The County Advocate Program was developed in 2014 by the Alliance to Transform CalFresh as a way to support county advocates in their work to improve CalFresh enrollment in their own communities. CAP strives to provide resources and trainings for advocates, as well as a network for county advocates to be able to share ideas and work together towards a common goal of increasing CalFresh participation statewide.
The Reason – Because SNAP is a county-administered program in California – a structure that has essentially created 58 different SNAP/CalFresh programs, each with its own policies, procedures and problems – change needs to be pushed up from the county level as well as top down through state-level agencies. County Advocates Program (CAP) addresses the need for grassroots advocacy at the county level by offering statewide, county-based advocacy training and technical support that engages local CalFresh Advocates and builds their capacity to move from case-based to system-oriented advocacy network. CAP also leverages a key advantage of the county system – the potential for innovation – and encourages innovations to flourish, while ensuring that lessons and best practices are shared across the state.
The Opportunity – CAP addresses the need for grassroots advocacy at the county level by offering a statewide, county-based framework that includes training and technical support while recognizing the local advocate’s valuable experiential knowledge of issues affecting their local CalFresh clients. Advocate groups are predominately comprised of policy practitioners and CalFresh outreach professionals from organizations that work on CalFresh outreach. However, groups have included law makers (senate staff, city council reps and board of supervisors), medical practitioners, and legal aid staff in some cases. Together, this group of local CalFresh Advocates will build their capacity, moving from case-based advocacy to systems-oriented advocacy through a coordinated state and local effort.
The Vision – County advocates throughout California work closely with each other, the Alliance to Transform CalFresh, and county CalFresh directors for the purpose of setting and reaching common goals that will drive their counties toward meaningful change within the CalFresh program. With the foundational themes of Quick, Consistent and Connected driving these goals, County Advocates work with their counties to improve overall participation rates, increases dual participation in the spirit of horizontal integration, reduce timeliness rates with the goal of same day service, reduce churn rates with the goal of eliminating procedural churn and address instances of racial and cultural inequity. County Advocates identify their county’s most urgent issues and determine the most impactful strategy to improve the client experience.
The Program –The County Advocate Program provides county partners with the training and support necessary to ‘move the needle’ on CalFresh participation and retention. Advocates receive one-on-one support as well as group trainings from CAP leadership and the Alliance to become comfortable with their county’s participation metrics, set goals, and drive their county’s CalFresh program toward excellence! Each local CAP advocate group also joins a cohort of advocates from across the state, and through this network will be able to share challenges, opportunities and proven best practices. This unique opportunity allows us to create a bilateral advocacy effort with a succinct and united agenda.
The Commitment – Advocates’ organizations will agree with the reasonable time commitment to participate in the work of driving the goals outlined in the CalFresh Excellence Pledge and further defined in their CAP group county-specific goals and work plan. This could include: 1-2 in-person meetings per year, regularly scheduled calls, sharing concerns and progress on our internal communication platform, county advocacy actions. CAP leadership will provide technical assistance and support, manage communication and training schedules and act as a conduit between the Alliance and CAP Advocates. Alliance members maintain/update CalFresh data, work on state level CalFresh advocacy with CDSS and USDA, and update CAP leadership as state CalFresh information becomes available.
If you have any questions regarding the County Advocate Program or are wondering if you should start a County Advocate group in your county, please contact Sarah Palmer DeFrank