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Dialing for Dollars - Minnesota

2007 Best Practices

Published: December 1, 2007

Goal: To improve initial and ongoing compliance with child support orders, and prevent cases from accruing support arrears so children get the consistent financial support to which they are entitled.

Description: Stearns County had approximated 4,900 cases and a staff of 22 people as of June 2006. Staff made an effort to make phone contact with noncustodial parents who had not paid on their support obligations in the previous month. A day was dedicated to this task. Workers used work lists generated by PRISM, Minnesota's automated system for the establishment of child support and medical support, to identify obligors who had missed payments. Workers began calling and tracking the outcome of the calls. If an obligor was not available, a phone message was left asking them to return the call, but no details of the nature of the call were left for the purpose of confidentiality. If contact could not be made, a letter was sent to the obligor instead.

Obligors were approached in a non-threatening manner. Obligors such as SSI recipients and those with pending modifications, to name, for example, two groups, were not called at all based on circumstances surrounding their case. Workers were able to complete this activity within one day. All efforts were documented on PRISM case notes. Workers were instructed to focus only on this task. The supervisor handled all other calls for the unit during this day.

Results: Approximately six weeks after this event, the supervisor reviewed all cases that had received a call or letter in order to determine if payments had been received since the contact was made. All payments were counted, except tax offset payments. Stearns County reported the following results:

  • 42 percent of cases had no phone number
  • 22 percent of cases had payment within six weeks of contact
  • $30,000 was attributed to this effort

The county decided to try this approach again two months later. The results of this effort were:

  • 10 percent of cases had payment
  • $17,000 was attributed to this effort

Benefits realized by implementing these procedures:

  • Increased collections
  • Improved case data on noncustodial parents
  • Obligors were better educated about the consequences of non-payment
  • Improved relationships with noncustodial parents
  • Saves future work on cases
  • Identifies cases needing modification
  • Improved customer service
  • Decreased arrears

Location: Stearns County, located in central Minnesota, has a population of 141,055 (2004 estimated). The population is concentrated in the east end of the county, in the St. Cloud area. This practice could easily be implemented elsewhere. Presentations were made to other counties around the State about this project, and State self-assessment staff has distributed this promising practice when they visited other counties.

Funding: Regular IV-D funds are used in combination with State and county funds for staff time.

Replication Advice:

  • Encourage staff to try it before they decide if it is a productive effort
  • Obtain buy-in from all staff involved
  • Verify contact information on all calls
  • Use work lists to identify cases and track cases that are part of this effort
  • Consider ad hoc reports to help identify cases and track payments
  • Use plain envelopes and colored paper for letters
  • Identify the success of the project and relay the information to staff
  • Contact the custodial parent on cases where the noncustodial parent cannot be located
  • Brainstorm talking points and ways to keep the tone of the contacts non-threatening
Last Reviewed: March 1, 2019
Archived: March 13, 2019

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