Today 58 tribes operate start-up or comprehensive child support programs—10 more than a year ago. These tribal programs are reaching custodial and noncustodial parents in their communities, helping them support their children financially and enrich their children’s lives emotionally, in a culturally appropriate manner.
As partners in the national child support program, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) and tribal child support programs will cross a much-anticipated milestone early this year when OCSE launches the Model Tribal System (MTS). The MTS is an award-winning, state-of-the-art computer system designed to recognize the importance and benefits of integrating automation in the daily operations of comprehensive tribal child support programs. The MTS will serve as a key tool for programs to improve efficiency in case management and develop other areas of the program, offering tribal agencies and consortia direct access to similar technologies and automated systems that state child support agencies have had for years. The MTS uses open software to support organizations with up to 25 offices and 100 concurrent users, handling workloads of up to 25,000 cases.
By improving the level of automation in tribal child support programs, the MTS can increase program capacity to work more cases. The MTS will automate distribution, reporting, referrals—all aspects of casework. The MTS also will allow tribes to tailor their automated systems to their needs, for example, even something as simple as putting their logos on letters to custodial and noncustodial parents. And, the MTS will help free up more time for workers to talk face-to-face with clients, an approach that characterizes tribal programs.
The launch will follow several years of tribal consultation, research, design and development in OCSE—using tribal requirements—as well as testing the system in two tribal child support programs: the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma and Forest County Potawatomi Community. Other tribal programs, too, had a chance to explore and experiment with the MTS in a national “sandbox,” an operational version of the system.
OCSE will make the MTS available to all interested tribes and continue to collaborate with tribes on the launch plans and technical assistance requests, respectful of tribal sovereignty and the beliefs and traditions of all people in Indian Country. As we welcome 2013, we will continue to work in partnership with tribes operating child support programs.
Vicki Turetsky is the commissioner for the Office of Child Support Enforcement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. As Commissioner, she oversees the child support program operated by each state and by many tribes.