Helping Wyoming Parents Overcome Job Barriers

April 10, 2020

The January 2020 Child Support Report originally featured this article by Kristie Arneson, IV-D Director, and Laura VanBuskirk, Project Manager, Wyoming Child Support Program. 

In Wyoming, like many states, we know we have a population of noncustodial parents who are willing but aren’t able to pay child support. This month we’re launching a new child support employment program targeted to parents who want to be responsible but face barriers getting jobs.

Wyoming has strong relationships with other state child support programs — and our TANF program is under the purview of the Wyoming Department of Family Services. Still, we knew that developing this new program would require outside partners and strategic planning to reach our goal.

Finding tools and advice

Thanks to the help of Knowledge Works and especially the subject matter expertise of OCSE program specialist Chad Edinger, we created the Work Initiative Network (WIN), and have pilot programs ready to go in Cheyenne, Gillette, and Lander to give us a mix of urban and rural populations.

We received both the Planning Guide and the Checklist to document all the steps for a successful launch. The electronic versions are centrally located with other documents on the Knowledge Works website. That means there’s no searching through emails, files, or other drives for that critical source. Knowledge Works also referred us to our peers in North Dakota because their child support program has been providing employment related services for over 10 years. Having OCSE support our program made it easier to learn best practices from other states and agencies so we could successfully customize services to our clients.

Finding money and parents

WIN will get funding through TANF dollars and will partner with the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. Our offices will provide case management services with a focus on child support, and Workforce Services will cover employment readiness and placement.

Our program model uses the “no wrong door” approach to recruit parents who owe support and are in various stages of the child support process. We will recruit parents who’ve received a first notice about a driver’s license suspension and those facing show cause hearings. Whatever door our customers come through, the goal is to increase compliance by removing employment barriers (such as lack of job skills) and finding incentives (like arrear adjustments) for success.

Adapting to change

A cornerstone of our Wyoming child support program is a paradigm shift that creates a consumer-centric approach to address the individual barriers that affect compliance. Our staff has been trained in motivational interviewing techniques for engaging parents and addressing their individual needs. Both the child support and workforce services staff will receive training and ongoing coaching on providing intensive case management services to an impoverished population with barriers.

Many child support professionals in Wyoming appreciate the cultural shift. We asked attendees at a state conference what they found frustrating in their work. They overwhelmingly responded that they didn’t have the necessary tools to help parents who owe support, including those with employment issues. WIN will provide the tools and benefit not only the child support program, but more importantly, our state and our Wyoming families.

For more information about the program, contact Laura VanBuskirk at laura.vanbuskirk@wyo.gov.