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Breaking Barriers: Improving Access to Public Assistance Programs in California

The Challenge

Nearly a quarter of California’s young children live in poverty. Many families in California rely on public assistance programs to make ends meet and create better lives for their children. However, accessing and using these services can be difficult and burdensome, and barriers to receiving them are increasing for many families.

What would happen if families designed the public systems to meet their needs?


The Approach

With support from the Heising-Simons Foundation, VIVA Social Impact Partners conducted a qualitative case study with representation from three California counties, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Mateo. During this work, VIVA gathered stories from families about their experiences navigating public services. The study aimed to learn how families understand the landscape of services available to them, access and use services, and engage with service providers. Through focus groups and a series of family interviews, families' stories were gathered and compiled online at www.californiafamilyvoices.org.

This study provides a powerful and insightful look into the challenges that families face when accessing public assistance programs and the impact of these programs on their lives. By capturing families' lived experiences in quotes and videos, the study serves as a resource for those in a position to shape how public services are administered to ensure that California’s systems truly work for the families who rely on them to help change the trajectory for their young children.