The United States population is becoming more diverse. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2050, Hispanics and Latinos will constitute 30 percent of the U.S. population, up from 16.3 percent in 2010. We know that the composition of the child support program’s caseload is changing as well. We have more Latino and Hispanic families, as well as families from a range of other ethnic and immigrant groups.
Child support professionals are increasingly aware of our need to conduct outreach to the Hispanic community. We are doing more to tailor our customer service to address the linguistic and cultural barriers to navigating the child support program and accessing other social services. For example, we are offering more bilingual publications and advertising on local radio and TV.
We are forming and enhancing collaborations with community and faith-based organizations and working with practitioners and advocates, who can help us bridge the gap in providing information to Hispanic families about child support services. The organizations can offer accurate information, answer questions, provide advocacy services, and help to overcome parents’ mistrust and misunderstandings about the program.
This spring, an OCSE outreach training event in Florida furthered the child support program’s connections with community organizations (see the July 2011 Child Support Report). While we sometimes assume that community organizations are aware of our latest services, we know from events like the one in Florida the value of meeting face-to-face with representatives from organizations that have daily interaction with Hispanic families. Outreach events such as these serve as a valuable connection to the Hispanic community.
In Sonoma County, CA, the child support office is striving to increase collections among its Latino parents. The office created two postcards in Spanish and is disseminating them throughout the Latino community—with help from community organizations. The postcards explain child support services and help to alleviate apprehensions about connecting with a child support office. (See the postcards on page 4 in the Child Support Report.)
Earlier this month, OCSE was on hand to answer questions at the League of United Latin American Citizens’ annual conference in Cincinnati with more than 20,000 participants. And we are looking forward to an outreach event later this month at the National Council of LaRaza’s annual conference, where a national Latino Family Expo draws more than 200 exhibitors and 40,000 attendees! At both events, OCSE staff members share a booth with Head Start (a great way to demonstrate cross-program collaboration) and demonstrate the OCSE online toolkit on a laptop for passersby.
Recently, HHS announced a new initiative to use Promotores de Salud to strengthen outreach and education on the availability of health services and insurance coverage to underserved Hispanic and Latino communities. The federal work group guiding the initiative represents several HHS offices including the Administration for Children and Families. OCSE will pay close attention as this initiative takes off.
We also plan to stay tuned-in to ways we can further our outreach to the Hispanic and Latino families through multiple channels of communication. Two national surveys conducted in 2010 by the Pew Research Center—the Pew Hispanic Center’s 2010 National Survey of Latinos and the Pew Internet and American Life Project’s Health Tracking Survey—made some very interesting findings. Did you know that 91 percent of Latinos say they get news from network, local, or cable television? Or that nearly half get their news in both English and Spanish? Or that Hispanics are more likely than whites to engage in instant messaging—an outreach opportunity for us?
Is technology helping your agency communicate with Spanish-speaking parents? Do you have a Facebook page that answers questions in Spanish? (Hispanics, like everyone else, use Facebook, says this blog). Do you post blogs that allow readers to submit comments, or use other social media to reach Hispanic and Latino families?
Let us know in your comment on this blog.
OCSE is learning, too. The more knowledge we can gain about our Hispanic parents, the better we’ll be able to reach out and offer responsive services to families.