Social Services

Find departments of social services, DSS, DPSS, and human services. Departments of social services provide information on food stamps, public assistance, welfare, housing, healthcare, emergency assistance, and child services.


About Social Services

What is Social Services?

Social Services is a state, county, or local government agency responsible for providing a wide range of health and human services and programs. The range and types of programs may vary significantly from one jurisdiction to the next, but Social Services tends to emphasize safety net programs, the provision of basic necessities, and the protection of children, elderly, and dependent or vulnerable adults.

It is common for Social Services Departments to administer assistance programs, including those that are funded by federal resources. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food assistance, while Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides general assistance for eligible low-income households. Many states, counties, and local governments operate additional benefits programs that are geared toward helping low income households pay for basic necessities. Social Services Departments employ caseworkers to conduct intake, determine eligibility, approve benefits, and ensure compliance with these and other programs.

Social Services Departments may also administer federal health programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, as well as state health programs that provide coverage to low-income uninsured or underinsured groups that are not eligible for federal health coverage. Health programs for otherwise uninsured children and women are common.

At the county and local level, Social Services Departments often work with community human service providers to ensure the needs of individuals and families are met. Referral services may cover preventive health care, housing, substance abuse and addiction services, energy assistance, mental health services, and supportive services for people with disabilities. Local providers of basic necessities such as food pantries, temporary shelters, and child care are usually accessible through a county or local Social Services Department.

State Social Services Departments typically administer social and human service programs by contract with county, local government, or community providers. In many states, the Social Services Department is also the agency responsible for coordinating and regulating the foster home system and adoptions processes for their state. They may also investigate and support law enforcement in cases of abuse or neglect of children or the elderly.