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5 California Public Benefits Your Child May Be Eligible For

5 California Public Benefits Your Child May Be Eligible For

Published: Jul. 2, 2024Updated: Jul. 11, 2024

Got questions about public benefits? Have no fear, Undivided’s Public Benefits Specialist Lisa Concoff Kronbeck is here! At our June 27th event, Lisa broke down everything you need to know about Regional Center services, Medi-Cal, In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), Social Security, and California Children’s Services. Get ready for a session packed with helpful insights and answers to all your burning questions — it’s time for Undivided’s Public Benefits Bootcamp!

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1. Who is eligible for Regional Center services?

Regional Centers form a statewide network of 21 independently run non-profit agencies, all working under the guidance of the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS). As Lisa mentioned, their primary mission is to provide comprehensive services and support in line with the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act.

After age 3, they typically provide services to children with a substantial disability that begins before age 18 and is expected to continue indefinitely. Qualifying conditions, as Lisa says, “include intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, and what we call the fifth category, which is disabling conditions that are closely related to intellectual disability, or require similar treatment for individuals with intellectual disability, but are not solely physical in nature.” Check out this video to learn more about receiving and qualifying for Regional Center services after age 3.

Regional Centers provide essential early intervention services for children aged 0-3 through the Early Start program. This support is available for children who are at risk of or have been diagnosed with developmental delays, ensuring they receive the help they need during their early years. Lisa mentioned, “If they're super premature, have a very low birth weight, undergo many medical procedures as children, are under anesthesia for a long time, are on a mechanical ventilator for a long time, have prenatal exposure to substances, or experience infantile seizures—anything where we already know there's a high risk of developmental delay.” See if your child under age 3 is eligible for Regional Center services in this video clip:

You can learn more in our article How to Get Started with Regional Center.

2. Financial eligibility for Medi-Cal

Medi-Cal is California’s version of the federal Medicaid program, providing vital health coverage to eligible residents. Medi-Cal provides health care coverage for children and adults in California. Medi-Cal is always secondary to your private insurance. There are four main ways to qualify for Medi-Cal:

  1. Income-Based Enrollment: eligibility determined solely by household income.
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): a cash benefit program for children and adults with disabilities.
  3. Programs for People with Disabilities: these use criteria slightly different from regular need-based programs to assess eligibility.
  4. 1915(c)Home and Community-Based Services Waivers: specialized programs offering additional support for those needing long-term care.
    • If your child is a Regional Center client, they automatically qualify for the waiver and are therefore exempt from income restrictions.

Check out this video for more insights on program financial eligibility.

The Home and Community Based Alternative (HCBA) waiver is another way children can access Medi-Cal: it’s a small program that provides services to children who need access to nursing care at home because they have significant medical care needs and can’t qualify for Regional Center services. Lisa mentioned that this waiver makes it possible for medically fragile, technology-dependent children and adults to live at home with their families instead of living in institutions — even if their family income is over the usual limit to qualify for Medi-Cal. For more insights check out Home and Community Based Alternatives Waiver (HCBA) 101.


In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) is a Medi-Cal program designed to provide home-based personal care and related services, the IHSS program will help pay for certain services for an eligible child with a disability to remain safely in their own home. Lisa urges parents to remember, "For children, hours are only awarded for eligible services that exceed what a parent would usually be expected to provide to a typically developing child of the same age." It's important to note that hours are awarded based on individual needs, not on diagnosis.

For more information on what IHSS may provide, check out this video clip.

For many children, the bulk of IHSS hours awarded will be to those who are eligible for protective supervision and/or paramedical services. Both services require physician certification and documentation of need. For more information, check out our article IHSS Protective Supervision and Paramedical Services. If you're curious about becoming your child's IHSS provider or hiring an outside provider, check out this video.
Denied IHSS hours? Check out our article How to Appeal If You Are Denied IHSS.

4. Social Security Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a U.S. government agency that oversees various social programs such as retirement, disability, survivor, medicare, and supplemental security income. Check out this video to find the two social security benefits that apply to our kids.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is a program that is overseen by SSA, it is need-based and is not linked to work history. SSI is based on household income, so for children, parental income and resources will be counted. Once a child turns 18, only their own income and resources count.

SSI provides cash benefits for children and adults with disabilities who have low household incomes. Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance or retirement benefits, SSI eligibility does not depend on work history credits. This makes it slightly easier for individuals who may not qualify for other Social Security programs due to limited work history. As Lisa explained, “A key advantage of receiving SSI is automatic eligibility for full-scope Medi-Cal.” This ensures recipients receive comprehensive coverage without any monthly cost-sharing for provided services.

For more insights on SSI financial eligibility, check out this video clip.

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Curious about what to do after your child turns 18? Read our article Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in the Transition to Adulthood.

5. California Children's Services

California Children’s Services (CCS) is a state program that provides and funds diagnostic and treatment services to children under age 21 with CCS-eligible medical conditions.

Eligibility for California Children’s Services (CCS) is determined by two main criteria: medical diagnosis and financial need. CCS serves as a valuable resource for children with significant medical needs, providing assistance regardless of whether they are clients of the Regional Center.

Lisa mentioned that CCS offers specialized medical care and support tailored to the unique needs of each child, ensuring they receive necessary treatments and therapies to improve their quality of life.

To learn more about CCS medical & financial eligibility check out this video clip.

Watch the full replay

Thank you to Lisa for covering a topic that’s often difficult for families to navigate! You can watch the full replay of our event with transcript here, where Lisa goes more in-depth about California’s public benefits and leaves you with some great tips for eligibility.

Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to learn more about upcoming free events, and join our private Facebook group to get your questions answered by fellow parents in our supportive community.



1. Who is eligible for Regional Center services?

2. Financial eligibility for Medi-Cal


4. Social Security Benefits

5. California Children's Services

Watch the full replay

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Kylie CooperUndivided Content Assistant and Writer

Kylie is a writer by day, avid reader by night, and passionate disability ally dedicated to being the change they want to see in the world.

Reviewed by

  • Adelina Sarkisyan, Undivided Editor and Writer


  • Lisa Concoff Kronbeck, Undivided Public Benefits Specialist

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