2021 DPSS Annual Report Online_FINAL


Annual Report 2020/2021

In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, Riverside County’s Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) administered more than $1.2 BILLION in benefits to nearly 1 MILLION county residents.


Annual Report 2020/2021


Director’s Message


Mission, Vision, Values


Adult Services


Administrative Services


Children’s Services




Leadership Through Stewardship


Who We Serve


TOP Planning


Annual Action Plan


Executive Leadership


County Supervisors



Annual Report 2020/2021

Message from OUR DIRECTOR

Dear Staff, Our 2020–2021 Annual Report gives key snapshots of the one million Riverside County residents DPSS served during the 2020–2021 fiscal year. The stories of resiliency, restoration, and courage we highlighted are testaments to the compassionate around-the-clock service our workforce and partners provide every day to children, seniors, families, and individuals in need. The global COVID-19 pandemic reinforced our critical mission to improve the health, safety, independence, and well-being of our community. In the year ahead, we will continue collaborating with our public partners to strengthen and expand our integrated services and how we provide them. We will maintain our focus on prevention and early intervention, reducing barriers, and increasing resources for vulnerable and impoverished populations. Along with our local and statewide partners we strive to expand access to health insurance, employment training, food assistance, childcare services, and housing support. We plan to further strengthen our system-wide partnerships to effectively provide comprehensive services that empower families to thrive and be self-sufficient. We strongly believe in the power and importance of partnerships to accomplish our mission. Many thanks to all our partners including the Board of Supervisors, Executive Office, and DPSS staff for your collective support and tireless commitment to improving the lives of children and adults in Riverside County.

In partnership, Sayori Baldwin, MPA Assistant County Executive Officer, Riverside County


Annual Report 2020/2021


MISSION Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) is dedicated to supporting and improving the health, safety, independence, and well-being of individuals and families.

VISION Riverside County DPSS is an innovative organization where caring professionals collaborate to provide the most effective solutions to customers.


■ Accountability ■ Collaboration ■ Respect ■ Diversity ■ Integrity ■ Customer Focus ■ Learning

...dedicated to supporting and improving the health, safety, and well-being of individuals and families.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

Todd Bellanca Assistant Director of Adult Services

Adult Services is forging dynamic public and private partnerships, locally and statewide, to meet the health and housing needs of our aging population. We are taking an active role in the implementation of California’s Master Plan on Aging to realize a statewide roadmap that promotes the well-being of seniors and protects them from isolation,

abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Today, we are readying caregivers and communities for the challenges and rewards of caring for their aging loved ones and neighbors at home. In Riverside County, we are creating environments where people of all ages can thrive!

Online Webinars Urge Elder Abuse Prevention During Pandemic

The pandemic required Riverside County to move its annual Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Symposium online, as advocates and officials collaborated to keep seniors safe. Adult Protective Services hosted four webinars in June and July. Agencies that serve the elder population and investigate cases of elder abuse and neglect attended the webinars. Webinars included an informative discussion on dementia, the role of the Public Administrator’s office in investigating cases of elder abuse, an overview from the coroner’s office on issues unique to the population, and how to recognize Diogenes Syndrome, a behavioral- health condition characterized by poor personal hygiene,

hoarding, and unkempt living conditions.

The webinars successfully communicated critical information to a large audience, comparable to the annual in-person events. Webinar results:

■ 514 attendees over four webinars. ■ The online format allowed for attendees from multiple states including Nevada, Utah, Hawaii, Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia. ■ Survey respondents largely attended for professional development and 97% reported that the webinars met their goal.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

Protective Services: By the Numbers









Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

Woman of the Year: MICHAELA WILLIAMS

Michaela Williams with Adult Services leads an award- winning team that protects seniors and at-risk adults from financial fraud and homelessness. That work earned her an honor — the “Woman of the Year” Award for 2020. The woman of the year award celebrates Women’s History Month. Each March, senators and assembly members recognize women making a difference in communities across the state. Williams was nominated by Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside). Williams, a Senior Community Program Specialist with the Curtailing Abuse Related to the Elderly (C.A.R.E.)

Program, also served as co-chair of the annual Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Symposium. Williams coordinates a specialized team of medical, behavioral health, social services, law enforcement, and other partners to safeguard at-risk seniors from housing instability and homelessness. Roth selected Williams for the Woman of the Year award for her advocacy. “Ms. Williams has helped get justice for those who have been financially exploited and played a critical role in getting resources and support for our most vulnerable residents during this pandemic.”


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

Collaborative Program Receives State Award In partnership with DPSS Adult Services, the Office on Aging’s Holistic Assessment, Resources & Transitions for Seniors (HARTS) program earned a Challenge Award from the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) in late 2020. 2. Professional nursing care follow up: Home visitation within 48 hours of client discharge to create a safety plan and ensure the client understands follow-up instructions.

3. Caregiver support: Establish homemaker services in cases where the client and/or their family faces new challenges that disrupt their daily life. 4. Medical Case Management (MCM): Provide medical, nutritional, social, and financial assistance. During the first 18 months of HARTS, 126 clients were referred to the program. About 45% of them (57 total) accepted MCM services. Of those 57 clients, 98% were able to manage their health care goals within three months after discharge while 89.5% were able to manage their treatment plans for at least 6 months after discharge.

Each year CSAC recognizes counties who are serving their residents in novel, efficient, and cost-effective ways. HARTS was one of 20 programs honored with a Challenge Award in 2020. The goal of HARTS is to increase positive health outcomes for hospitalized seniors with a history of abuse or neglect. Studies show that among vulnerable seniors 65 and older, hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge ranges from 12.5 to 16%. As a response to this problem, HARTS provides four critical services to seniors upon hospital admission:

1. Hospital transition: Immediate referral of APS client to a HARTS social worker.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

Virginia in front of her home, holding a photo of herself from her days as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Last year, when Virginia was on the brink of losing her beloved home, she received help from DPSS. The financial assistance allowed her to keep her home and garden.


■ The Housing Workforce Solutions (HWS) department ■ Homeless/Housing Opportunities, Partnership & Education Program (HHOPE) ■ Riverside County Self-Sufficiency ■ California Department of Motor Vehicles ■ Social Security Administration We were able to expand our reach while continuing our ongoing efforts. With an influx of emergency funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (also known as the CARES Act) and funding from California’s Home Safe Program, Riverside County received nearly $2 million in new funding, which allowed us to meet more people’s needs than ever before.

Currently, there are hundreds of homeless seniors in Riverside County. And that number is likely to grow next year...and the year after that.

Over the course of the past year, two factors intensified the increasing homeless senior population: 1. The combination of a rapidly growing aging population and the skyrocketing cost of housing.

2. Instability and isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Riverside County’s Adult Protective Services team rose to the occasion. To create innovative and effective solutions, we collaborated with several Riverside County agencies:

■ Office on Aging (OoA) ■ Continuum of Care (CoC)


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services


With funding available to support serving homeless and unstably housed individuals, our department was able to expand the Adult Protective Services (APS) Crisis Response and Intervention Services unit (CRIS). This team of APS social workers was created to serve seniors who are already homeless or at risk for becoming homeless. We now have four units staffed with social workers who can spring into action to provide targeted, short-term interventions to aid seniors in crisis due to housing instability or homelessness. A key example of the work this team does: helping seniors procure transitional housing to get them off the streets and out of the shelters so they can obtain more permanent housing with the support of section 8 vouchers. Since March 2020, more than 260 seniors received Section 8 vouchers. We also work to identify and remove barriers so seniors can independently function in their new living environments. WE UTILIZED OUR MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAM. For years, Riverside County has been forming multidisciplinary teams to help solve some of the most difficult cases. Professionals from across the county come together to create a safety net for clients with complex needs. For seniors experiencing homelessness, or those at risk of losing housing, Riverside County works through a specialized multidisciplinary team focused on stability through the “housing-first” concept. This team of public and private stakeholders continued to change lives throughout the pandemic by housing vulnerable seniors.

In late 2019, the state issued the 100-Day Challenge Initiative for California Cities & Counties to Fight Homelessness — and we jumped right in. Riverside County was one of four counties selected to participate. In the first 100 days, Riverside County successfully housed 74 seniors in permanent housing and issued a total of 120 housing vouchers to seniors preparing for this transition. Most importantly, the County leveraged the challenge to broaden the range of organization involved in solving the homelessness and housing crisis for seniors in Riverside County to include non-profit service providers and government agencies. WE HELPED SENIORS AT RISK FOR HOMELESSNESS. Homelessness prevention is one of the most important things we as a community can do. We are proactive about finding solutions to keep seniors in their homes, so they don’t have to experience homelessness. If a senior is facing eviction due to code enforcement violations, unpaid back taxes, or limited income, we work to help them address the issues to help them remain safely housed.


With the aid of Project RoomKey funds, we helped more than 100 seniors find emergency housing when stay- at-home orders were issued in response to Covid-19. Typically, the seniors received vouchers that paid for a hotel room. In addition to safe, clean lodging, each senior was also assigned a case manager and caseworkers to help them get connected with other benefits and supportive services to help them begin to find permanent housing.

After bouncing between shelters and living in his car, Raphael was able to move into a safe casita with resources accessed through DPSS: Project RoomKey and Section 8 Housing.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

The road ahead

We are already thinking and planning for the future, and we know the need will be great. One in every five of Riverside County’s 2.5 million residents is age 60 or older, and it’s a population that’s projected to double in coming decades. The cost of living, including housing costs, continues to rise in California, and many more seniors could potentially lose their homes because

they can’t keep up with the mounting bills. From January 2020 through June 2021, we assisted more than 200 unstably housed seniors.

In the meantime, we will continue to work with our partners to build effective solutions. And we never

forget that people who are homeless are people first, not just statistics.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

Edwina Edwina’s apartment is a cozy spot. But the road to settling into that apartment was a long one, full of twists and turns for the 80-year-old woman.

she was living when Melissa Torres, a Riverside County Adult Protective Services (APS) social worker, met her in late 2019. And that’s when the search for permanent housing began. Torres and Edwina worked together to complete applications for Section 8 housing, Medi-Cal and CalFresh. While they waited for the applications to process, she became eligible for Project RoomKey — a program that provides safe, temporary shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. A couple months later, thanks to Torres’ painstaking efforts to get all the documentation in order, Edwina was approved for section 8 housing and moved into an apartment. She even began receiving In Home Supportive Services (IHSS), which allowed her to hire a caregiver. Today, Edwina is thriving. She has all the benefits she needs to keep her safe and secure.

Many years ago, Edwina was living in Big Bear as a live-in caregiver. However, when the gentleman she cared for passed away, Edwina was left without a home or income, all in one fell swoop. Edwina has never been married, never had children, and reported not having any kind of support network. This is when she entered her first homeless shelter. However, as her health started to decline, she entered a skilled nursing facility. Unfortunately, the facility couldn’t serve as a permanent home for Edwina, and she didn’t have anywhere to go. The streets are no place for anyone — especially an elderly woman in a wheelchair. After an assault, Edwina found temporary shelter at the Path of Life homeless shelter. That’s where


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services


Not long ago, John had a part-time clerical job, helping seniors in his community. But after four years on the job, his work contract ran out. That’s when things took a turn. As a result of John losing his job, he lost his apartment — he could no longer pay the rent. He studied his monthly income: $1,000 from Social Security and $170 from CalFresh benefits (which are specifically designated for food). There was no way he could afford the monthly minimum of $1,100 that one-bedroom rentals were going for in Riverside County. Without enough money and without any support, John felt hopeless. How would he ever find a place to live? When he first heard about Project RoomKey, he didn’t realize that his life was about to change again — but this time for the better.

With the help of APS social worker Fabiola Miranda, John received a Section 8 voucher and began searching for homes. He applied for more than 20 units, only to be denied. He studied the growing list in a small notebook that he kept in his pocket and fought off discouragement. Finally, a landlord in Hemet decided to give him a shot. It took awhile for everything to be sorted out, but now John, 68, has an apartment with an orange tree in the backyard (which he loves) and a job as a community services assistant with Riverside County. “I’m actually renting my place for less than what the section 8 grant was for,” he says.

Thanks to the help of many organizations within Riverside

County, John is now back on track. “It worked out pretty great. I looked and I prayed and I looked and I prayed, and this is what happened,” he says.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

Raphael Raphael’s whole world was turned upside down when his father passed away. If the loss of his father wasn’t enough, he soon discovered that his father had deeded his estate to

Fortunately, his luck began to change in April 2020, when Raphael was referred to Project RoomKey. Once he was safe in a hotel room, he began working on Section 8 housing applications. He got discouraged at times, but APS social worker Emmanuel Baxa constantly encouraged him to stick with it and not give up. With Baxa’s help, Raphael was able to move into a safe, clean casita in October 2020. Home Safe funds that the county received from the state were used to pay a double deposit, and Raphael was home at last. His gratitude toward everyone who helped him find safe, stable housing is profound.

another family member, who promptly sold the house in Palm Springs and evicted Raphael who lived in the home. Raphael took stock of his assets. He received about $600 per month from Social Security and about $166 in CalFresh benefits. Without enough to put a down payment on a rental home, let alone pay one month’s rent, Raphael bounced between shelters and spent time living out of his car. For three years, he searched for affordable housing with no luck. The constant moving took a toll on him. He felt lost. He owed money to friends, and he despaired over his bad credit.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

Virginia Helping a vulnerable person get off the streets or out of a homeless shelter and into a safe home of their own is a rewarding experience. Equally rewarding is helping people remain in their homes when they’re on the brink of homelessness.

including her property tax payments. Her debt kept growing. When the thought of possibly having to leave her home became a reality, Virginia contacted DPSS and Office on Aging to ask for financial assistance. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Adult Services team and its partners, she received funding to get caught up on property taxes and erase the worry of homelessness from her mind. Of course, Virginia points out that she still has to pay the mortgage and other bills, but she’s able to stay in her home, along with her four cats. And for that, she is so grateful. “I’m happy here, and it’s very private,” she says. “There’s a little forest right outside my window that I can see, and it’s so beautiful. It’s ideal for me.”

Virginia, 82, has lived in Cherry Valley for 22 years. She served as a Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and spent many years teaching English as a Second Language at California State University and several other schools. Located at the end of a quiet cul-de- sac, her mobile home is surrounded by trees and rosebushes that she planted herself. Though she’s still living and gardening there, last year she was on the brink of losing it all. Like many other seniors, Virginia lives on a fixed income. But with living expenses skyrocketing, Virginia fell behind on some of her bills,


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services


Today, William is happily housed. For more than five years, though, he was homeless. During that time, he battled the struggles of substance abuse and despair, would often go for days without eating, and had his few remaining personal belongings stolen from him. William had no family, no friends, no support system…and no hope. Even so, he often turned down offers for assistance. However, APS social worker Jose Cano decided that he wasn’t giving up on William. Cano had worked to establish a rapport with William, and he used that rapport to convince William to accept help from Project RoomKey. This initiative enabled people without permanent housing to find temporary, safe housing while the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded.

paperwork to apply for Section 8 housing. William eventually agreed to accept assistance and was accepted for a studio apartment in Cathedral City. He moved into the apartment in February 2021 and proudly paid his first month’s rent independently. Today, William, who is 73, is happy to be living in his own safe place, free at least from the fears and worries that plagued him on the streets.

Cano also convinced William to complete all the necessary


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

In-Home Supportive Services

Dana White with his IHSS caregiver Diane Long outside White’s home in Corona.

Strengthening Support for Seniors Riverside County’s over-60 population is expected to grow by 250% in coming decades, making it one of the five “grayest’ counties in California. On top of their rising numbers, sustained economic uncertainty, a deterioration of social supports and shrinking supply of affordable housing are putting a growing number of aging residents at risk of homelessness and other adverse circumstances. range of services with activities of daily living and some medical support for seniors or people with disabilities. Many seniors will prefer to use services that allow them to remain in their homes, such as In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS). We are:

1. Supporting the development of age-friendly communities. 2. Developing engaging programs and environments for adults. 3. Increasing access to supportive services. 4. Educating, reporting, and reducing elder abuse and increasing prevention. 5. Creating strong partnerships and teams with like-minded public and private partners to protect seniors and at-risk adults from abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

Advocates and planners are preparing now for the present and future needs of this population. Alongside our partners in the Office on Aging and many others in the public and private sector, we strive to prevent the abuse and neglect of seniors and dependent adults. Among the options for seniors requiring some assistance with daily living, nursing homes are by far the most expensive to live. Assisted living facilities provide a


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

Percentage Increase of Elderly Population Aged 60 and Over (Top Map) and Aged 85 and Over (Bottom Map), 2010 - 2060

Over 200% 150.0-199.9% 100.0-149.9%

Seniors with a self-care limitation

400 K 600 K 800 K 1 M 1.2 M


50.0-99.9% Under 50%


444,100 423,500


2000 2012 2030

Over 400% 300.0-399.9% 200.0-299.9% 150.0-199.9% 50-149.9%


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Highlights





COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach to more than 38,000 IHSS recipients & more than 30,000 IHSS providers.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adult Services

Gage (at left) with his stepmom and caregiver Victoria Woodworth.

Family Steps in to Become an In-Home Caregiver Gage is a teenager living with autism, seizures and learning disabilities. When his mother abandoned him in 2018, Gage’s grandparents began caring for him. Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit, they were unable to continue meeting the youngster’s needs. older adults and those with disabilities live safely at home rather than in skilled nursing or other residential facilities.

Woodworth helps 13-year-old Gage learn to read and write. She assists with his personal care, such as bathing and getting dressed. As Riverside County recruits more IHSS caregivers, Woodworth hopes more people will consider the profession. “The Public Authority was really helpful,” Woodworth said. “They made it easy to download the needed paperwork and go through online training. It was a great experience, and I just want to give Gage a better quality of life. He’s worth it.”

That’s when his stepmom, Victoria Woodworth, stepped in. “They needed relief and he needed stability,” Woodworth said about her decision to leave her career as an accountant in Las Vegas and move to Lake Elsinore to take care of Gage fulltime. Early this year Woodworth became one of nearly 34,000 caregivers for the In-Home Supportive Services program. The homecare workers help more than 40,000


Annual Report 2020/2021

Administrative Services

Marianna Sarmiento Assistant Director, Administrative Services

Whether the Administrative Services teams are writing contracts to expand resources for children and adults, setting up shelters during a disaster, or helping asylum seekers find refuge, the needs of our customers and communities are at the heart of everything we do.

Building in a Challenging Year

Units in Administrative Services strengthened the department’s internal and external services by focusing on collaboration and meeting the needs of staff and customers despite unprecedented and sometimes unforeseen challenges. ■ Technology teams delivered hardware to thousands of teleworking staff, while new resources, handbooks and training tools were developed and shared to support a new work environment. ■ A telework coordinator was appointed to work with six division-level coordinators to align resources and ensure productivity and service remain at the forefront.

■ Working behind the scenes, the Contracts team processed more than 600 contracts totaling $62 million, while bringing new electronic systems online to enhance efficiency and timeliness. ■ The Mass Care unit trained 333 shelter workers to respond to communities in crisis, and the team is working with school districts and other civic partners to expand training programs. No matter what we’re doing — helping asylum seekers find refuge or delivering a new laptop to a teleworker in the field, the teams in Administrative Services support the framework that quality customer service is built upon.

Special Investigations Unit

Assurance & Review Services Unit

■ Provided 44 child support transports for Children’s Services ■ Completed 3,087 child placement backgrounds for Children’s Services ■ Completed 823 child safety backgrounds for Children’s Services

Responded through mass care and shelter for the following recent events:

■ El Dorado Fire ■ Apple Fire ■ Snow Fire ■ Lake Fire


Annual Report 2020/2021

Administrative Services

Compliance, Quality, Systems & Training Branch

■ Managed more than 600 contracts with an approximate amount of $62 million ■ Provided travel support to 192 Asylum Seekers and helped them reunite with their families and sponsors across the country ■ Ordered $1.9 million worth of equipment for new hires and refreshed old equipment ■ Developed various dashboards that highlight Administrative Management & Support Branch

Administrative Hearings ■ 4,307 claimants served

■ 44% of total Administrative Hearings resolved without going to a hearing (a significant savings of state and county costs) Income and Employment Verification Services ■ 2,293 CalWORKs and CalFresh cases processed for benefit recovery ■ $3,405,475 of overpayments and over- issuances established Promotion of C4Yourself Mobile Application ■ Added 58,960 mobile app users in 2020, increasing usage by 86% (allowing more customers to safely access case information remotely, improving customer service and reducing lobby traffic during the pandemic) ■ Riverside County now has the highest rate of applicants with C4Yourself accounts statewide, overtaking San Bernardino in November 2020 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Fittings

and visualize DPSS accomplishments, program status, client services, human resources, and more

Media & Government Relations

■ Adult Services: 137 ■ IHSS Caregivers: 41 ■ Children’s Services: 785 ■ Admin: 30

■ Expanded and continue to expand communications through a new English and Spanish podcast “theServiceStation” ■ Other efforts to engage diverse communities through mainstream and new technologies

Department Operations Center

Vaccination Assistance ■ Approximately 250 DPSS staff volunteered to assist in vaccination efforts by helping at sites, helping individuals schedule an appointment, and performing other administrative support functions


Annual Report 2020/2021

Administrative Services

Helping Low-Income Seniors Stay Nourished During the Pandemic

Blackburn’s Catering in Corona, one of many restaurants who participated in the Great Plates Delivered program, plates meals of salmon, potatoes, and asparagus for low-income seniors.

During the pandemic, our Internal Services Unit and Adult Services teams collaborated with the Office on Aging to deliver food to low-income seniors. The program also helped to support local restaurants and their employees during a time of heightened uncertainty, when many restaurants were shutting down, leaving restaurant workers unemployed. Internal Services secured 55 contracts with restaurants countywide. “This program was a lifeline to hundreds of vulnerable seniors whose food security had been interrupted by this unprecedented event,” said Marianna Sarmiento, assistant director of Administrative Services. To support efficient collaboration with multiple agencies including the Office on Aging, Richard Sandoval, an administrative services officer with DPSS, developed a SharePoint site. Kisha Jenkins, the administrative services manager who leads Internal Services, said the mission of Great Plates perfectly aligned with the mission of DPSS. “Our role is

vital in connecting services to people in need, especially when so many families are hurting at this time.”


■ Meals delivered: 1,853,522 ■ Restaurants participating: 55 ■ Service Industry Jobs: 971


Annual Report 2020/2021

Administrative Services

DPSS employee Juanita Irvin. Welfare Fraud Investigative Technician Leads County’s Mobile COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics

When the department asked staff to volunteer to support Riverside County’s COVID-19 vaccination effort in early 2021, many stepped up, including Juanita Irvin. Her decision led to a partnership that’s helping thousands get vaccinated. Irvin, who has worked for DPSS for 7 years, is an investigative technician with the department’s 80-member Inspections Branch, which investigates public benefits fraud. But in February, she partnered with the Department of Public Health to take on an entirely new job. Irvin managed a team of 20 to lead a mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic. Now, she coordinates 15 mobile clinics countywide per week in locations such as Beaumont, Corona, Murrieta

and Moreno Valley. Each clinic helps vaccinate up to 300 people a day. “We’ve taken these clinics to community centers and DPSS facilities. It’s been rewarding to see so many people come together to help our residents get vaccinated,” said Irvin. Irvin says she’s grateful to do this work to help end the pandemic and added that the Investigations team has supported her shifting role since it began. “I think what she did was remarkable and exemplifies stepping up in times of crisis. It also shows how we’re one county working for the citizens and we’re in this together to help end this pandemic,” said Chief of the Inspections Branch Shawn Ferris.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Administrative Services

Staff Development Continues During the Pandemic Staff Development Officer Patricia Manzo and other DPSS employees attended a strengths-based leadership development training led by Steven Beck of Steven Beck Consulting, LLC.

The Staff Development team quickly adapted to the pandemic environment, delivering virtual and hybrid training that helped employees stay engaged and connected to their mission through a variety of resources and activities. During this past year, Staff Development offered 1,500 training sessions to thousands of DPSS staff and developed initiatives to connect teleworkers to their workplace, colleagues, and customers. The training and development programs are designed to increase

staff competency, make programs more effective, and assure that our customers receive quality services. Staff Development continues to evaluate staff needs and best practices to expand and enhance training opportunities. Responsible for imparting knowledge and skills to staff, Staff Development provides induction, in-service, and mandated training based on Federal, State, and County regulations, and helps foster a strengths-based learning atmosphere.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Administrative Services


Annual Report 2020/2021

Children’s Services

Charity Douglas Assistant Director of Children’s Services

Every child deserves to be loved and protected. We are committed to providing children who have experienced abuse and neglect with compas - sionate trauma-informed services to help them heal, build lasting relation - ships and reach their full potential.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Children’s Services









Annual Report 2020/2021

Children’s Services

What We’re Doing Providing Tools to Prevent Child Trafficking

Krystal Elliott, conference organizer and administrative services analyst for CSEC, is already getting ready for the 2022 conference by preparing sample hygiene kits so attendees can see an example of what supplies a child in their caseload might need on hand.

2021 CSEC CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS: ■ 23 Sessions ■ 18 Speakers ■ 17 Exhibitors, including local community partners and international agencies ■ 643 Attendees ■ 344 (53%) downloaded/accessed the conference through the Whova app

The pandemic shifted Riverside County’s annual Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) conference online, in a move that resulted in the event’s largest-ever audience of nearly 650 attendees who logged on to learn how to keep kids safe.


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Children’s Services

Expanding Command Post to Investigate Emergency Child Abuse Referrals When an urgent report of suspected child abuse or neglect comes in, the specialized Command Post team springs into action to investigate.

In June, the Command Post expanded from night, weekend and holiday hours to include high- risk investigations during daytime hours in mid-county and desert communities between Cabazon and Mecca. “The expanded hours are exciting and will allow us to respond more efficiently to our emergency referrals in these underserved communities,” said Dana Young, regional manager with the Command Post. By year’s end, the Command Post is on track to become a 24-hour hour operation, with two additional

units of 10 to 12 social workers. The Command Post responders will be exclusively dedicated to investigating emergency child abuse referrals. Daily, the Command Post team investigates between 8 and 10 child abuse and neglect cases in the state’s fourth largest county. “This is a win-win situation,” added Young. “It will provide better support to children who need our help and protection and it allows our social workers to focus exclusively on cases that require our attention and tend to be more unpredictable in nature.”

Luis Rivas works the Child Abuse Hotline. Upon receiving emergency calls, he refers them to the Command Post.

Overcoming Racial Disproportionality and Disparities

Core Practice: Educate and advance racial equity within child welfare through policy, practice, training, coaching, trauma-informed response systems, and continuous quality improvement. Community: Fostering trust through engagement and open communication with all internal and external partners, including children, parents, and resource families. Communication: Racial equity involves everyone and is committed to clear and consistent messaging to bring awareness and inspire positive actions.

The first full year of the global pandemic brought far greater suffering to Black, Latino and Native American communities, and it cast a glaring spotlight on the longstanding socioeconomic impacts of racism nationally and locally. In a historic August 2020 proclamation, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed that racism is a public health crisis causing persistent discrimination in housing, education, employment, transportation, and criminal justice. The Board vowed as a county to address the issue. Children’s Services is focused on ending racial disproportionality and disparity in the child welfare system

and healing generations of trauma caused by disproportionality. In the coming year, the RDD Committee is launching an array of internal and external initiatives to ensure that children who enter the child welfare system experience positive outcomes and permanency with equitable access to resources and opportunities. Some key initiatives: Workforce: Enhance commitment to recruiting and retaining a qualified, diverse, and culturally competent workforce that acts individually and collectively to make best decisions that result in positive outcomes for all children and families of color.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Adoption Celebrating the Gift of Family Children’s Services

Adoptive daughter of Newby.

Social workers and partners in Riverside County continued to focus on uniting children and families through adoption despite the many challenges posed by the pandemic. Nearly 400 adoptions were finalized in 2020 and 2021. Most were held virtually, in the privacy of homes. “Love and being together are what matter most,” said Jolene, an adoptive mom of four girls, one of the Riverside County families that finalized their adoptions this past year. Jolene welcomed her fourth adoptive daughter into her family.

Jolene was inspired to become an adoptive parent when she was working with children in the foster system who needed homes and families. “You are changing lives through adoption, and the experience makes you a better person,” Jolene said. “Becoming a mom through adoption gave me a better sense of purpose.” Charity Douglas, assistant director of Children’s Services, congratulated the hundreds of families that united through adoption, saying that each child deserves a stable and loving home to help them reach their highest potential. “Adoption is a gift to both children and parents.”


Annual Report 2020/2021

Children’s Services

Alex (at center), here with his family, said QPI gave him support to successfully reunify with his children. He shares that he felt he could rely on his social worker and parent partner to guide him along the way. “It really helps to get everyone involved in the very beginning,” said Alex. “It’s about bringing people together.” Building Quality Partnerships and A Shared Vision Through the Quality Parenting Initiative

Children’s Services is a committed stakeholder in the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI). The nationwide network of states, counties and private agencies is committed to practices that advance child welfare reform and to ensuring all children in care have excellent parenting and lasting relations so they can thrive and grow. QPI emphasizes five principles: excellent parenting; research-based parenting; community-level leadership; community decision-making; and participant input in system change. Whenever possible, all parties involved strive and work together to achieve family reunification. When reunification is not possible, their focus shifts to finding a stable and healthy placement. “Our job as foster parents is to bring restoration and healing,” said resource parent, Salina. “We have the opportunity to nurture the whole family, to share our love and allow them to successfully complete their case plan.”

QPI in Riverside County celebrated several milestones in fiscal year 2020-2021: ■ Developed a mandatory training program for all staff in Children’s Services. ■ Developed a parent outreach partnership agreement. ■ Launched a text-based application to conduct monthly surveys of resource families. Data results inform planning and practices. Among 339 respondents in one survey, more than 70% said they have a voice in planning. ■ Initiated the pilot program for comfort calls to connect resource and biological families. “It is about all voices being heard and creating a positive alliance to provide the best outcome for a child or youth in care,” said resource parent Nicole Holt, who serves as a QPI consultant for Riverside County. “Each of us has our own dynamic piece in the process and together we can find long-term solutions.”


Annual Report 2020/2021

Children’s Services

Caregivers Helping Reunify Children with Their Families Meet three families Children’s Services selected for the annual Caregiver of the Year award — families helping children and biological families find the support they need to reunite in a safe and healthy environment.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Children’s Services

Tami & Derrick

When a child arrives at Tami and Derrick’s home — sometimes in the middle of night — the couple reassure each child that they are part of their family. “We do what we can so they feel comfortable while they are with us,” said Tami, who experienced foster placement as a youth. “One child’s mother told us he liked beans and white rice, so that is what we cooked for him.”

Tami and Derrick have fostered 14 children since becoming certified in 2018. Ten of the children have successfully reunited with their birth parents. Four in their care now are also on track for reunification. “We try to be flexible and work around the parent’s schedule to make sure they get to visit their kids every week,” said Derrick. “We never want to replace their parents. We just want them to know we are all in this together.”


Annual Report 2020/2021

Children’s Services

Joseph & Maricela Joseph and Maricela never imagined becoming foster parents. That changed one night when they got an unexpected knock on their door.

they kept the two-hour weekly visits with both parents and the lines of communication open. “We supported them in any way we could so they could reunify as soon as possible,” Maricela says. Now that the youngest child has returned home to her parents and siblings, the couple say their nest feels empty. “We miss her, but we know it is best for her,” said Maricela. On a recent afternoon Maricela was taking out some toys for a weekend visit with the child. “Luckily,” she says, “this story has a happy ending.”

Three young relatives needed a place to stay while their parents sorted things out. Joseph and Maricela immediately fulfilled the requirements to provide out-of-home care for the sisters. “We started to buy peanut butter in bulk,” Joseph recalls. Maricela and Joseph cared for the youngest of the sisters for 18 months. In that time, the couple said


Annual Report 2020/2021

Children’s Services

Akua & Kwame

Both Akua and Kwame feel called to a healing vocation. As licensed nurses, the couple specialize in caring for medically fragile foster children in their home. Most recently, the Ghanaian couple cared for a young child with kidney disease. The child was in desperate need of a transplant and required stabilization for the lifesaving surgery. Akua and Kwame provided 24-hour care, including a specialized diet. The surgery was a success. In the

waiting room, Akua and Kwame embraced the biological parents. They cried tears of joy. “It is such a blessing to see their child be healthy and happy, free from suffering,” said Kwame. “Sometimes,” the couple said, “birth parents struggle to understand their role is to help their child thrive.” We are grateful to have our own biological children,” Akua says. “All children deserve to enjoy family life, and ideally we think the best family for them is their very own.”


Annual Report 2020/2021

Children’s Services

How Our Partnerships Serve Children & Youth in Riverside County Trusted partnerships with organizations, various professionals, faith-based leaders, businesses, and others allow us to expand our level of service to children and youth who need our help.

Nevaeh Hall is one of five foster youth in Riverside County who graduated in 2021 with support from mentors with Project Graduate.

Helping Foster Youth Turn Diplomas into Dreams with Project Graduate

For the past decade, Project Graduate has helped some of the county’s most at-risk foster youth change the trajectory of their lives through advocacy and mentorship. Participating youth are supported by volunteers from the Riverside County Bar Association alongside members of the Superior Court, Juvenile Defense Panel, Office of County Counsel and DPSS. Since its beginning, Project Graduate has been a stepping stone to community college, trade school and universities

for at least 36 graduates and an even broader path to employment opportunities and brighter futures for many youth who entered the program. “We have learned from our students how hard it is for them to envision a path to graduating,” said Brian Unitt, a Riverside attorney who has chaired the Project Graduate steering committee for the past 10 years. “This program helps change that perception about what is possible.”


Annual Report 2020/2021

Children’s Services

At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, Faith in Motion collaborated with DPSS to put together gift baskets for a graduation celebration for foster youth. The event, coordinated by Faith in Motion, was held at the Harvest Church in Riverside.

Faith in Motion Brings Resources & Hope to Children in Foster Care and their Families

Faith in Motion (FIM) collaborates with faith communities across Riverside County to recruit resource families, with a focus on supporting those who care for children in the foster and adoption systems. Each year, faith partners tirelessly gather gifts and host celebrations during holidays and graduations. Since January 2021, the faith collaborative has partnered with

furniture giant Ashley HomeStore to deliver more than 100 new donated beds and bedding to Riverside County children in crisis. Throughout the pandemic year, partners with Faith in Motion stepped in to help thousands of children and youth in Riverside County feel valued and supported during months of social isolation.


Annual Report 2020/2021

Children’s Services

The Riverside County Child Assessment Team’s new space has more room, allowing for more children to receive care. The new location is furnished and decorated in a way that’s as comfortable and inviting as possible for children and their families. Supporting Children Experiencing Abuse & Neglect with a Multidisciplinary Team

Each year some 1,600 children and youth who have experienced abuse, neglect and trafficking are evaluated and treated by dedicated professionals with the Riverside County Child Assessment Team (RCCAT). The team is housed within Riverside University Health System Medical Center in Moreno Valley. When a child comes to the center, they are met with a Social Services Practitioner (SSP) III from Children’s Services who does an initial interview and stays by the child’s side throughout the entire process.

In addition to social workers from DPSS, health and mental health providers, law enforcement, justice partners and advocates work together to minimize the trauma that often accompanies victimization and help victims find a path toward healing. The RCCAT Center just moved into a new location which has more room, allowing twice as many children to receive care than the previous location.


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