The Hackathon project at the State DCSS provided LCSAs with an amazing opportunity to get involved in the ongoing development of the Child Support Enforcement system. The collaboration between the state and LCSAs fostered the development of new, creative ideas that led to incredible success. Furthermore, the project allowed LCSAs to provide valuable input into changes that will affect caseworkers on a daily basis. A few of us who participated would like to share our incredible experiences and successes.
From the perspective of Laura Galsi (Sacramento County DCSS), what stood out was how much intricate work goes on behind the scenes in CSE. Her project involved designing a way for an LCSA to easily create and manage teams specializing in a specific language. For example, many LCSAs with specific Spanish caseloads have had to manually reassign cases to such designations. Her team went ‘behind the scenes’ and constructed a way for CSE to automatically reassign cases to a specific caseload (if it exists) depending on the language of the participants. This involved many hours of computer engineers repeatedly ‘fixing’ and then ‘breaking’ the CSE environment until everything worked properly. Laura gained a new appreciation for the complexity of this system that we work in every day; it is easy to take this technology for granted. Overall, her team felt that the diversity in perspective resulting from the partnership between the state and the LCSAs allowed for their success.
Jeremy Bauer’s (Sacramento County DCSS) project was to add an arrears calculator to the state website with the purpose of providing a universal application for all LCSA workers and our customers. His team discovered that there are several different arrears calculators used by the majority of the LCSAs, which were found on their individual websites. His team started with the foundation of the Alameda County arrears calculator due to the functionality and visual display of their application. The goal was to ensure that this application was user friendly for our customers making them the priority when the team made changes or updates. They reviewed the entire application and updated the wording throughout all pages and sections, attempting to simplify the vocabulary and remove legal terms if possible. His team then updated the summary section to highlight how long it will take a customer to pay off their principal balance because this is when they will stop accruing monthly interest. Jeremy’s team also created additions to the payment schedule, again with the customer in mind, to make the payoff schedule easier to understand and follow. During the two weeks of collaboration, they were also able to create a Spanish version of this arrears calculator in order to reach a larger demographic of our customers who do not speak English. For LCSA workers, the team created three letter templates, which are found on CA Central. These templates will aid the use of this application in certain customer communication scenarios, which should help the LCSA workers summarize the information from the arrears payoff calculator after a conversation or present the payoff schedule to a nonpaying noncustodial parent. Jeremy thoroughly enjoyed his experience volunteering on the Hackathon project. For Jeremy, it was very insightful to learn the processes and procedures on the State DCSS level and to see what goes into updating CSE, adding or updating a form and adding or updating an application to the State DCSS website.
Tracy Zimmerman (Sacramento County DCSS) and Martin Horvilleur (Sacramento County DCSS) worked on a project that specifically addressed a Worker’s Compensation Collection action that not all LCSAs were using because it was too cumbersome to put all of the documents together. Furthermore, all of the necessary documents were only accessible through the LCSA website, or the LCSA would create their own document template. The team was able to create not one but two form sets in CSE to accomplish this same action as well as allow the caseworker to upload the documents to the case. This will save the caseworker time by eliminating the additional steps needed to accomplish the same objective as well as create uniformity in the documents submitted to the Worker’s Compensation Appeals Boards throughout the state. The addition of these forms in CSE should encourage LCSAs to use this collection tool and thus see their collections increase.
Tina Lorenzo (Solano County DCSS) had the opportunity to work the “Just A Snapshot” challenge. She wanted to work on this when she read the description because Solano is one of four LCSAs using the Ad Hoc Q-1191 query each week. The goal was to convert the existing query into a report which would be available to generate in CSE. She was amazed at how complex the process is and how many programmers it takes to make any changes to CSE. Each step they took came after much discussion as a team and required specific expertise and knowledge from both CA DCSS and LCSA staff to move forward towards the goal. Knowing the LCSAs would be able to generate a report with data current as of the prior business day was her motivation to completing the challenge.
Scott Proffitt (San Bernardino DCSS) worked on the CSE Home Page revamp. His team worked on getting the things that LCSAs wanted to see in CSE’s new look and feel. We provided input on every title or page developed and even made changes to the pages already in existence. We worked on improving the way the system looked and how it was going to function at the LCSA level. We developed a summary to ensure that everything was included and that at the LCSA level it made sense. We were able to review the demo project from front to back and top to bottom and see exactly how it would work at the local level. Scott’s experience was amazing as he got to work with so many great new people and see what it took to make CSE work for the LCSAs on a daily basis.
Through collaboration, the efforts of both the state and local LCSAs made it possible to complete not only the thirteen assigned projects but also two additional projects, all in only ten days. With the success of its inception, the LCSAs look forward to future hackathons.