The National Technical Assistance and Training Needs Assessment Report summarizes key findings and recommendations arising from the recent Needs Assessment. The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) thanks the National Council of Child Support Directors for distributing the assessment, the State IV-D Directors and their staff for completing the Needs Assessment instrument, and the Federal and State representatives who helped develop the assessment and who participated on the follow-up teams. Attached is a list of Federal/State team members.
To follow up the National Technical Assistance (TA) and Training Needs Assessment conducted September - December 2000, OCSE established five "teams" of State and Federal child support enforcement staff. The Needs Assessment and teams were organized according to the six incentive categories – the five that currently exist (paternity establishment, support order establishment, collection on current support, collection on arrears, cost effectiveness, and a sixth for medical support, which will be an incentive category in the future).
The teams were asked to clarify and expand the specific technical assistance and training needs identified in the Needs Assessment and develop preliminary TA and training recommendations for OCSE's consideration. These recommendations include suggestions about new national TA and training efforts as well as ideas about how existing training and TA products could be more effectively targeted to States and, perhaps, used by a wider audience.
Each of the follow-up teams held a series of telephone conference calls to gather information to supplement the Needs Assessment results. Team members contacted most of the 40 States that originally responded to the Needs Assessment and held follow-up conversations with State staff.
KEY ISSUES AND NEEDS BY INCENTIVE AREA
Key issues are listed under each incentive area as identified in the Needs Assessment. Major recommendations for technical assistance and training that the teams propose are listed as well as OCSE's activities and plans to address them. The recommendations addressed in this report focus on technical assistance and training areas consistent with the major purpose of the Needs Assessment. The report is not meant to delineate all the issues related to these topics, nor all the TA and training activities OCSE has provided or plans to provide States.
States also expressed the need for OCSE to address certain policy issues, especially in the areas of interstate and medical support. Please note that OCSE is working on these policy issues, in consultation with States, and will provide guidance once developed.
Recommendations and OCSE Response:
OCSE will identify and promote best practices concerning this collaboration.
OCSE will update and disseminate an updated list.
-- explore outreach beyond hospitals to other medical communities and other interested groups including community based and faith-based organizations.
-- consider awarding demonstration grants in this area.
Support Order Establishment
Recommendations and OCSE Response:
OCSE will identify examples of various State methodologies and explore creating State uniform resource locators (URL) links with this information.
--identify and promote best practices in this area
--provide grant opportunities for developing innovative practices
--explore conducting a data match with prisons to identify incarcerated NCPs
- Publish examples of support orders that are clearly written and easy to understand. These can be used as models for other States and courts.
OCSE will identify and promote best practices and consider publishing Techniques for Effective Management of Program Operations (TEMPO)s.
Collection of Current Support
- Unemployed/Underemployed Obligors: States perceive a need for training for underemployed obligors so that they can get jobs with salaries sufficient to pay child support. In addition, they think that many noncustodial parents may not be aware that they can petition for a modification of a child support order when there is a change (especially a decrease) in their income. States also mentioned that it is difficult to attach an unemployment insurance payment from another State.
- CSENet: CSENet usage varies greatly among the States. There is a question as to whether States can use CSENet, but choose not to, or whether States are having difficulty working with CSENet. CSENet is not well known by many CSE staff and States may not realize the capabilities of CSENet.
- Undistributed Collections: There are many reasons for undistributed collections including: when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) matches with joint accounts, there is a wait for six months to attach; overpayments becoming future payments; difficulties locating custodial parents (CP); and unidentified payments that require research. In addition, there are delays when the payroll schedule does not match the support order schedule so that payments are held.
- Military/Federal Agencies: States are concerned about delays in the implementation of income withholding orders by the military. There is also a lack of information about where to send an income withholding order or request for employment verification. In addition, not all Federal agencies honor all current orders for support. Instead, they sometimes follow a "first come, first served" policy.
Recommendations and OCSE Response:
- There is a need for additional investigation into the efforts required by child support agencies to establish and maintain collaborations with welfare-to-work agencies for the purposes of referring noncustodial parents to their programs. There is also a need for the promotion of data collection and analysis where these collaborations exist to document the outcomes of these referrals.
OCSE will promote best practices in this area and also consider other TA approaches such as conducting National conference calls and, possibly, issuing a TEMPO.
- Promote good CSENet training and practices.
OCSE will continue to provide TA via conference calls for interstate case processing issues, on-site CSENet assistance and will identify and promote good State models. Also, see p.12 for training related activities.
Collection on Arrears
- Collections from nontraditional wage earners: States mentioned their difficulties in collecting arrears from self-employed, incarcerated and/or low-income NCPs.
- Interstate: States were concerned about different State policies and procedures regarding interstate cases (e.g., some States don't even try to collect on "arrears only" cases) as well as delays in processing interstate cases. They also discussed the low priority given to interstate cases and the difficulties in distribution of payments on interstate cases when several States are involved.
- Other: States wanted to know more about how and what other States are doing particularly in areas such as liens, interest, undistributed collections as well as ways to use new locate information provided by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 (PRWORA) tools. States also need help with reconciling arrears and setting retroactive arrears.
Recommendations and OCSE Response:
- Guidance concerning reconciliation of arrears in interstate cases as well as in determining controlling orders.
--will be identifying model practices and developing guidance to States on the reconciliation of arrears (a Task Order will be awarded by September FY 2001).
--has issued a DCL-00-64 which includes State materials on determining the controlling order and has recently disseminated to States a TEMPO on the same subject (IM 01-01, April 18, 2001).
--is providing training to employers on support order withholding to help avoid arrearage build-up and identifying and sharing best practices.
--is conducting on-site State visits to document processes where the Federal Case Registry(FCR), National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), and Multi-State Financial Institution Data Match (MSFIDM) data can be used within child support business areas.
--is providing guidance to States via conference calls on data usage and automation and other related topics.
--is encouraging States to submit biweekly arrearage updates to Federal Offset system and to enforce payoff of arrearages when a passport is denied.
--is providing technical support for automating "freeze and seize" process and setting up direct levies based on MSFIDM data.
--is promoting electronic transfer, of income withholding orders and payments, especially among Federal agencies, to avoid arrearages.
--has arranged for the military to offer online and batch processing options for income withholding to avoid arrearages.
- Effective Use of Automation: States cited a need to use automation more effectively as a caseload management tool to improve program cost. For example, automated income withholding should provide an increase in collections for fewer labor hours than manual income withholding. However, many workers face "death by prompt." With hundreds of alerts every morning, the natural response is to ignore all of them. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. This is a particular problem with the increasing numbers of medical assistance cases and the responsibilities for non-IV-D cases.
- Management Training: Many States struggle with the issue of minimal or no training for managers. For example, some managers have not been trained on the new Federal performance incentives and some local offices do not receive training on how to make use of their performance data.
- Serious Personnel Issues: Most States cited several personnel issues. For example, the high rate of employee turnover has a serious impact on all of the performance indicators, on customer service, and on training costs. Many States cannot keep good caseworkers because of low salaries and morale, and/or cannot use cash bonuses as employee performance incentives.
- General: The Cost Effectiveness team feels this measure should be revisited since the measure can penalize small States due to certain required fixed costs such as systems, which may not be as easily spread across a large number of cases.
Recommendations and OCSE Response:
- Consider providing technical assistance to States on developing a Request for Proposal (RFP) and managing a privatization contract.
OCSE will review and consider updating/re-issuing the 1997 publication, entitled "A Guide to Developing Public-Private Partnerships," available on OCSE website (/programs/cse/rpt/pvt/contents.htm).
- Sponsor a conference on Cost Effectiveness that would address the following issues: effective use of automation, management training, personnel issues (front-line training), sharing best practices, and reengineering and privatization.
--will consider existing avenues for promoting this information (e.g. conducting audio conferences, workshops at National association conferences, especially the 12th National CSE Training Conference).
--will promote/provide existing training material related to these issues.
- OCSE should consider setting up a work group to review the alert requirements for a certified system. This group could help reduce the problem of "death by prompt."
Although system certification alert requirements are mandated, OCSE will explore and promote best practices in reducing the number and types of alerts to caseworkers, such as eliminating informational alerts, limiting alerts to overdue actions, etc.)
- Consider changing the cost effectiveness measure.
This would require a legislative change. The incentive measures were developed by a Federal/State work group and OCSE has no plans to introduce new legislation.
- Insurance Data Matching: It is difficult for States to get good data on the insurance coverage offered by various employers.
- Interface with Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP): State programs are finding it difficult to handle referred CHIP cases effectively because most of those referred are not interested in receiving services from the CSE program. Once they are referred, however, the CSE program has no ability to close the CHIP cases.
- National Medical Support Notice: There are policy questions around the use of the National Medical Support Notice (NMSN). There is also a concern about teaching employers how to use the NMSN. There is a desire for a National employer outreach effort in this regard. There is also a concern about how to operationalize using the NMSN. This extends to getting information on the automated child support enforcement systems, and training staff regarding the use of the notice. In addition, there is a privacy concern regarding the use on the NMSN of the CP and dependent address.
- Policy Clarification: In addition to questions about the use of the NMSN, States are concerned about various Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) policies that seem to conflict with CSE policies regarding medical support. There are questions, too, regarding enforcement against CPs who are providing health insurance.
Recommendations and OCSE Response:
- Implementation and use of the National Medical Support Notice (NMSN)
OCSE will make the NMSN available on the OCSE website and organize an internal group to design and develop training on the use of the form.
- A national database of employers and the medical insurance they offer.
This would require Federal legislation and may not be able to be addressed at the national level. However, OCSE will explore possible approaches (such as identifying State best practices) to address this issue.
- Development of outreach materials for CHIP participants to encourage their use of CSE services.
OCSE will coordinate with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regarding dissemination of child support information to CHIP participants and on related referral issues.
- Outreach to employers by providing them with information regarding medical support, specifically on the use of the NMSN. States would also like to know what kinds of outreach other States have created so that they don’t have to "reinvent the wheel."
OCSE is working on an employer outreach project regarding information on medical support and identification of State best practices. The first product will be articles for national employer newsletters and a matrix of State medical support contacts along with State specific information.
GENERAL TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE RECOMMENDATIONS
OCSE has traditionally provided many types of national, regional and state-specific technical assistance to States such as "Best Practices" compilations, special topic meetings and technology transfers. States' feedback indicated that they find this assistance to be extremely useful and they recommended that this assistance continue to be provided. They also gave examples of the general types of assistance that will be most useful to them, as noted below. OCSE will continue to provide and expand its TA efforts to address specific and evolving State program needs.
- Best Practices. In general, States welcome any program information they can get from other States that can be used as Best Practices. This was mentioned in all groups. There is a desire for Best Practices that are narrowly focused on specific program operations, rather than on general topics. For example, in the area of interstate case processing, States would like more information on determining controlling orders and reconciling arrears.
Our follow-up teams also discovered where States are doing well on a given issue and their practices should be shared with their colleagues. For example, there was a great deal of interest in the programs that States are using to link child support enforcement to insurance data. There are many good ideas that might become "Best Practices" in the area of cost effectiveness that States could share, such as prioritizing worker prompts and cost-benefit analyses of proposed program changes.
- Regional Meetings. States are requesting regional meetings for several issues. Issues that require cooperation among States (e.g. interstate) or sharing ideas among fellow frontline workers (e.g. collection on arrears, interface with CHIP) could benefit most from these small meetings. In addition to managers, supervisors and local staff need to be involved in these discussions. Best practices and good ideas can be more easily exchanged in smaller settings that reach local or line staff.
Also, sharing issues and ideas through regular meetings is important. Many counties face similar problems (e.g. the metropolitan counties surrounding a large jurisdiction). States suggest establishing regular meetings among these similar counties so that they can share successful approaches and develop solutions.
- National Meetings. States encourage OCSE to continue representation at conferences such as those held by National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA), Eastern Regional Interstate Child Support Enforcement Association (ERICSA), and the Western Interstate Child Support Enforcement Council (WICSEC) so that common issues and solutions can be discussed among a broader range of interested parties.
- Audio Conference Calls. For issues requiring policy clarification as well as on specific operational issues, focused telephone conference calls could serve an effective vehicle for discussing issues needing policy clarification. For example, there are a number of issues regarding medical support enforcement that might be clarified through calls. States also suggested weekly audio conferences as one possible way to address the management issues affecting cost effectiveness.
Also, States suggest that notes from audio conference calls should be posted on the National Work Place so that other States can refer to the information discussed whenever the need arises. (Some States may not be grappling with an issue at the time it is discussed, but will have a need for the information at a later date.)
- TEMPOs. States would like to see TEMPOs developed on specific topics and posted to the OCSE website. For example, in the area of interstate, specific information on determining a controlling order would be useful.
- National Work Place. Some States would like to see an increased use of the National Work Place website as a place that workers could ask their colleagues about specific program issues or view other States’ policies on a specific area of program operation. This site would not be available to the general public.
- National Electronic Child Support Resource System (NECSRS). States find this web based tool to be very useful in locating Federal/State materials; however, they believe it would be much more useful if they could access more State resources.
- TA Site Visits. Team visits to a State or county can sometimes be used to help resolve problems.
It was clear from responses to the Needs Assessment instrument that there are many people who are clamoring for the training that OCSE has already developed and delivered. A majority of respondents said they had used the Computer Based Training (CBT) developed by OCSE – these ranged from about 54 percent who took the Distribution course to about 74 percent who took the Paternity Establishment course. More than 40 percent of the respondents would like to use OCSE’s classroom training course on Distribution. An effort should be made to extend the training efforts to meet these needs. In addition, several States have developed training packages that can be adapted and used by other States. OCSE can work toward matching State training needs with existing Federal and State training curricula. OCSE can also make an effort to ensure that State training packages (in addition to those developed by OCSE) are available through OCSE’s website and the National Electronic Child Support Resource System, which are both accessed by about 80 percent of respondents.
OCSE recognizes that it needs to expand marketing efforts of existing Federal training. OCSE has designed a cost-effective training approach that includes Training of Trainer (TOT) style training for regional/State teams and the development of computer/web based training courses. This approach is more feasible in reaching a large trainee group than providing direct classroom training to individual States. OCSE has used this approach for Distribution, including providing the course via TOT delivery to regional teams, and will continue to encourage States to use the Distribution CBT. If more assistance is needed, States could request regional team training.
OCSE has, and will continue, to offer Federal training courses through NECSRS and has encouraged States to offer their curricula through that system. However, States have been reluctant to do so. OCSE will continue to encourage States to make their training courses available via the web.
DEVELOPING NEW TRAINING
States indicated several areas in which training should be developed.
- Customer Service Training
OCSE has developed a 3-day Customer Service Training Course that is being piloted and will be available to States in the Fall 2001.
- Training on the use of the newly enhanced CSENet
While OCSE does not have an official training curriculum for CSENet, it does have an End User Support Group to provide ongoing assistance to States. OCSE is also providing a CBT to States on State and Federal automation tools; has a 2-day Regional training course on Federal Location and Collection Services; and will be providing 1-hour seminars for local CSE field offices.
- Training for caseworkers regarding how the military processes income withholding requests as well as other child support enforcement functions, such as paternity establishment.
OCSE plans to develop a training curriculum for military child support enforcement.
- Management training on the Federal incentives and how to implement performance-based improvements. States also need training on how to measure performance and how to react to performance trends. Managers need help to establish specific performance objectives as well as strategies to accomplish these objectives.
OCSE plans to develop management training workshops and a curriculum related to performance incentives/improvement.