: A primer for service providers and policymakers (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: California Center for Research on Women and Families. Available on the CCRWF website:

Permission to download and copy is granted. Please notify CCRWF at

Printed Copies:

While supplies last, printed copies are available at no charge through the Resource Center for Family Focused Practice (RCFFP), The Center for Human Services, U.C. Davis Extension, through a grant from the California Department of Social Services’ Office of Child Abuse Prevention.

Contact Monica Caprio at or (530) 757-8643.

Please do not contact CCRWF about printed copies.