Perspectives from the Field: While OCSE waits for a permanent commissioner to come on board, we are sharing stories submitted by state and tribal child support directors.
This month, we feature California Child Support Director Alisha Griffin. She tells us how her state's partnership with another country is improving services for parents.
Mexico is California’s direct southern neighbor and many families find themselves divided by the border. California and Mexico share hundreds of intergovernmental child support cases making it imperative to try to establish stronger partnerships and cooperation between the child support offices involved.
Over the last few years, Californian and Mexican courts and agencies have collaborated and strengthened their relationships to help hundreds of families obtain the support they need. These collaborations include developing multiple agreements to clarify and streamline processes, cross training California and Mexico child support staff, and setting up electronic payment cards for international payments to get money to families more quickly and easily.
California’s Imperial County Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) and Mexico’s Baja California child support agency (Sistema de Desarrollo Integral para la Familia Baja California) signed an MOU so child support applications could pass directly between the two agencies rather than go through the Federal Central Authority in Mexico City. This reduced the average number of days from case opening to order establishment from 196 days to less than 60 — a significant improvement!
Imperial County DCSS extended this cooperation by signing an interagency agreement with the supreme court of Baja California (Poder Judicial del Estado de Baja California). It improved direct communication between the Baja California and California child support agencies and streamlined processes for establishing and enforcing orders, which helped families on both sides of the border. Now, judicial officers and chief justices of several other Mexican states are looking at creating similar agreements.
Later in the year, Imperial County DCSS Director Liza Barraza, Deputy Director Guillermo Fernandez, and I spent three days training family court magistrates and judicial officers and state prosecutors for child support agencies from each Mexican state. We also used a webcast to broadcast the training to all 50 Mexican consulates in the United States and the 32 regional offices of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We covered the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, UIFSA 2008 alignment, and Mexican law. The trainings provided a great way to share knowledge and build our relationship.
In February, California DCSS sent 395 electronic payment cards to families in Mexico. Previously, these families received paper checks, which meant they often had to wait a long time to receive payments and frequently had to pay exorbitant check-cashing fees. California DCSS worked closely with the Mexican consulates to deliver the cards to the local Mexican government agencies, called Delegaciones, so they could help families activate their cards.
California and Mexico share a border, but we have the ability to erase the barriers that those borders can create in government processes. We look forward to further cooperation with Mexico, and we will continue to create innovative practices for all intergovernmental cases. Our goal is to help every family in our caseload, regardless of where in the world they reside.
The July 2017 Child Support Report newsletter has another story from California. Turn to page three to learn how Sacramento helped a dad in Utah care for his family in California by using a federal grant. There are more stories in the July edition.
Alisha Griffin assumed leadership of the California Department of Child Support Services in June 2014 after directing the New Jersey program for 18 years. She serves as an expert to The Hague Permanent Bureau and currently chairs the Governing Body for the Case Management System, iSupport. She has served as President of the National Child Support Enforcement Association and the National Council of Child Support Directors. For more information on California’s outreach activities, contact CA DCSS Office of Communications at DCSSOCPA@dcss.ca.gov.