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Early Intervention - Virginia

2007 Best Practices

Published: December 1, 2007
Information About:
State/Local Child Support Agencies
Topics:
Case Management, Order Establishment
Types:
Promising Practices
Tags:
Toolkit & Training

Goals:

  • To develop a more positive and productive relationship with noncustodial parents (NCPs) by initiating and maintaining intense communication with NCPs with a new enforcement order so that this population has a better understanding of the Child Support program.
  • To prevent large arrearages from accruing and improve the ability to collect support for the families served.

Description: In December 2006, a specifically designed caseload was created to target NCPs with new obligations or NCPs with prior obligations, but new to DCSE. The criteria were designed to eliminate preconceptions clients may have about the child support agency or staff may have about clients based on a prior history with the NCP through prior case contact.

A caseworker was selected based on her professional and personable customer service skills and experience. The project involves the immediate contact, either in person or by phone, with the NCP. The contact with the NCP is carried out in a non-threatening and informative manner with the result of better communication and cooperation occurring immediately and over the long-term.

Good clear information is provided to the NCP about the terms of the obligation, the need to communicate with us, and the possible consequences of not paying as ordered. Barriers to noncompliance are identified and resources to assist the NCP in finding employment and other needed services are provided. NCP success in making payments is stressed, along with the positive effect on the family receiving the funds. The NCP has easy access to the child support agency through a direct line to a worker assigned to the case. There is extensive follow-up by phone and correspondence reminding the NCP when payments are due and when they have been missed, as well as contact with working NCP employers. Intense early contact provides a better opportunity to identify cases that may require a more hands-on type of enforcement such as personal reminders and follow-up to insure payment.

Results: During the first six months of the Early Intervention Project, the compliance figures in the area of payments made on either a current child support case or a case with arrears is higher than the State average.

The cases referred to this special caseload between December 2006 and January 2007 show the following:

  • 68 cases completely new to DCSE were referred to the Early Intervention Caseload between December 1, 2006 and January 31, 2007.
  • Three cases were referred to locate or to the unworkable status due to incarceration or receipt of SSI payments.
  • 51 of the 65 cases (78 percent) of the remaining NCPs made a payment.
  • 18 out of 26 (69 percent) unemployed NCPs made a payment during the cycle.
  • 62 of the NCPs out of the 65 owed arrears; an arrears payment was received during the cycle on 43 cases or 69 percent of that caseload. This is substantially above the State average of 48.72 percent for the 2 ndquarter of 2007.
  • 65 percent of the current support due for the period December 1, 2006 through April 30, 2007 for the 65 cases was collected. This is above the State average of 62.01 percent for the second quarter of 2007.

Several NCPs liked the high level of attention they receive. NCPs are making regular use of the direct telephone number supplied to provide employment information and inform the child support agency when a payment will be made, if wage withholding is not available. These new techniques seem to be effective with NCPs who are unemployed or self-employed.

The early intervention worker can immediately identify NCPs who have not shown any commitment to even attempt to pay as obligated. Instead of the delays that can occur with referring these types of cases to court in regular caseload situations, action can be taken within 120 days of referral to the caseworker. The early intervention worker is initiating the court action before the caseload is transferred to the general enforcement caseload to prevent further delays that allow higher arrearages to accrue. He is also able to identify to the general enforcement worker cases where some payment has been made in the early part of the cycle, but the NCP reports barriers or advises he will make a payment in the future. This allows the general enforcement worker an opportunity to create a trigger to review in 30 to 60 days and if necessary initiate further enforcement such as court referral. This proactive action prevents the case from falling between the cracks and delaying action before the debts become overwhelming. The early case referral to the court for action may be the catalyst to get an individual on the right track, before interest increases the debt.

The early results show the child support agency learns about new employment or about terminated employment in a timely manner. It appears that NCPs are paying directly in more instances until payments begin to be withheld from their wages. The project is in the early stages. Early outcomes show NCPs, without regular employment, are paying themselves in more instances than if they had not been included in the early intervention caseload.

Location: Lynchburg Virginia District Child Support Enforcement Agency, which is responsible for providing services for 10 localities and manages in excess of 17,000 cases with 45 employees. Other Virginia District Offices are using early intervention strategies with various methods and criteria. There are also similar initiatives in other States, one being Colorado.

Funding: Regular IV-D funds were used.

Replication Advice: The selection of the right type of person to manage this type of caseload is crucial. The person must be personable, yet professional, and truly committed to the idea of relationship building with these NCPs. The caseload requires someone who is always proactive and self-motivated since it requires a lot of follow-up to make this work. This project is new, but the early results are positive.

Contact:

Diane Asbury District Manager Phone: 434-386-2003 Email: Diane.p.asbury@dss.virginia.gov