Tag Archives: Veteran

Plans underway to fulfill milestone legislation

U.S. Capitol, trees in foregroundWe celebrated a major milestone at the end of the fiscal year when President Obama signed new legislation that will have lasting impacts on several key areas of the child support program. You’ll see an outline of these key areas in the November/December Child Support Report (page 2), and we’ll feature several articles in future editions.

At a glance, the legislation involves six child support-related components. The law:

  • Expands the Hague Treaty to strengthen our international case processing efforts.
  • Gives Indian tribes access to important child support data systems.
  • Encourages parenting time arrangements as part of child support order establishment.
  • Requires new standards for data interoperability – or data sharing – among states.
  • Requires mandatory electronic income withholding. This will potentially save states’ and employers’ time, resources, and postage – and get child support to families more quickly.
  • Requires OCSE to submit a major report to Congress in June 2015.

And, this just in, we’ve reached a second milestone. On Nov. 17, we published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register titled “Flexibility, Efficiency, and Modernization in Child Support Enforcement Programs.” (See a summary in my Action Transmittal.) We are soliciting public comments for 60 days, or until Jan. 16, 2015. After we receive public input, we will finalize the rule.

In honor of Native American Heritage Month in November, the Child Support Report highlights another type of milestone – OCSE issued its first competitive grants to tribal agencies. We also put the spotlight on veteran parents, as we honored veterans on November 11.

Despite the holiday season when we all take on busier schedules and family commitments, we’re rolling up our sleeves in OCSE to examine the various requirements of the new law – and more. After a successful pilot, we’re taking steps to roll out a nationwide project that will give child welfare staff access to data through our State Services Portal (page 3 in the Report). This information clearly will help child welfare workers connect foster children with family members – and offer many other benefits.

I’m eager to start another year of working together to drive our strategies toward more timely and efficient services for our diverse families. Happy New Year one and all!

We want to hear from you!

As part of the new legislation I discuss on this page (Pub. L. 113-183), HHS must prepare a report to Congress that reviews the effectiveness of the child support program, including an analysis of any unintended consequences or performance issues associated with program practices. The report asks us to obtain public and stakeholder input. We published a Notice of Request for Information in the Federal Register to solicit comments by Dec. 22, 2014. Take a look at the instructions in the Federal Register.

 

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Child support program engages veteran and military families

Girl hugging man in military uniformMay highlights veterans and military families. In addition to National Military Appreciation Month, May hosts Armed Forces Day (May 18) and of course Memorial Day (the 27th).  Also, May 10 is Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

As child support workers, we have an obligation to work with families at their most vulnerable. We cannot repay the sacrifice that our service men and women and their families make for our country, but for many reasons, the child support program must pay special and well-deserved attention to military members, veterans, and their families. Here are some of those reasons:

  • About 50 percent of active duty members and 70 percent of Reserve and National Guard members are parents. See the OCSE fact sheet “Military Services and Child Support Partnerships.”
  • About 6 percent of the national child support caseload involves a veteran or a active military member.
  • Military families face extra challenges with multiple deployments and a higher divorce rate than the rest of the population.
  • A massive military drawdown by the Pentagon is set to begin this August.
  • Military members transitioning to veteran status often face a decrease in pay and a significant risk of unemployment.
  • Cases involving veteran parents are more likely to be interstate cases that require more attention.
  • Veteran noncustodial parents are likely to have significantly higher arrears—27 percent higher on average. See the OCSE fact sheet “Child Support Participation in Stand Down Events.”

In the coming months, OCSE will work with our partners at state, tribal, and local agencies, many of whom are already leading the way in outreach to military families. We plan to spread the word about their innovative services. We also plan to strengthen communication, systems, and policy links between child support and the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to support collaborations that add real value at the state and local levels.

Resources to help you

On OCSE’s Military & Veterans webpage, you can find fact sheets and other resources to help you work with veteran and military families.  Here are a few:

A Handbook for Military Families: Helping You with Child Support – Our new handbook answers questions for both custodial and noncustodial parents on topics such as paternity establishment, child support, access and visitation, and child custody. While valuable for military families, the handbook is also useful to child support caseworkers and supervisors, as well as  military commanders.

Working with the Military on Child Support Matters – Look for an update this summer. We regularly hear from caseworkers that this resource serves as an indispensible desk guide on military issues surrounding a child support case.

A Child Support-VA Collaboration Toolkit – Look for our assessment later this year of nine pilot projects across the country that are helping veterans who are homeless. Through a partnership between OCSE, the VA, and the American Bar Association, the pilot projects are helping homeless veterans gain permanent housing through assistance with modifying child support orders and reducing arrears.

I’m particularly excited about our Veteran and Military Liaison Network. The network brings together staff from the state and local child support community to explore ways we can better serve those who have so proudly served us. Its members are connecting with each other smoothing the way for cases involving veterans and military families. For more information on the network or any other aspect of our work with veterans and military families, please contact Thom Campbell at thom.campbell@acf.hhs.gov.

 

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Welcoming Back Parents in the Military

Military parent 1Over the past decade, the child support program has come to view both parents as its customers. We can’t do right by children unless we extend a helping hand to those mothers and fathers who need it. This is particularly the case for military families who have put themselves on the line for our country.

In her article in the December Child Support Report, Gwen Anderson, military liaison for Delaware’s child support program, talks about this changing approach to noncustodial parents. Gwen personifies the commitment to collaboration that we share in our program. As Gwen says, collaboration with military and veteran organizations “can offer great rewards for the child support agency, both parents, and most importantly, the children.”

The story about Delaware is one of several in the newsletter about projects that demonstrate that the child support program is becoming a place where military families can turn to for help with child support-related concerns.

I am proud to see child support professionals around the country reach out to military and veteran parents. You may be a specialized military liaison, attorney, caseworker, call center staff, or receptionist. Whatever your role, the time you invest in helping parents manage their child support cases and related family issues is time invested in children.

We’ve added a new section on the OCSE website—Working with our Military and Veteran Parents—that links to three new fact sheets and other resources. The fact sheets are part of a broader OCSE initiative to reach out to parents who are currently deployed or returning to civilian life. Over the coming months, we will continue to develop information that we hope will be useful to you, military and veteran organizations, and families.

Please submit a comment on this blog to share your examples of working with military and veteran families in the child support program.

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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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