Category Archives: Child Support

Talking with the courts

Statue of justice in foreground and unidentified books in backgroundOver the past 18 months, I have had a number of conversations with national and state judicial groups, as well as individual judges, magistrates, and court administrators. These conversations across the country have led me to two clear conclusions: The courts are having many of the same conversations that we are in the child support community and there is judicial support for implementing family-centered child support processes. This summer, I had the honor of addressing the state court chief justices and court administrators about our family-centered framework at their annual conference, which focused on domestic relations issues. While there, I learned that the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ), the association representing the chief justices, has adopted access to justice and civil justice reform as key priorities for the coming years.

Since then, the National Center on State Courts (NCSC) has written a groundbreaking report on civil justice reforms strongly endorsed by CCJ in a July 27, 2016 resolution. NCSC publically released Call to Action: Achieving Civil Justice for All on August 3. Two short, informative podcasts describing the report also are also available on the same webpage.

I urge each of you whose work intersects with the judiciary to review the recommendations contained in the report and in Appendix I, “Problems and Recommendations for High-Volume Dockets.”

Here are some sobering facts outlined in the report. In three-fourths of civil cases, at least one party is self-represented, “creating an asymmetry in legal expertise,” 45 percent are uncontested, and 20 percent of civil cases end up in default judgments. Inadequate service of process contributes to the high default rate: “traditional procedures for serving notice in civil lawsuits are functionally obsolete, especially in suits against individuals. Typical methods of serving process are riddled with inaccuracies and inadequacies.” Overcrowded and confusing courtroom environments also contribute to uncontested and default judgments. “One size fits all” civil procedure and court rules are not working for litigants and many defendants cannot afford to litigate. The practice of calendaring dockets, requiring parties in several cases to come to court and wait for their cases to be called results in many people missing work, and incurring child care and transportation costs.

The report calls for change:

Restoring public confidence means rethinking how we work in fundamental ways. We need to put citizens back at the center of our system. We must ensure they are heard, respected, and capable of getting a just result, not just in theory, but in everyday practice. We have to harmonize the fairness of process with the modern, flexible experience people expect. These recommendations empower courts to embrace new procedures and technologies, to give each matter the resources it needs — no more, no less — and to prudently shepherd the cases we face now. … The Recommendations are crafted to work across local legal cultures and overcome the significant financial and operational roadblocks to change. With concerted action, we can realize the promise of justice for all. Our citizens deserve it. Our democracy depends on it.

The report places a renewed focus on high-volume calendars, emphasizing the requirement for all judgments to comply with basic procedural requirements for notice, timeliness, and sufficient documentation. It states that resolution of uncontested cases must meet the same standards for due process and proof as contested cases. It calls for simplified court rules and processes that screen out unnecessary technical complexities.

The report lays out a set of specific recommendations that call on state courts to:

  • Conduct a thorough examination of their civil case business practices that adapt to case needs to reduce delay, cost and complexity and increase fairness;
  • Implement  “right-sized” case management and case “pathways” based on a sufficient assessment of individual case characteristics and needs; and
  • Ensure that litigants have access to accurate and understandable information in plain language and real-time help for litigants to navigate the process.

Sometimes I hear child support administrators express trepidation about reaching out to state court leadership. But child support agencies are not alone in grappling with high-volume caseloads, severely reduced resources, the dramatic increase in pro se litigants, the critical need for technology and research-informed case management tools, the Constitutional imperative to provide equal access to justice and procedural fairness for all, and a strong commitment to positive child and family outcomes. I say that there has never been a better time to begin a dialogue with our judicial partners at every level of state court administration. Take the initiative.

For information on helping justice involved individuals, read the September Child Support Report.

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Four salespeople wearing aprons in hardware storeOur ability to collect consistent child support depends upon employment — and employers. The Family Support Act of 1988 revolutionized the collection of child support by requiring employers to withhold support payments from the paychecks of parents owing support. The law flipped the paradigm: instead of garnishing delinquent payments, the law established a process modeled after income tax withholding to withhold payments as they became due. In fact, the income withholding law is an early application of behavioral economics by setting up automatic payroll deductions with an opt-out to help parents do the right thing.

Next came the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), enacted twenty years ago. PRWORA required employers to report new hires and established the National Directory of New Hires. Obtaining employer data on a systematic basis allowed us to determine whether parents owing support have a regular paycheck coming in.

These two business practices — income withholding and new hire reporting — transformed our program. Today, 75 percent of collections are paid through income withholding, and our current collection rate is at an all-time high of 65 percent. This means that families are more likely than ever to receive regular on-time payments that they can depend upon and budget for. And it means that we could not be where we are today without our essential partnerships with employers. Indeed, employers are our MVPs. In recent years, several child support agencies have launched employer outreach campaigns and established dedicated employer liaisons to keep our employer partnerships robust.

As part of our efforts to facilitate income withholding and new hire reporting, OCSE has prioritized automated tools, portal enhancements, and standardized procedures to streamline the process. These streamlined processes make it easier for employers to help us carry out our mission and get more support to families.

We have made a number of improvements such as:

  • e-IWO — Federal legislation enacted in 2014 requires states to use electronic income withholding. More than 50 states and territories participate in e-IWO, and they issue withholding orders to more than 9,000 unique Federal Employer Identification Numbers. Find out more in Sherri Grigsby’s ‘Employer outreach builds allegiance’ article on page 3.
  • Reporting lump sum payments — Employers can now report lump-sum payments through the federal portal to increase child support collections and help employers comply with state laws.
  • e-Term — Employers can report employee terminations electronically through our portal.
  • Verification of employment — Following a change in federal legislation, we issued guidance (DCL-16-01) to employers and to state child support agencies that a verification of employment sought by a child support agency does not trigger the reporting obligations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  • New hire reporting pilot — This tested new approaches to improve new hire reporting rates among employers.

Employers do something else for child support collections, too. They provide jobs. Most of the parents in our caseload are working and raising families. The most effective way to improve our collection rate is to increase the number of parents who are employed and paying monthly support through income withholding. A growing number of employers are providing job opportunities for parents with a criminal record and have signed the White House Employer Fair Chance Business Pledge, a commitment to consider job applicants with a record. We have a link to the pledge on the OCSE Employers webpage.

OCSE launched the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED) in 2012. A number of other research projects have studied interventions designed to improve the employment outcomes of low-income adults. Our colleagues at the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) within the Administration for Children and Families are publishing a series of briefs as part of their Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review (ESER), a systematic review of studies published between 1990 and mid-2014 regarding employment and training interventions for low-income adults.

In the August 2016 Child Support Report, our spotlight is on employers. Read this month’s issue to learn more about the important connection between fatherhood and jobs, why the federal office is reaching out to employers, and how Illinois is helping employers get more money to families.

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Child support performance has never been stronger

Blue line graph on a yellow backgroundThe numbers are in, and I am very pleased to report to you that 2015 represents a new high water mark in child support program performance.  Congratulations to all of you for your resilience and hard work!  We have come through the economic downturn stronger than ever.

The child support program continues to be highly effective for millions of children and their families, reducing child poverty and promoting family self-sufficiency. In 2015, we provided child support services for 16 million children, more than 1 in 5 children nationwide, along with 22 million parents and caregivers. According to 2013 Census Bureau data, child support was 41 percent of the income of poor families that receive it, up from 29 percent in 1997.

Paternity, support order establishment, current collection, and arrears collection rates have never been higher, while cost-effectiveness remains high at $5.26 collected for every $1.00 spent.

And the really exciting news is that as states have begun to implement family-centered strategies on a broader scale, the current collection rate — which measures support order compliance and regular payments — is starting to rise. The last time we saw the current collection rate move this much was in the early 2000s. We also see an uptick in the arrears collection rate.

Over the past decade, we have made progress on every measure. Here are our FY 2015 national results:

  • We collected almost $29 billion in IV-D cases receiving child support services, including over $50 million in tribal child support collections, reflecting the growth of the tribal child support program. In 2006, we collected $24 billion.
  • We collected an additional $4 billion in payments made through income withholding orders for child support cases that did not receive child support services.
  • The IV-D paternity establishment percentage was 100 percent and the statewide Paternity Establishment Percentage was 95 percent, maintaining the high numbers from 2006.
  • 86 percent of cases had a child support order. In 2006, the support order rate was 77 percent.
  • We collected 65 percent of current support. In 2006, it was 60 percent.
  • We collected 64 percent in arrears cases. In 2006, it was 61 percent.
  • Our cost effectiveness rate of $5.26 compares to $4.58 in 2006.
  • Our collections increased by nearly 20 percent since 2006, while our expenditures increased by 3 percent.

The data say we are headed in the right direction. I am proud of your commitment to strengthen and improve our program.  Because of you, more families have what they need to make ends meet and more children have what they need most — parents who put them first.

Learn about more our improving performance measures in the July 2016 edition of the Child Support Report.

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Fatherhood and justice

Image of father on computer near baby in cribHow did your father influence your life’s path? My father taught me that I could think for myself and solve problems if I tried. He expected me to achieve.

Fathers matter to their children. In fact, research says that father-child relationships influence children as much as mother-child relationships. Fathers influence their children in different ways than mothers. Babies who interact with their fathers tend to acquire language skills more readily. Children whose fathers spend time with them do better in school, have more self-control, and are more ambitious and willing to embrace risk. Teens who feel close to their fathers start having sex later.

Fathers are more involved with their children than ever before. The roles of mothers and fathers are converging. Most families with children have two incomes and share in the care of their children. And more fathers provide the primary care of their children. The research says that African-American fathers are more likely to physically care for their children and prepare meals for them than other fathers. Most nonresident fathers maintain contact with their children, and many are involved with their children’s daily activities. Nonresident fathers who have jobs are more likely to be involved with their children. An equal number of moms and dads say that parenting is rewarding and central to their identity.

So what happens when a father is incarcerated? Emerging research finds that when fathers are sent to jail or prison, their children pay the price. And this is particularly true of sons. Sons of incarcerated fathers show more aggressive behavior and attention problems. Children of incarcerated fathers have more contact with the child welfare system.

The negative impact of incarceration on child well-being goes beyond parental separation of other kinds. Incarceration adds a barrier to employment and diminishes earnings potential. Incarceration can reduce a father’s ability to work, earn, and pay child support after release. Incarceration also negatively impacts the relationship between the parents. It can break up families. When a father or mother goes to prison, a child’s path is changed forever.

In recognition of Father’s Day and the fifth anniversary of Turner v. Rogers, the June 2016 Child Support Report (CSR) provides information on fatherhood program resources in the child support community. We also feature stories on procedural justice because this can be critically important when a child support office is determining a parent’s ability to make payments. In the June edition, you’ll also learn more about customer service at the federal level and how the child support program helps parents and state agencies.

We work in child support to help kids. Let’s put the needs of children first in our daily case decisions.

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Making policies work for families

Kids counting coinsMoms and dads raising children on their own work hard to keep the rent paid, milk in the refrigerator, and growing children in shoes. It’s a struggle to manage on a tight budget. The child support program collected $28.6 billion for almost 16 million children in 2015. Ninety-five percent of the money collected was paid to families. However, the remaining 5 percent, or $1.3 billion, was kept by the government to repay cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or foster care program funded under title IV-E of the Social Security Act. That is because families are required to sign over their rights to support when they apply for cash assistance. Even after they stop receiving assistance, the government keeps a share of the support collected.

When that happens, the government, not families, benefits from child support. Cost recovery is not the best use of the money paid by parents for their children. Instead, that money could be going to support children. More money to families means bus fare to get to work, school clothes, diapers, and other necessities. Research finds that family distribution policies remove disincentives for parents to pay support, increase family income, and reduce the need for families to apply for cash assistance in the first place, with little net cost to the government. These policies are family-centered and help parents provide for their children.

It is time to renew the policy dialogue on family distribution. In 2006, the Congress enacted the Deficit Reduction Act providing states with a set of options to pay 100 percent of the money to the children, instead of keeping some of the money to reimburse government costs. In addition, the President’s FY 2017 budget proposes to offset some of the revenue loss that states would incur by using child support to support children rather than government budgets. One of the five program goals articulated in the National Child Support Strategic Plan is to pay collected child support to families. We encourage states to consider adopting family distribution and pass-through options authorized under the Deficit Reduction Act.

Families need more than child support

Child support income alone is not enough, however. Child support programs can help families manage their tight budgets in other ways. Many parents have limited access to resources such as employment, education and training opportunities linked to economic security; and reliable housing, transportation, and quality full-day child care that will allow parents to pursue job opportunities. The stress of living in poverty without access to adequate mental and physical health services and social support can lessen parental sensitivity and emotional support for children. And, in turn, when child development is not fully supported, children may be more challenging to raise, less prepared for school, more likely to drop out, and bound for their own adult life in poverty.

Along with child support, TANF, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and other safety net programs can help provide supplemental income for families. Noncustodial parents also need help. In the May 2016 Child Support Report (CSR), we feature New York City’s Paycheck Plus, a three-year program testing the expansion of the EITC for workers without dependent children, many who are noncustodial parents. You’ll also read about the comprehensive approach Washington state is taking to help parents. The Alternative Solutions Program helps them find jobs and keep them by addressing issues that might impact job stability like transportation and child care. Basic assistance, work-related activities, and child care are key services that support unemployed or underemployed parents with insufficient income, limited jobs skills and other barriers to employment.

A two-generation approach helps parents and children

Child support agencies can partner with TANF agencies to coordinate across programs for parents and programs for children to provide comprehensive two-generation approaches that work for families. We encourage child support agencies to work with TANF agencies to promote and support whole family approaches such as:

  • Linkages between high quality educational services for children and workforce development services for their parents;
  • Programmatic efforts to help parents gain the skills, knowledge, and resources to support their child’s development;
  • Ensuring that families have access to the economic and social supports needed for stability and resilience, and healthy child development; and,
  • Helping families build social capital that can support both resilience and upward mobility.

We can do a better job at connecting parents to the services they need for their family such as health care, food assistance, domestic violence intervention services, and other social services. Asset-building and financial management programs are available to both parents in many communities. We need to provide case management tools to child support workers so that they know who to refer and where to refer families for the help they need. Moms and dads can’t raise kids on love alone.

Learn more in the May 2016 CSR about the ways child support offices are making a positive difference.

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National Child Support Strategic Plan

Image of child looking forward with the words "National Child Support Strategic Plan for 2015-2019" on it.The national child support program has a long history of program innovation, performance measurement, and continuous improvement. Every five years, our community engages in a consensus-building process to create a new national strategic plan that will further strengthen the program and lead it into the future.

This month, we are publishing the National Child Support Strategic Plan for 2015-2019. The plan reflects the collaborative efforts and diverse perspectives of the state, tribal, and county child support agencies that — along with the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement — make up the national program. The plan is organized around five principles that represent a coherent vision for the future of the program.


A family-centered child support program partners with parents to promote consistent support payments.


An effective child support program uses the right tools to meet the needs of the specific case.


An efficient child support program incorporates modern technology.


An enterprising child support program leverages sufficient resources to meet its mission.


A high-performing child support program is evidence-based.

In addition to these five principles, the plan lays out 25 goals and more than a hundred innovative strategies that many state, tribal, and county child support agencies are already putting into practice.

To ensure the continued effectiveness of the program, the national plan recognizes the relationship among program resources, technology, and performance and identifies strategies to address aging systems. State Child Support Director Kate Cooper Richardson, gives us a great example of this interplay in describing her state’s systems upgrades process in the April 2016 Child Support Report (CSR) article, “How Oregon is building a 21st century automation system.” You will also learn more about improvements in minority outreach and how tribes will have access to the Federal Parent Locator Service soon.

The national strategic plan strongly emphasizes the importance of child support income to child and family well-being and focuses on a range of evidence-based and locally tested strategies to collect more child support by strengthening both the ability and willingness to pay. Illinois reports on one county’s new accountability court in the April CSR, and we feature a Parenting Time Opportunities for Children grant success story from San Diego.

While use of the strategic plan by child support agencies is voluntary, many jurisdictions use the national plan to help build their own plans. The national plan may be a particularly effective tool for agencies to highlight family-centered strategies alongside conventional enforcement practices. In this way, the plan recognizes approaches that will help the child support program serve all families more effectively — now and into the future.

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How the President’s FY 2017 Budget Strengthens Child Support

Graphic of White House with the words "Administration's FY2017 budget " on it.I am pleased to describe the child support-related legislative proposals included in the Administration’s FY 2017 Budget. We are renewing a number of prior proposals for efforts to ensure that children benefit when support is paid, promote access and visitation, improve program efficiency, and for dedicated research funding. We’re adding new proposals to further strengthen enforcement. And, this year, we’re proposing a Child Support Technology Fund to promote the replacement of aging child support systems.

Below are the six areas of legislative proposals related to child support. These summaries offer a quick read on the proposals; for more details, see our FY 2017 Budget fact sheet. It is a supplement at the end of the February-March 2015 Child Support Report (CSR).

Child Support Technology Fund — to promote the replacement of aging child support systems to increase system security, efficiency, and integrity

Child Support Research Fund — to spark research, build the child support evidence base, and tailor the appropriate child support enforcement tools for each family

Strengthening Establishment and Enforcement — to increase collections and program efficiency

Child Support and Fatherhood Initiative — to encourage noncustodial parents to support their children and play an active role in their lives; to build on the family distribution reforms included in the 1996 and 2006 statutes; to encourage states to pass through child support collections to TANF families so that when parents pay child support, their children benefit; to support safe increased access and visitation services and integrating these services into the core child support program to improve collections and parent-child relationships and outcomes for children

Medicaid and Child Support Proposals — to allow states to eliminate Medicaid’s requirement to assign the right to cash medical child support to the state as a condition of eligibility to reduce barriers to health care access and increase resources for the poorest families

NDNH Access Proposals — to allow certain additional programs and agencies authority to access NDNH data for program integrity, implementation, and research purposes

As we focus on the budget, in the February-March CSR, Washington and Nebraska child support offices share their insights on another important planning tool — the strategic plan. Washington shares its story on the systematic steps staff members took to develop their plan, including using a visual management tool to display progress. Nebraska staff and leaders used a roadmap analogy to describe their process in developing their strategic operations plan. We’ll continue the discussion on strategic planning in next month’s CSR.

In the meantime, we would like to hear your thoughts on the FY 2017 Budget.

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Reflecting on our accomplishments

Toddler Glazing Out WindowThe start of a new year is a good time to look back. We have been through a lot of changes in the past seven years. Let’s start with some of the sobering ones.

The Economy

The economic downturn affected parent earnings and child support program funding alike. During the height of the recession, support collected through income withholding declined by 3 percent, while support collected from unemployment insurance tripled between 2008 and 2010.

At the same time, the child support program experienced significant decreases in program funding and staffing levels. Our peak funding year was 2008 — before the recession — when program expenditures were $5.87 billion in nominal dollars. Since then, funding has declined over 3 percent to $5.69 billion in 2014. Structural labor market changes, increasingly complex families, and reduced program resources have all taken their toll.

Despite the setbacks, our performance has improved slowly but steadily since 2008. In 2014, we collected $28.2 billion, a 6 percent increase over the $26.6 billion collected in 2008, even as the caseload declined by almost 4 percent. Our support order establishment rate was almost 85 percent in 2014, compared to 79 percent in 2008. The percent of cases with a collection was 60 percent in 2014, compared to 57 percent in 2008. Our current collections rate was just over 64 percent in 2014, compared to less than 62 percent in 2008.

Doing business in a changing world

There is no question about it: The child support program has been challenged to find new ways to do business to be able to respond to unprecedented changes in our world. During the decade from 1999 through 2008, the child support community engaged in extensive national and regional discussions about the future of the program, examining such issues as:

  • The impact of organizational and funding decisions on the program;
  • The shift from welfare cost recovery to family distribution policies;
  • Strategies for addressing the accumulation of arrears;
  • The role of fathers in families;
  • The risks of domestic violence;
  • Opportunities for tribal services in Native American communities;
  • Strengths and limitations of automated enforcement tools; and
  • The critical relationship between having a job and paying support.

These state planning and early implementation efforts, along with growing research, laid the groundwork for a more holistic approach to reinforcing noncustodial parents’ financial responsibility to their children.

Family-centered strategies

Over the past seven years, we’ve successfully promoted a comprehensive family-centered framework designed to address barriers to employment, respond to changes in family roles, and increase the consistency of support payments. We are asking ourselves case-specific questions such as, “What are the reasons for nonpayment?” and “What would it take to obtain regular payments?” Practice in the field is shifting from a one-size-fits-all, standardized, and highly automated case management process to a more targeted approach that incorporates evidence-based practices framed as “the right tool for the right family every time.”

By strategically deploying a combination of early interventions, more thorough investigations, enforcement actions, and targeted services, we can do a better job of obtaining consistent child support for families. We have been working to build evidence about what works to increase support payments through our grant programs including the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED), Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services (BICS), Parenting Time Opportunities for Children (PTOC) pilot projects, Tribal Innovations Grants (TIG), University Partnership grants, and more.

Tribal child support

Over the past few years, we’ve also managed a significant increase in tribal child support programs —more than doubling the number since 2009. We currently fund 62 comprehensive and start-up tribal programs. We also developed and launched our award-winning tribal child support system — the Model Tribal System (MTS) — that is now operational in nine tribes. Although it seems like just yesterday that we launched the system, we have now begun an MTS modernization project to take advantage of the flexibility and modularity offered by today’s technology.

Other technological advances

In 2009, we went live with our Child Support Portal. Passport Denial was the first application, followed by Federal Offset Online, Multistate Financial Institution Data Match Online, Locates Online, FCR Query, DoD Entitlements, Query Interstate Cases for Kids (QUICK), Debt Inquiry, eTermination, Employer Search and Electronic Document Exchange (EDE) accompanied by other federal system services such as Electronic Income Withholding Order (e-IWO) and FAST Levy.

International enforcement

We continue to advance the ball on international and interstate cooperation, with state-by-state enactment of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) 2008, following U.S. signature to The Hague treaty in 2007 and the Senate’s advice and consent in 2010, which you read about in the December 2015 Child Support Report. The treaty will greatly expand the number of countries that will recognize and enforce U.S. child support orders. Under the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014, Public Law 113-183, all states must enact the UIFSA amendments as a condition of state plan approval and federal funding. States must adopt UIFSA 2008 in order for the U.S. to ratify the Hague treaty. All but two states have passed the legislation so far, and we expect to ratify the treaty this summer.

Managing change

In the January 2016 Child Support Report, Retired Oklahoma Child Support Director Gary Dart continues his four-part change management series, Do healthy families initiatives conflict with performance measures? This month, he explains how an approach that aims for the best possible outcomes for each case can also “reward” agencies with performance incentives. All of the articles in the change management series will be available on our Managing Change in the Child Support Program webpage soon.

Also, be sure to read the article “Outreach to federal inmates.” South Carolina tells us how it is reaching out to noncustodial parents in prison. We also offer some tips on helping job seekers struggling with digital job searches.

Needless to say, we’re off to a running start in 2016! Thank you all for your tenacious work over the past seven years — and over the past 40 years since the child support program was enacted. For four decades, we have never stood still. And families deserve no less from us.

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2015 was a busy year…

40th_banner_image_PNGThis year is the child support program’s 40th anniversary. For four decades, the program has fostered a culture of performance, innovation, and change. When I talk with child support professionals across the country, I hear a strong commitment to service, a deep engagement in the daily work of the program, and a willingness to do what it takes to accomplish our mission: collecting child support for children. We are always trying to do better. I think the phrase I hear most often from child support employees is that “The work is never boring!”

And indeed, it is not, for we are in the business of helping families succeed. Change has been our constant theme. Changes in the family structure, job market, and customer demographics since 1975 have required us to steadily adapt our services to the realities of today’s diverse families. From the beginning, we’ve looked to changing technologies for more effective and efficient processing of our caseloads. But behind the technologies, behind the dollars, behind the performance numbers are real families, families struggling to make ends meet, families trying to keep it together, families who are doing their best to raise their children.

National Public Radio ran three stories in November that provide a good backdrop for understanding program change. “How America’s Child Support System Failed to Keep Up with the Times” gives a historical perspective, summarizing child support’s challenges with the social changes occurring in the country in the last 40 years. Two other NPR articles focus on child support debt, explaining the reasons for billions of dollars in accrued arrears and how the Administration’s proposed rule can help minimize future accruals through realistic, right-sized orders. We provide the links to all three in the December 2015 Child Support Report (CSR).

Family mobility across state, tribal, and international borders requires even stronger coordination with other jurisdictions because these movements have expanded our intergovernmental workload. Our December CSR article, “Putting the “Uniform” Back in UIFSA”, chronicles efforts to strengthen interstate and international case processing with a common set of operating guidelines.

As the program evolved from a welfare cost-recovery model to one of the most significant income support programs for families, child support professionals have shifted their service mindset. We now strive for a more individualized approach, deploying a range of tools and strategies to “enforce, engage, and enable”, so that we do not leave any families behind. Our goal is to help all children receive the support and care they need from their parents. And it’s working. Our success at change management is a win/win for children, families, and agencies.

Be sure to read the first article in a new four-part change management series, “Do healthy families initiatives conflict with performance measures?” In this series, debuting in the December CSR, retired Oklahoma director Gary Dart explores the impact of “Healthy Families” principles on the five federal child support program indicators. He explains how an approach that aims for the best possible outcomes for each case can also “reward” agencies with performance incentives. Gary’s article, as well as other change management articles, are available on our Managing Change in the Child Support Program webpage.

While diversifying the program’s service delivery approaches, we are also experiencing change in the physical workplace. Staff turnover, leader successions, telework, consolidated offices, and different office layouts are just a few of the adjustments we are making in your daily work lives. OCSE’s recent moves to smaller, redesigned spaces give us a real appreciation of how environmental changes can affect the way we think and work.

After 40 years of service, you continue to dedicate yourselves to better serving our child support customers one person at a time. As we move into the future, we’ll continue to learn and use the evidence of “what works” to improve the program. Thank you for your commitment and hard work.

Happy 40th Anniversary and Happy New Year!

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Celebrating the growth and success of tribal child support programs in honor of Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month

2015_native_american_heritage-2In honor of Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month, OCSE celebrates the growth and success of tribal child support programs.

Today, one in ten federally recognized tribes — 59 out of 566 — operate comprehensive child support programs. Another four tribal programs are in the start-up phase. Many tribes have incorporated traditional practices into a holistic tribal family-centered service delivery model.

Federal funding for tribal child support began in 1996 when the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act gave HHS authority to recognize and directly fund tribal child support programs. To jumpstart the implementation, OCSE offered Special Improvement Project (SIP) grants. Tribal nations could request funding directly or through a state partnership to establish a new child support program or enhance their existing one.

Three tribes collaborated with states to establish a tribal child support office. The cover article of the October/November Child Support Report, “Early history of tribal child support”, describes New Mexico’s use of federal funds to help the Navajo Nation establish three tribal offices in 1996. The Chickasaw Nation co-authored a SIP application with Oklahoma to establish its own tribal child support office in 1998. Wisconsin also received SIP funding and helped the Menominee Nation establish a child support office on the reservation.

Seven tribes received the first SIP grants directly in 1999:

Tribal automation has expanded too. Nine tribes are using the MTS, one is installing the system, and three have Advance Planning Documents under review. They’ve come a long way since the Forest County Potawatomi Community agreed to pilot the system in 2009 and was joined the following year by the Modoc Tribe. To support program growth, OCSE and tribes collaborated to develop the Model Tribal System. Sandy Cloer, the Tribal Child Support Program Director of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians chronicled her tribe’s progression from membership in a tribal child support consortium to having its own MTS program, and now leads a consortium to help other tribes get started. Read about that journey in the CSR article, “Starting a tribal child support program.”

Over the years, I’ve seen a change in how tribal programs have come together to build a strong peer network by forming the National Tribal Child Support Association as well as emerging regional associations. I’ve also observed deepening and respectful relationships between states and tribes. I’ve seen tribes reach out to states and states reach out to tribes to support our common mission through openness, dialogue, and partnership. I’ve seen tribal child support transition from a young program without a lot of specialized experience or technology to a more mature, full-service program that is modeling best practices and holding itself accountable.

At OCSE, our organizational culture has evolved right along with the growth of the tribal program. We’ve integrated the tribal program into our daily business. We formally reorganized our office so that virtually every aspect of our work now has a tribal component. We continue to learn some lessons about consultation, dialogue, and trust in order to work through tough, complicated issues. We’ve learned to navigate together and we’ve seen the tribal child support program come into its own.

This is all part of building stronger futures for Native children. Our Tribal Innovation Grants are helping tribal child support offices improve their capacity to administer innovative, family-centered child support services that help parents provide reliable support for their children. You’ll read how the Forest County Potawatomi Community and Chippewa Cree Tribe are using grants to improve customer access to services, increase collections, and coordinate with child welfare and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The tribal program has put down roots. It is moving into a new phase of deepening services, refining practices, and strengthening impact. I have had the honor to witness an incredible program take its place to support renewal of tribal family resilience, hope, and healing.

We feature more stories about tribal child support programs in the October/November CSR. I would love to hear your experiences.

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