The records of the State Department of Social Welfare contain about 242 cubic feet of textual records one 16 mm film, one
slide, two photograph negatives, three negative slides, and a number of photographs. The records cover the period from 1906
The creation of a State Department of Social Welfare, in 1927, was a manifestation of earlier attempts, beginning in 1903,
to place supervision of charitable activities in the hands of the state. The State Board of Charities and Corrections, created
in that year, was charged with evaluating and reporting on 12 charitable and correctional institutions, 60 county hospitals
and charity houses, 57 county jails, and 300 city and town jails and lock-ups. (Statutes of 1903, Chapter 363) In 1911, the
Board was empowered by the Legislature to supervise the licensing and placement of dependent children in homes. In 1925,
the Board was reorganized into the Department of Public Welfare. (Statutes of 1925, Chapter 18) Meanwhile, the State regulated
most children’s activities under the State Board of Control – Children’s Department, formed in 1913. (Statutes of 1913, Chapter
323) This was superseded by the Bureau of Children’s Aid of the Department of Finance in 1921. (Statutes of 1921, Chapter
The State Department of Social Welfare was created in 1927 by the merger of the State Department of Public Welfare and the
Bureau of Children’s Aid. (Statutes of 1927, Chapter 49) Creation of this department united the supervision of state aid for
children, traditionally the responsibility of state fiscal authorities, with the investigation and licensing work of the previous
Board of Charities and Corrections.
Along with the State Department of Social Welfare was a seven-member State Social Welfare Board, which was appointed by the
Governor whose members served at his pleasure. Originally, the Board was responsible for the administration of the Department
and selection of the Director of the Department. In 1945, actual administration of the Department was moved to the Director,
who in turn was selected by the Governor (Statutes of 1945, Chapter 1395). The Board’s chief responsibilities at that time
were to study the causes and effects of poverty in California and recommend legislative and procedural remedies to the Governor
and the Legislature.
The onset of the Great Depression and World War II witnessed a proliferation of welfare programs in California. Public assistance
to accommodate the needs of the blind and the aged were added in 1929. The federal Social Security Act of 1935 introduced
a program of social insurance for the aged and a federal-state system of unemployment compensation; a program of categorical
public assistance supported by federal grants – in – and for the aged, blind, and dependent children; and a program of health
and welfare services providing for maternal and child health service to crippled children and child welfare services. Aid
to needy disabled was added in 1957. One of the more significant programs also added in 1957 was the Public Assistance Medical
Care Program, forerunner to Medi-Cal as it was implemented in 1966. Medical aid to the aged (under the federal Kerr-Mills
Act) began in 1961. In 1963, children’s aid was expanded to include the needy children of unemployed parents.
By 1970, the Department of Social Welfare was responsible (1) for supervising the county administration of all state-county
programs for the care of the needy aged, blind, disabled, and children; (2) for advising other state agencies extending services
to welfare recipients; (3) to the federal government for the administration of federal funds in California; and (4) for investigating
and licensing boarding homes, institutions for the care of the aged and children, child-placing and adoption agencies
In 1963, the state Department of Social Welfare was among the departments included as part of the Health and Welfare Agency
under section 12803 of the Government Code. In 1974, the Department of Social Welfare combined with the Employment Development
Department-Division of Accounts and Collections, and the Audit Section of the Department of Health to create the Department
of Benefit Payments. AB425 and AB1950 of the 1973-1974 legislative sessions effectively dissolved/dismantled the Department
of Social Welfare. At that time, the Old Age and Disabled programs in the federal Social Security Program were taken over
by the Agriculture and Services Agency. Meanwhile, the Department of Benefit Payments handled the audit and disbarment functions
for Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Aid to Needy Children, and the Employment Development Department handled other
aid disbursement. The Department of Social Services under the Health and Welfare Agency was formed in 1978 and over took
many of the responsibilities of the former Department of Social Welfare.
Additional agency history information, due to the complexity of the many categorical aid and other programs, is also provided
throughout the Inventory at the Branch, Division, Bureau, Unit, or Program level.
Collection contains 242 cubic feet of textual records, one 16 mm film, one slide, two photograph negatives, three negative
slides, and a number of photographs.
For permission to reproduce or publish, please consult California State Archives staff. Permission for reproduction or publication
is given on behalf of the California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, as the owner of the physical
items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement that may arise from reproduction or publication
of materials from the California State Archives’ collections.