Practices For Working With Child Support Private Collection Agencies
DATE: December 04, 2002
TO: STATE AGENCIES ADMINISTERING CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT PLANS UNDER TITLE IV-D OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT AND OTHER INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS
SUBJECT: Effective Practices For Working With Child Support Private Collection Agencies
BACKGROUND: In March 2002, the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report titled, "Child Support Enforcement: Clear Guidance Would Help Ensure Proper Access to Information and Use of Wage Withholding by Private Firms." (GAO-02-349). In this report, the GAO studied the practices of private collection agencies (PCAs) and state child support enforcement (IV-D) agencies.
Recognizing that, as the GAO noted, "collection of child support by private firms is a growing business," state IV-D agencies are increasingly concerned about their interactions with PCAs. Although they generally recognize that custodial parents have the right to contract with PCAs if that is their choice, state IV-D agencies have a legitimate interest in ensuring that their cooperation with PCAs is consistent with their obligations under Title IV-D and with the best interests of their customers.
To assist the child support community in improving service delivery to those customers who choose to hire a PCA, we have identified practices that states report as promoting a healthy working relationship with PCAs. We share these practices with you as examples of effective customer service.
The first attachment to this Information Memorandum describes some of the practices in five states - Arizona, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, and Texas - that state IV-D agencies report as promoting cooperative and productive relationships with PCAs.
The second attachment contains sample letters and forms that states have found helpful in connection with customers who want to have child support payments sent to them at the address of a PCA.
In addition to the effective practices in the first two attachments, OCSE offers some guidance to states on matters of consumer protection for those parents who may be interested in hiring a PCA. In recognition of the largely unregulated nature of PCAs and IV-D agencies - interest in protecting their customers from fraudulent, deceptive, or abusive practices, OCSE has developed a sample consumer guide to PCAs. This guide is the third attachment to this Information Memorandum and contains commonly-asked questions and helpful hints that parents may want to consider in deciding whether to hire a PCA. We encourage state IV-D agencies to make available these and other suggestions, based on their experiences with PCAs, to help parents make informed choices in hiring a PCA.
INQUIRIES: The practices provided in the first two attachments and the advice provided in the sample consumer guide are neither exhaustive nor exclusive. We expect that there are more examples in the country of IV-D programs that, whether through law, regulation or policy, have established good working relationships with PCAs. If you are aware of any, or if you have any questions about this Information Memorandum, please contact Myles Schlank, Chief, Technical Assistance Branch of OCSE at 202-401-9329.
State IV-D agencies and PCAs share the goal of collecting on orders to ensure children get the support they deserve. We need to keep that shared goal in mind when we work together. To this end, we encourage states to foster an environment of cooperation with our customers and, with their express authorization, their agents, including their attorneys or PCAs. In our view, such cooperation should include policies and practices that encourage the mutual exchange of important case information, such as payment history data and reports from PCAs of any collections made directly by them to ensure the customer's payment record remains up-to-date.
We hope that the attached practices and guidance prove useful to you. Thank you for your continued dedication and effort to find and share creative ways to improve the service that we provide to our customers.
Sherri Z. Heller, Ed.D.
Office of Child Support Enforcement
cc: Regional Program Managers
ACF Regional Administrators
Federal Case Registry Contacts