Explainers and Case Managers: Engaging California Parents during Child Support Order Establishment

Publication Date: August 8, 2019

This 20-page brief summarizes an intervention tested in California under OCSE’s Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services (BICS) demonstration program. The goal of this intervention was to increase parental engagement in the order establishment process. The key components of the intervention were specialized case managers, a process explainer document, and phone outreach to parents.

The intervention was tested using random assignment to divide eligible noncustodial parents into two groups: intervention and control. The targeted outcomes included increasing the percentage of orders established by stipulation or hearing; reducing the percentage of orders established by default; and increasing the number of noncustodial parents who submitted a specific form, known as the Answer form, in response to receiving the legal service package from child support.

The intervention produced positive, statistically significant impacts:

  • Answer forms filed (3.1 percentage points)
  • Orders established at court hearings or by stipulation (3.2 percentage points)
  • Child support payments ($93 on average, from $351 paid on the study order in the control group to $444 paid in the intervention group)

No statistically significant impact on the percentage of orders established by default was identified. The intervention increased overall order establishment by 17.1 percentage points among Spanish speakers, while increasing it by only 4.1 percentage points among English speakers.

The intervention resulted in a higher rate of successful service for the noncustodial parents in the intervention group (74.6%) as compared to the control group (69.6%). This impact was unanticipated and makes it difficult to determine whether the intervention components or the increased rate of service are responsible for the impacts found.

This brief is not an OCSE publication. MDRC produced this brief under contract to the State of Washington’s Division of Child Support in the Department of Social and Health Services, with funds from the BICS evaluation grant awarded by OCSE to the state. This brief is in the public domain. Permission to reproduce is not necessary.

The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of OCSE, the Administration for Children and Families, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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