Change management in the child support program

Road sign "Change Ahead"“Managing change in the workplace” is a catchphrase in today’s government and business worlds. Within our child support 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-focused approaches to promote parental responsibility, to move more nonpaying cases to paying status, and to increase the reliability of child support payment. The “bubble chart” illustrates this approach.   

At the same time, the child support program in a number of states and counties has been grappling with another set of changes related to staff reductions, limited resources, and reorganization. While our bubble chart helps us envision the program’s culture change, our challenge is to create an environment that stimulates this new approach in the context of more constrained program resources.   

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, rather than 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. Many programs are effecting change, from program administrators to line staff, through cross-agency discussions, strategic planning, and employee training and mentoring.  

The October-November 2012 Child Support Report newsletter begins a series of articles about managing child support program change. Illinois Director Pam Lowry explains how she and other leaders encouraged staff to think about how to rebalance the program through dialogue. They held conversations throughout the agency as a logical next step in a progression of service delivery improvements and spurred by the recent Turner v. Rogers decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. On page 4, Oklahoma Director Gary Dart tells us about the driving force behind his state’s overarching, strategic goal—healthy families. On page 5, former Georgia Director Keith Horton explains streamlined processes to give their customers faster, friendlier and easier services. 

Change management is key to helping us move toward a family-centered child support services model that recognizes that parents pay child support more reliably when they have a job and stay connected to their children. I hope you consider some of the ideas in our series of articles in the coming year. Let me know how your agency is managing change by sharing your thoughts on this Commissioner’s Voice blog.

 

 

 

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6 Responses to Change management in the child support program

  1. Ashley says:

    I’m just shocked as to why we didn’t have a family centric system in the first place. Of course parents are more likely to pay child support when they are an active participant in that child’s life.

    Looking forward to the newsletter.

  2. Michelle Layne says:

    I would welcome an opportunity for Custodial Parents and their support team to provide input and their perspecitive as a customer of the Child Support Enforcement Program are there any such forums?

  3. Ms. Rae says:

    I think it is refreshing to hear about the cross-collaborations among agencies. Terrific change can come from developing strong partnerships. Also I think it is refreshing to have both the non-custodial parent and custodial parent treated as valued as valued customers. As a family struggling to keep up with our own obligations in this stagnant economy, these efforts mean a great deal

    One concern I have is regarding the enforcement parenting time. So much time and energy is devoted to tracking the cash. I’m cursious to know what is done to ensure that the non-custodial parent is awarded the time allowed with his children? Does the state agency track the hours logged? What motivates a custodial parent to afford the non-custodial parent their awarded time? I can imagine how a non-custodial parent feels about giving 25% (or more) of their hard earned wages in a stagnant economy to an ex who denies him/her the right to parenting time but come across so many instances where devoted parents are blatantly denied their right to spend time with their children.

  4. Lisa Williams says:

    As a custodial parent and customer of the Child Support Enforcement Program in the State of SC, I agree with Michelle Layne’s comments re: custodial parents’ ‘customer’ input concerning the quality of the enforcement program and would also like information about any such forum(s). Thank you

  5. Kelly says:

    The non-custodial parent if current should have their hours logged and taken into effect for Child Support. ALso when the so called Custodial parent denies the Non-Custodial Parent their allotted visitation penalties should apply. Something has to be done so that the child isn’t get short cheated. They didn’t chose to be born so learn to get along for the sake of the kids for goodness sake. Custodial parents shouldn’t get to have to the best of both worlds…..Child Support and the kid…..They have got to get harder on these Custodial Parents that deny the Non-Custodial their visitation. Time to grow up! In the end the kids are gonna see what has been going on. Custodial parents might think they are out smarting the system now but in the end the kids are gonna see you for the real slime that you are and that you denied them their time with said Non-Custodial Parent. The Child Support Agency should be working for both partys. Not just giving greedy child baring women a chance to live off someone else. I know alot of dads that should have custody and because people are so stuck in the 1900′s that kids need their mommy’s well time to grow up and get with the times. That is not the case anymore and it needs to be looked into for things to become more equal.

  6. white says:

    Im a custodial parent and I did not bare children just to live off of someone else. So that comment says alot about what you define as the parents responsibility in taking care of their children……a way to live off of someone else or isn’t it really just wanting to receive support so that the child can be taken care of so the custodial parent isn’t having to struggle to make ends meet or beg from someone else to help. For any noncustodial parent that needs help with mediating visitation of their child ask for help. If you are paying support regularly and want to be involved in your child’s life then you should be able to receive assistance.

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To get help with your case or learn how to apply for child support, contact your state or tribal child support agency.  This is a moderated blog. All comments will be reviewed and cleared before they are posted. See Comment Policy.

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