Sample California Department of Social Services Records Request


California Public Records Act Requests

Re:         Public Records Act Request – Data on Youth in Residential Treatment Centers

To whom it may concern:

[Entity or person] is submitting this request pursuant to the California Public Records Act (CPRA) for copies of certain records in the possession, custody, or control of [entity]. See California Government Code §§ 6250 et seq. Our request encompasses the documents falling within the specific categories set forth below.

Definitions Used in this Request:

For purposes of this request, the terms “policies and procedures” include, but are not limited to, codes, board policies, rules and regulations, exhibits, bulletins, memoranda, directives, and training materials. If any of the policies of procedures we have requested are currently being updated or revised, please let us know in writing.

The term “facility” as used in this request pertains to the entire spectrum of privately run residential programs and congregate care facilities that house young people, including but not limited to: community treatment facilities, behavioral modification programs, residential treatment centers, short-term residential therapeutic programs, group homes, transitional housing placement programs, wilderness programs, substance abuse intervention programs, and therapeutic boarding schools.  See California Department of Social Services, “Facility Types,”

The terms “documents” or “records” as used in this request have the same broad definition as is given the term “writing” in section 6252(g) of the Government Code, as set forth below, and
includes drafts of all documents encompassed in this request:

Any handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostatting, photographing, photocopying, transmitting by electronic mail or facsimile, and every other means of recording upon any tangible thing any form of communication or representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combinations thereof, and any record thereby created, regardless of the manner in which the record has been stored.

Further, these terms include, but are not limited to, any electronic information, reports, evaluations, memoranda, correspondence, letters, emails, charts, graphs, flyers, meeting agendas and minutes, diagrams, forms, DVDs, tapes, CDs, notes, and other similar materials.

Preserving Privacy:

We understand that some of the documents we have requested may contain information that would identify individual students if produced in their unredacted form. We both expect and encourage the District to comply with its obligation to protect the privacy of its students. We, therefore, request that, where necessary, responsive documents be redacted to replace student names and Statewide Student Identifier (SSID) numbers with pseudo-identifiers consisting of random sequences of numbers and letters. This will protect students’ identities while allowing us to know if certain students are repeatedly referred to in the documents provided.

If any records in this request are claimed to be exempt from disclosure, we request that: (1) you exercise your discretion to disclose some or all of the records notwithstanding the exemption; and (2) with respect to records containing both exempt and non-exempt content, you redact the exempt content and disclose the rest, consistent with California Government Code section 6253(a). Additionally, if any records are withheld or redacted, please provide a written response that describes the records being withheld or redacted and the claimed reason for exemption under the Public Records Act.

Records Requested:

Please provide us with copies of the records specified below. Each lettered or numbered paragraph should be considered a separate request under the CPRA. For each set of records produced, please identify the paragraph to which the records are intended to respond.

We also request that you provide any public record identified in the following electronic formats to us in that electronic format, instead of in paper format: PDF format or all Microsoft Office formats, including Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint. See California Government Code § 6253.9.

Please provide us with relevant records from 2015 to 2021, unless specified otherwise.

[Question 1 is intended to allow a comparison of the large amounts of public money going to these orgs instead of to children’s communities. We have a public rate schedule (, but hopefully we can get more detailed financial information.]          

  1. The following aggregate data regarding financial information:
    1. The cost per month per individual of housing a young person, broken down by facility.
    2. The amount per month that [entity] spends on sending young people to these facilities.

[Question 2 is intended to gather information about how STRTPs actually implement the depth of therapeutic support that they are supposed to offer.]

2. The following aggregate data regarding the placement selection and evaluation process:

    1. Any and all written criteria or policies governing the process through which [entity] selects a facility, including but not limited to checklists of services or therapies available, staffing requirements, or licensing requirements.
    2. Any and all evaluations of placement sites, including but not limited to feedback from [entity] staff, families, legal advocates, and the individuals placed in the facility.
    3. Any and all information on staffing selection at facilities, including but not limited to educational and experiential requirements.
    4. All records referencing policies, rules, administrative regulations, resolutions, or procedures governing restorative practices/processes to address safety for LGBTQ+ youth.
    5. Any and all copies of the training plans that STRTP facilities use with their staff, as required by section 87065.1 of the STRTP interim licensing standards, including any example training plans maintained by the department and any records relating to the use of professionally-prepared training materials, such as Management of Aggressive Behavior (MAB) and Non-Compliant Intervention (NCI).
      [This is based on our conversation w Larry Carter: he thought that many residential facilities used the same training materials, so it would be helpful to see these “industry standard” materials. If they aren’t in the public record, maybe we can dig more online or see if it’s possible to request a copy from the organizations or companies that create the training.]
    6. All Plan of Operation and current Program Statement documents for all currently licensed STRTPS, as described by STRTP Interim Licensing Standards sections 87022 and 87022.1.
      [If DSS or DCFS don’t maintain summary information about staff numbers and types of programs at all facilities, as we ask for above, that information should at least be contained in these documents, in the terms that each facility uses to describe its own work.]

[Questions 3 -5 ask more detailed questions about the information contained in the Program Statements. 3 and 4 are intended to see if the agency has separate records that describe what sorts of services each facility offers. (One advocate recommended comparing extravagant costs to minimal services.) 5 asks for a breakdown of staffing at facilities, to see how they’re meeting the licensing requirements.]

3. The following aggregate data regarding the services and programs available at these facilities:

    1. Information regarding the activities offered at the facility, including but not limited to social activities, outings, group socialization activities, and recreational activities.
    2. Information regarding the services offered at the facility, including but not limited to a group or individual therapy, mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, and family counseling.
    3. All information on how facilities shifted their programming in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including services that were not offered to students and any alternative services and programs that were offered as substitutes.

4. The following aggregate data regarding how these services and activities are administered, broken down by facility:

    1. How many individuals are in a group for group counseling purposes?
    2. How often counseling takes place.
    3. The ratio of young people to staff.

5. The following aggregate data regarding staffing at each facility:

    1. The total number of staff at the facility.
    2. The number of staff at the facility with no high school diploma.
    3. The number of staff at the facility with a high school diploma.
    4. The number of staff at the facility with a bachelor’s degree.
    5. The number of staff at the facility with an associate’s degree.
    6. The number of staff at the facility with 0-5 years of experience working with young people.
    7. The number of staff at the facility with 5-10 years of experience working with young people.
    8. The number of staff at the facility with over 10 years of experience working with young people.
    9. The minimum qualifications for overnight staff.

[Question 6  is intended to update the DSS demographic data.]

6. The following aggregate data regarding historical and current student placements:

    1. The number of students under the authority of Los Angeles DCFS and Probation in residential facilities, quarterly from 2020 Q1 to present, disaggregated by
      1. County or state of placement;
      2. Type of placement facility
      3. Age/Grade;
      4. Gender;
      5. Race/Ethnicity;
      6. Disability status;
      7. English Learner status;
      8. Length of Stay;
      9. Foster youth/Dependency court involvement;
      10. Probation/Juvenile Justice Court involvement; and
      11. Whether parental rights had been terminated when the placement was chosen.

[Question 7 asks for COVID-19 case information, and 8 and 9 are intended to get more context for the complaint investigation process.]

7. All documentation of COVID-19 cases among staff and students at residential facilities.

8. The following aggregate data regarding complaints:

    1. All Complaint Investigation Forms and Facility Evaluation Reports for all Children’s Residential facilities overseen by the Community Care Licensing Division
    2. All available summary data maintained for all complaint investigation forms and facility evaluation reports, including but not limited to:
      1. date,
      2. name of the facility,
      3. ID # of the facility,
      4. name of the evaluator,
      5. type of allegation,
      6. whether the investigator was able to speak with the person who initiated the complaint,
      7. investigation results,
      8. resolution or licensing consequences for substantiated complaints,
      9. law enforcement involvement,
      10. student fatality, and
      11. student withdrawal.
  1. All documents regarding any complaint filing and resolution process for youth or their authorized representative(s) and guardian, including, but not limited to, documents describing how one can submit complaints against each facility, including documents describing how the Community Care Licensing Division investigates and resolves such complaints.
  2. All training materials for [agency] evaluators, such as procedures, videos, or presentations.
  3. All documents that evaluators are advised to use when deciding whether the preponderance of the evidence supports an allegation, such as policy manuals, handbooks, checklists, or guides.
  4. Records of how often evaluators are trained or a log of specific dates of evaluator trainings.
  5. Start and end dates for all currently or formerly employed evaluators within the requested time period.

9. All records about appeals of revocation actions, disaggregated by

    1. date,
    2. name of the facility,
    3. ID # of the facility,
    4. whether the conclusion was revocation, probation, or judge dismissal of the revocation action
    5. Names of all STRTPs that had previously been licensed as a group home and had lost their group home license.

If you contend that this request does not reasonably describe identifiable public records, we request that you promptly assist us by eliciting additional information that will clarify our request and more clearly identify the records we are seeking. See Government Code § 6253.1. We also reiterate our request that you provide any public record identified in the following electronic formats to us in that electronic format, instead of in paper format: PDF format or all Microsoft Office formats, including Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint. See Government Code § 6253.9.

Finally, we request that you waive any copying fees because we are non-profit organizations and the information requested will be used in the public interest to further the public’s understanding of the facilities that house some of our most marginalized young people. No part of the information obtained will be sold or distributed for profit. If you are unable to waive the copying fees, please inform us of any potential duplication costs.