Job Coaching and Incentives : Riverside GAIN Program

Program/Practice Name: Riverside GAIN (Greater Avenues for Independence) Program

Agency Name: County of Riverside Department of Public Social Services (DPSS)

Contact Information:

Patti Polly
Deputy Director, Self–Sufficiency
Riverside County DPSS
4060 County Circle Drive
Riverside, CA 92503
Phone: (951) 358–3011
Fax: (951) 358–3156

David L. Terrell
Manager, CalWORKS Administration
Riverside County DPSS
4060 County Circle Drive
Riverside, CA 92503
Phone: (951) 358–5950
Fax: (951) 358–6615

Type of Program/Practice: A county implementation of a large–scale California welfare–to–work initiative that has demonstrated successful results in the area of work retention.

Program/Practice Description: The Riverside GAIN program serves TANF program applicants. The GAIN program markets the benefits of work participation to customers, discusses the seriousness of the customers’ responsibility to their families, and closely monitors the progress of customers through the various components. GAIN presents a full range of activities, such as job search preparation and assistance, life skills training, basic education, assessment, occupational skills training, post–secondary education, and on–the–job training. GAIN also provides child care assistance and ancillary items to participants during program activities.

Innovations and Results: The Riverside GAIN program demonstrates success in work retention studies, indicating that an increased number of customers take advantage of retention services and show increased employment and earnings in the two years following the program. Customers are presented with resources and empowered by the GAIN program's work–first philosophy. Then customers enter into a written action plan or contract in which they work with employment services counselors to undergo an appraisal, set personal goals, receive supportive services, participate in a job search, and complete an assessment. After obtaining work, customers are encouraged to maintain employment and seek career advancement through promotional and educational opportunities. Formal job retention services are provided when cash aid is terminated. Following the date of termination, customers who are employed are eligible for one year of supportive services such as transportation and two years of child care assistance.

Structured Decision Making (SDM) is a collaborative effort between GAIN, the County of Riverside Department of Mental Health and the Children’s Research Center, which is a division of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. SDM for the GAIN customer population is being pioneered in Riverside County. No organization nationwide is known to use SDM to serve Welfare to Work customers. SDM assists Employment Service Counselors in case management, identifying customer strengths and needs, and establishing customer action plans rooted in sound decision making.

Staffing and Training:Riverside County DPSS staffing and training are specifically designed to contribute to the success of the GAIN program. The offices leverage co–located staff who focus on issues such as mental heath, substance abuse, and domestic violence. The department implements comprehensive training that is driven by assessment activities, during which Riverside conducts an environmental scan and surveys all levels of employees to identify training needs. As a result of successful management of both office operations and employees, Riverside County DPSS is able to better retain GAIN staff, positively affecting the quality and continuity of social service delivery.

Important Partnerships: Riverside GAIN’s success with work retention also stems from effective partnering with employers, including the Riverside County Temporary Assistance Pool program, which permits GAIN customers to test into employment with the county. Also, the Community Action Partnership works with GAIN to mirror and support the job readiness and work attachment process, and the Economic Development Agency assists with employment development. GAIN also partners with community colleges and adult schools to provide further education and training once customers have obtained meaningful work.

Tips to Implementation: As agencies organize to support customers in work activities, they should consider the degree to which they consistently support a message. In Riverside, customers continuously receive a message from staff and partners that emphasizes the benefits of work. Outside the message and mission, Riverside suggests that agencies remain flexible to the needs of their customers, as becoming too structured detracts from an agency’s ability to serve and respect individuals. The agency also emphasizes a need to stay away from punitive communication, citing that customers respond best to flexible and positive support.

Keys to Success: The Riverside GAIN employment services team highlights several factors as keys to its success:

  • Riverside has a clear mission and vision, which helps ensure that all staff work toward the same goals.
  • Riverside develops its staff and selects like-minded individuals who truly believe in the potential for customer success.
  • Riverside sets its goals and takes steps to ensure a shared mindset (buy-in) throughout the agency, resulting in improved customer service and performance reinforced by training.

The following tools are associated with Riverside GAIN Program.  Please send us an email at for more information about these tools.

DPSS 168 GAIN Program Handbook

Provides an overview of the Riverside GAIN Program.

GAIN Customer Service Survey

Demonstrates one way in which Riverside reaches for constant improvement in service delivery.

Employee Educational Support Program

Illustrates how Riverside County supports educational advancement, thus improving employee retention.