By David Kilgore

Director, Riverside County DCSS

davidkilgoreMost of the time, when we talk about performance, it’s all about county performance. We know our numbers inside and out and are constantlyperformance_newsletter comparing ourselves against other counties as if it were a competition (even though we may not admit we are in competition).  Each of us constantly strives to improve and grow our programs.  What we do not tend to focus on is how our local performance comes together in the form of Statewide results.  When I sat down to write this article, I would not have been able to rattle off the State’s Federal Performance Measures (FPMs) and I certainly couldn’t tell you how they stack up in comparison to other States.

California has always done exceptionally well in the area of Paternity Establishment (98.18 in FFY 2014) so I have excluded those numbers from the performance chart and this discussion.

In the case of Support Orders, Current Support and Arrears, California has made improvements year over year for the past five years. Bravo to all of us!performance_newsletter2

But…Just because we are improving does not mean our performance is good. As we do at the county level, we have to compare our performance to other States to make an assessment on the successfulness of our program.  Texas is often used as a good point of reference and comparison for California because of the size of our respective programs.  You may be surprised to learn that California outperforms Texas in all three measures (Texas 2015 Performance:  Support Orders 82.9, Current Support 65.0 and Arrears 63.8).  In fact, when you rank the child support programs in the US and territories, California is 15th in Support Orders, 16th in Current Support, and 18th in Arrears.

performance_newsletter3Where does California DCSS get into trouble? Cost Effectiveness.

California is ranked 50 out of 54 on the Cost Effectiveness FPM. The District of Columbia, Delaware, Guam, and the Virgin Islands fall behind California on this measure.  It’s an alarming statistic and a concerning rank.  Many have looked at this statistic and criticized California despite the very good performance results in all the other areas.

Why is the Cost Effectiveness measure so performance_newsletter4problematic for California?

First let’s look at total Collections. California collected $2.247 billion dollars in 2015.  This was an increase of $39.3 million over 2014 and $85 million up from 2011.  In FFY 2016, from October through August, California has already increased collections by $62 million over the previous year.  This will be our largest increase in collections in many years.

performance_newsletter5Will this increase our cost effectiveness rating? Certainly.

Will this increase our rank on this measure? Not at all.

California’s collections would need to increase by $606 million to catch the next closest State, Vermont, which is at a cost effectiveness rating of 3.06.

A collections total of $2.247 billion dollars is a tremendous amount of child support for the children we serve. In fact, it’s the second highest collections total amongst all the States.  The State with the highest collections is none other than Texas, with annual collections of $3.870 billion.  Not only do they collect $1.6 billion more than California, the cost to run their program is $327 million compared to California’s $933 million.  Texas’ collections compared to their expenditures make them the most cost effective child support program in the nation (FFY 2015: 12.26).

I wouldn’t be surprised if you were feeling a little depressed right now. How can they collect so much more than us with 1/3rd of our budget?

Let’s look a little more closely at where those collections come from. Texas collects only $5.5 million on currently aided cases compared to California’s $265 million.  California also collects more on formerly assisted cases.  However, Texas collects significantly more on Medicaid only assistance and never aided cases than California.  This is the fundamental difference betweenperformance_newsletter6 California and Texas.  California has established itself as the leading welfare support State in the Nation.  California child support has three times as many welfare cases as the next closest State, New York, and seven times as many cases as Texas.

California runs a massive child support program. Just like at the county level, California is compared with every other State regardless of that State’s size.  From a performance perspective, we are in the mix with of the other States…mid-teens on the ranks.  Total collections to support the families we serve are substantial.  But, it does cost us more to run this program in California.  If you include our current performance with our newer emphasis on customer service and customer engagement then I think we are on a very positive trajectory for our program.

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