As we wrap up the 2019 calendar year, I begin my reflection with gratitude. I’m thankful for the collaboration, enthusiasm, and hard work of the child support professionals within OCSE and across the country. Your innovative ideas, customer service, and performance focus have continued to move the program forward and make a positive difference for children and families. As I look back on OCSE’s accomplishments to advance the national child support enforcement program, I’m pleased to recount some of the highlights of 2019.
OCSE played key roles in the first-ever ACF-hosted Fatherhood Summit, which brought more than 600 participants together with a focus on engaging fathers to improve outcomes for children and families across human service programs. With the goals to build a national culture that embraces the essential role of fathers in society and minimize barriers fathers have to overcome to receive inclusive and effective family services, ACF is putting concept into practice. While child support is always a key topic at fatherhood events, OCSE shared many examples of state and tribal agencies partnering with local fatherhood programs to improve fathers’ ability to provide for the social, emotional, and economic well-being of their children.
For the first time in over 10 years, OCSE held an All-Staff Training Conference with two days of workshops on technology, policy, cost allocation, communication skills, leadership, and more. We made this investment for the professional development of OCSE employees and, ultimately, for the benefit of the states and tribes we serve. A few months later, we published a list of the numerous services we offer state and tribal child support agencies — an extensive menu of training, technical assistance, and resources that span all aspects of the program.
OCSE awarded grant funding for the Intergovernmental Case Processing Innovation Demonstration to nine child support agencies to test innovations that will increase payments and improve case processing procedures for parents who live in a jurisdiction different from their child. By testing improvements to automation, staffing, data analysis, or system analysis, this grant will help develop creative and innovative processes that will make sharing information, transferring data, and communicating with other jurisdictions more effective. We anticipate the outcomes will improve case processing and increase consistent support payments on intergovernmental cases, and the grantees will share their innovations with the entire child support community for possible replication.
As OCSE continues to review requirements and regulations for areas where we could exercise greater flexibility, we have streamlined the requirements for states to conduct feasibility studies associated with modernization of statewide child support enforcement systems. We notified states that they will be held harmless while we review comments on the proposed changes to withholding of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Social Security Retirement (SSR) concurrent benefits. OCSE has also clarified guidance on tribal funding allowability to include outreach and education, intensive case management, minor transportation, and domestic violence awareness and protocols.
OCSE paired the publication of an information memorandum about applying for a funding and regulatory waiver to help create employment services for noncustodial parents with the launch of Knowledge Works! — a collection of tools, resources, and extensive technical assistance to help assess, design, implement, and enhance a child support-led NCP employment program. Multiple directors told us it would be helpful to have information from states currently operating employment programs, and we agreed that child support agencies nationwide could benefit from having a consistent framework to incorporate a work promotion program and evaluate its results. Watch for announcements of upcoming training webinars.
In the New Year, we will focus on these priorities: modernizing state systems; data analytics; increasing program awareness; and strengthening our federal, state, and tribal partnerships.
But people come first, ahead of processes and performance. So before we get busy tackling priorities for 2020, I encourage all of you to celebrate the holiday season, spend time with family and friends, reflect on your good fortune, and focus on yourself without thinking too much about work. Wishing you happy holidays!