Setting our sights high in 2013

Girl reaching up to treeThis New Year, I want to first congratulate all of you—child support professionals in state, tribal and local agencies, and in OCSE offices around the country—for setting your sights high on helping children, parents and families throughout 2012, and succeeding in countless ways.

January always seems to call out for an ambitious list of plans. As we work together to improve the lives of families in 2013, here are three aspects of our program that OCSE will focus on next year.

Program modernization

Today’s technology makes it possible to use data analytics to stratify child support caseloads and identify specific strategies to maximize success. We are no longer in a world that requires us to throw every enforcement tool at every case to see what sticks. Instead, we have the know-how to use program resources more efficiently by matching the right child support tools to the right case at the right time. 

The key words here are “caseload stratification”—the idea that different cases should be handled equitably but differently, depending upon the financial circumstances of both parents, to improve performance outcomes and customer service. In 2013, OCSE will examine ways to increase our effective use of national data under a contract with Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Program modernization also requires updated policies and procedures. Over the last two years, we’ve benefitted from state and tribal program input to develop a proposed rule to support state program flexibility, efficiency and modernization. Although we cannot say for certain when, we hope to publish the proposed rule in 2013 and incorporate your comments to draft the final rule.  

In 2013, OCSE also will conduct a set of national and regional conversations to inform development of medical child support policy options that support an evolving health care system. 

Program modernization also requires a focus on training, change management and program messaging, which OCSE will continue to highlight in 2013—including a proposed name change to Office of Child Support Services (CSS) in the works.  

Intergovernmental enforcement

We live in an increasingly complex and global child support world. As Congress considers legislation to update the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) to implement the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance, OCSE continues to prepare for ratification of the Hague Convention by strengthening OCSE’s capacity to serve as Central Authority for international child support cases. 

At the same time, the number of tribal child support programs in this country has more than doubled in the past five years. As we complete our pilot phase of the Model Tribal System conducted by Forest County Potawatomi Community and Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma, we will make the MTS available to all interested tribes and tribal consortia beginning next year.

We also will continue to expand state use of our FPLS portal services (including QUICK). Our ambitious goal is to add 10 more states this year, for a total 48 states by the end of the year. 

In 2013, we will continue to promote technologies, policies, and best practices to support efficient intergovernmental case processing. 

Research

We have launched the National Noncustodial Parent Employment demonstration project to conduct a rigorous national evaluation, including a random assignment research design and benefit-cost analysis, to determine whether unemployed noncustodial parents who receive employment services pay more child support.  

This is a five-year grant-funded project that will be evaluated by Mathematica and Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, with demonstration sites in eight states.

We also have a grant project to identify successful parenting-time models in five states and are managing an ACF grant project in seven states to identify models for effective systems interoperability and innovative cross-program technology.  

In 2013, we also will continue to expand our activities to identify demographic, performance and budget data trends impacting the child support program.

As we look ahead, 2013 promises to be another busy year at OCSE and throughout the national (and international!) child support program. I am so grateful for your commitment to families and children, and wish you a very happy and productive New Year.

 

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