Personalized Outreach: Testing Early Parent Engagement in Washington’s Child Support Program

Publication Date: August 27, 2019

This 19-page brief (PDF) summarizes an intervention tested in Washington under OCSE’s Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services (BICS) demonstration program. The goal of this intervention was to foster a more cooperative relationship between the Division of Child Support (DCS) and parents during the order establishment process to improve the perception of DCS. The key components of the intervention were specialized caseworkers, phone outreach, a follow-up letter if phone contact was not successful, and a cover sheet added to the service of process packet.

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 consent or agreement, reducing requests for hearings after orders were established, increasing payments in the first six months following order establishment, and maintaining current service of process rates.

The intervention produced positive impacts on one outcome measure, increasing the percent of consent orders: 5% for intervention group members compared to 2% for control group members.  The intervention did not produce statistically significant impacts on the other outcome measures. The intervention also did not negatively impact current service of process rates with 52.9% of intervention group members being served within 90 days compared to 51.9% of control group members.

The specialized DCS caseworkers were very positive about the intervention and found parents receptive to the early engagement efforts. In addition, caseworkers thought that the intervention led to more cooperative ongoing interactions with parents after the order was established.

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. 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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