Change Management in the Child Support Program
“Managing change in the workplace” is a catchphrase in today’s government and business worlds. Within our national child support program community, we, too, are exploring ways to manage change in our program.
In many ways, the child support program exemplifies a “culture of change.” Child support has steadily evolved over the decades from a welfare cost-recovery model to a major family support program in a technologically savvy environment. We are combining traditional and automated child support tools with innovative, family-centered approaches to promote parental responsibility, to move more nonpaying cases to paying status, and to increase the reliability of child support payment.
Managing change in the child support world means creating a workplace where all staff understand and value the program’s increased emphasis on obtaining regular support payments for children, broadening its traditional focus on debt threshold-based enforcement.
Quite simply, we know that programs can collect child support more reliably when a noncustodial parent receives a regular paycheck and when an income withholding order is in place. The program collects 70 percent of payments through income withholding.
Managing this shift in emphasis requires a more complex case management environment—one where the computer helps caseworkers stratify caseloads and select the right tool for the right person at the right time to increase the likelihood of reliable support. The shift means implementing early intervention strategies, sensible policies and practices, and service delivery approaches to address barriers to payment. It means more collaboration with other programs and agencies. It means accepting both parents as our customers in the best interest of their child and finding the right balance of enforcement and engagement to get the results families need. It means believing that what we all do—as individuals and together—makes a profound difference in the well-being of the children and families we serve.
Our child support colleagues across the country are managing change in many ways. Some are implementing strategies, continuous process improvement tools, and performance assessments to increase program efficiencies and the potential for positive outcomes. Others are creating strategic collaborations that respond to specific challenges of our diverse customer population, such as poverty, poor health, incarceration and joblessness. Programs are making organizational changes throughout, adopting new agency names and new ways of working together, in order to promote a more family-centered and effective approach to obtaining reliable support.
A series of articles in recent issues of the OCSE Child Support Report newsletter tell ways that state and local programs are managing change within our continuously evolving national program.
Vicki Turetsky was appointed as 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.