This final report summarizes implementation and impacts of the Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services (BICS) demonstration. The goals of the demonstration were to use insights from behavioral science to develop interventions that could improve child support services and increase parent engagement, and to encourage the rapid-cycle testing of these strategies, leading to further improvements. In the process, the project hoped to build the participating child support programs' capabilities in behavioral science and evaluation and support these and other child support programs in replicating and implementing effective practices. Child support programs in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Washington participated as grantees.
Findings from the demonstration include:
- Outreach and communication informed by behavioral science can make parents more likely to respond to outreach, attend in-person meetings, submit required forms, and make initial payments on new orders.
- Interventions directed at a specific activity, such as encouraging parents to attend a meeting at the child support office, can affect outcomes related to that activity, but will not necessarily affect other outcomes at later points in the child support process, such as longer-term payment rates.
- The interventions' effects are typically modest in size, but they are also inexpensive to implement.
BICS demonstrates the significant potential for behavioral science to improve child support services for parents and staff members. Each of the participating states has incorporated concepts from behavioral science into its program going forward. The grantees will help mentor additional states and localities as they attempt to improve their services and meet their goal of securing support for children.
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.