Creatively Connecting with Parents and Families

DC outreach van 7Creative Specialist isn’t a job title that most public employees seek out. Nor do government job applications traditionally ask, “How would you improve outreach to clients so that they can understand and use our services more easily?” Yet in the past few years, your state, tribal and local child support agencies and OCSE regional offices have been creatively reaching out in ways that can have lasting, positive effects on the way we connect with our customers.

What exactly is creative outreach? To someone in the District of Columbia Child Support Services Division, it was noticing the mobile medical vans around the city that sparked an initiative to improve the agency’s relationships with parents in low-income communities. From this “a-ha” moment, the staff found a creative use for their incentive match funds; they combined their ideas to get the best results. Take a look at the story on page 1 in the March 2011 Child Support Report.

On a creative roll, the D.C. office also produced a video—using themselves as actors and filmmaker—to help customers feel at ease while they learn about the program in the main-office waiting area, as well as in the new mobile outreach van. The video will be available on D.C.’s website soon. (Read all about it in next month’s Child Support Report.)

Another example of creative outreach comes from OCSE Region VI where Texas and New Mexico staff connected with veterans at Stand Down events (see article on page 9). The D.C. staff volunteered at a recent Stand Down as well. These occasions, created by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, offer a community-wide venue for child support staff to reach out to veterans who are homeless and who might not otherwise visit the child support office, and to help the broader community of veterans understand child support services.

On page 8 in the same newsletter, you’ll see one way new media is improving outreach to customers, as the California child support agency shares its success so far with a mobile phone application. And watch future issues of the Child Support Report to learn about Puerto Rico’s success with placing kiosks in malls and government offices to offer interactive child support services.

Puerto Rico also plans to give brochures to recently incarcerated parents about steps they can take to modify their child support order. We see similar creative outreach methods when tribal programs place placards and brochures in public places to spread the word about child support services. Whenever we distribute brochures and other material, we can take a tip from the online Hispanic Child Support Resource Center: People must see your ad at least seven times before they will acknowledge it. Repetition is key!

And that’s the beauty of the child support program: we may not be able to measure creativity, but as long as we share our customer outreach ideas and practices—again and again and again—we will have the creative advantage to improve our services to customers.

Please consider inspiring others with your comments about these or other creative outreach ideas in this Commissioner’s Voice blog.

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4 Responses to Creatively Connecting with Parents and Families

  1. J.P. Sager says:

    I appreciate the creative outreach regarding the D.C. Feet van as described above. But please let it be known as described in the GAO Report 11-196 (January 14, 2011), regarding Child Support Enforcement national trends, our D.C. workforce has had to learn to be creative, by having to do more with less. As our caseload increases (mine currently is given as 2300 cases, but I believe it probably exceeds 3,000), D.C. child support workers face hiring freezes, pay freezes, and now furloughs. The custom-painted van is very attractive, but isn’t economy an aspect of creativity as well? Although our “stellar efforts” in DC Child Support resulted in incentive awards, our sacrifice has factored as well. My creative suggestion would have been laptops and cabfare or Metro–that is transportation in the style most of our customers utilize, and the way most of us travel to and from work.

  2. Tiffany says:

    I agree with the above…or better yet spend it on ENFORCEMENT OF DBPPA Statute 827.06 in which very few if any cases are filed under this enforcement act in the state of Florida.

  3. Dallas NLP Training says:

    As a mandated reporter I and many others I have worked with often find it frustrating at how many reports we have to make before we can get the wheels moving to assist children and families. I would like to see better collaboration between mandated reporters and the child support enforcement. The caseloads clearly are overwhelming and unrealistic which makes it very difficult to get the level of attention that is needed. Better collaboration could help spread the load and avoid duplication of work.

  4. Doreen says:

    Reaching out to veterans and bringing your services to them is a great idea. Majority of people, me included, would never consider contacting child support services for assistance; after all if you do not have children, why would you contact them. Having your presence at the Stand Down events shows veterans there is hope and assistance available for them.

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