By Bianca Hawkins, San Diego County Department of Child Support Services
The ideas that came from the thoughtful and committed group of citizens who gathered at the 2019 CSDA Policy Symposium ranged from a radical helicopter ride into the future, to strategies for promoting upward mobility for our families, to economic forecasts, to community engagement, and finally to a carrot versus stick analogy for thinking about child support enforcement. We were fortunate to have presenters who are passionate about children and families share their knowledge, stories, and research.
Futurist Mary O’Hara Devereaux started out the day by providing predictions for future technology and innovation in the workplace. Leaders were reminded that innovation is crucial in planning for the future of their organizations. And although technology and artificial intelligence are outpacing human adaptability, humans will always have a competitive advantage because we possess the ability to empathize.
Empowering families was another theme that was present at this year’s symposium. Dr. Heather Hahn shared a qualitative study that sought to answer the question, “What would it take to dramatically increase mobility from poverty?” She shared the researcher’s findings that power and autonomy, being valued in the community, and economic success were key to increasing mobility from poverty.
Part of empowering families means giving them the tools they need to succeed. Community partnerships play a key role in empowering families and breaking the cycle of poverty. Sandra Hamameh and Ashley Anglesey of the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) presented research and resources for local child support agencies in order to fill in the gaps in providing vital and relevant services to our families.
A large factor impacting mobility from poverty is the current workforce climate. Amar Mann provided positive stats showing low unemployment rates, a surplus of jobs, and careers with competitive salaries that do not require a four-year degree. We learned that although the unemployment rate is low, rates are still higher for young people, single women with young children, as well as for the African American and Latino populations.
We had the pleasure of hearing from California Senator Holly Mitchell, District 30, who was interviewed by our moderator, Dr. Sherri Heller. Senator Mitchell, an advocate for women, children, immigrants, minorities, juvenile justice reform, and the environment, shared her journey into the political arena. Senator Mitchell urged attendees to get involved in their communities and engage with their policymakers on the issues that matter to them.
Lastly, we heard from California Department of Child Support Services Director, David Kilgore. Mr. Kilgore reminded us that as we are evolving into a more engagement and incentive-based approach to child support we can continue this momentum by creating more user-friendly forms and updating terminology for parental roles to be more neutral. Mr. Kilgore encouraged LCSAs to think about when using incentives might be more effective than using automated enforcement tools.