By Nicole Windom-Hurd
Program Manager, Riverside Department of Child Support Services
In September 2016, the Office of Child Support Enforcement hosted the Child Support Idea Lab in San Francisco, CA. Participants included agencies from across the states of California, Arizona, Washington State, Nevada and Guam. Albert Einstein once said, “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires a creative imagination and marks the real advances in science.” These child support professionals were tasked with just that, to take a look at the way we do business and how to change with the times.
Over the intensive one day session, attendees broke out into small groups to spend the day generating ideas and solutions. The groups focused on two broad topics of Increasing Collections and Re-Branding of the Program. This fast paced think tank lead to lots of creative brainstorming ideas. The group dynamic allowed each agency to share their ideas, program successes and challenges.
The increasing collections topic focused on working with employers, helping parents be more consistent with child support payments, promoting convenience payments, and using data to improve performance. Re-Branding of the Program brought about lively discussions on marketing the program, re-defining our relationship with customers, our changing caseload, and Domestic Violence and Access and Visitation considerations.
As the attendees brainstormed throughout the room, a number of ideas were shared. Discussions were had on raising awareness of our program (marketing our services), focusing on the growing population of grandparents raising grandkids and minors, adding parenting time to court orders, and creating a military veterans desk. The concept of hosting community events such as DCSS in your neighborhood, providing a toy for a child with your SLMS release, and housing an on-site social worker or court liaison for referrals were also well-received.
Our own contribution from Riverside to the discussions is called the “Hike It Up” Program. This program was designed to increase child support collections by targeting non-custodial parents paying by income wage orders. Prior to customer interviews, during phone calls, and while working CMT, caseworkers prepare two arrears liquidation summaries, one with the existing pay rate and another with the proposed pay rate. The calculations are easy to prepare and take less than a minute to run. The caseworker explains the benefits of an increased pay rate which would decrease the length of time the debt is owed, provide overall savings in interest to the customer, and ultimately increases the amount collected for child support. It was unexpected that customers would embrace the concept of paying more toward their arrears…but they actually appreciate the effort staff has shown to benefit them. The potential of this collection strategy is limitless. In a matter of several months, 621 IWOs have been increased totaling an extra $52,000.00 per month in collections (over $600,000 annually).
The Child Support Idea Lab assists in and creates a starting point for continued sharing and learning to occur. So, the question is, what other innovative ideas can we share and take to the next level?