Using a Mobile Vehicle to take Child Support Services to the Community
By Julie Watson, Deputy Director of Operations, Los Angeles County CSSD
How do you spread the word about available child support resources in a county as big as Los Angeles? When you participate in resource fairs or outreach, how do you provide real-time case information, generate license releases, or collect child support payments? These were the problems facing our department, and we knew we needed to find creative solutions. A full-service Mobile Vehicle Unit (MVU) seemed like the perfect solution.
Caseloads continue to decrease statewide, yet the need for support is not. Using Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping, we learned that approximately 21,000 of our existing case participants reside more than 10 miles from any of our public contact offices. In one part of our county, public transportation stops at 6:00 p.m., making it difficult for working parents to visit us and address their child support-related issues. Pursuant to 2010 Census Bureau data, Los Angeles County has 331,173 single-parent households with no spouse present and children under 18 years old. Additional data shows that only 31.5% of single-parent households are due current child support, and 68.5% have no child support order. An estimated 343,371 children are unserved in the County of Los Angeles. Furthermore, there are over 50,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in the County of Los Angeles, and if they have a case with our department, they are most likely unable to visit one of our public contact offices. Many people don’t know we’re here to help, that we’re basically a free service, or what services we provide. The MVU allows us to take our services out to our community rather than wait for our community to find us.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors created the Quality and Productivity Commission (QPC) in 1981. In 1984, they established the Productivity Investment Fund (PIF.) The QPC awards loans, grants, or loan/grant combinations to fund department-specific projects designed to improve the quality of service to the public. In April 2018, the Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department (CSSD) submitted a proposal for a PIF grant to purchase and customize a Mobile Vehicle Unit. After several presentations and additional submissions, and with the help of Assistant Division Chief Jennifer Coultas, our QPC Productivity Manager and Chair of the Productivity Manager’s Network, we were successful in obtaining a grant. CSSD is currently working with our Internal Services Department to obtain the vehicle. We’ve finalized the specifications needed for this state-of-the-art-vehicle, including two workstations, a printer/fax/scanner combination, seating for five child support professionals, and solar panels on the roof of the vehicle, which will be used to power the HVAC system and equipment when we’re conducting outreach in the community.
In addition to taking child support services out to the community, we’re partnering with our Registrar Recorder/County Clerk’s office. Once their new voting machines are ready, they’ll be able to use our MVU to take those machines to members of the community who are unable to visit a more traditional polling location. We’ve also partnered with the Los Angeles County Women and Girls Initiative to enable their staff to learn more about the unique needs of women and girls in different parts of the county. Lastly, we’re partnering with the Department of Public Social Services as part of their CalFresh marketing campaign. Thousands of families don’t realize they might qualify for CalFresh services, and working with DPSS, we hope many individuals will sign up for this program, to address any food insecurity issues they may be experiencing. In each of these collaborations, our office will be along for the ride, enabling us to reach a wider population of constituents.
We’re very excited about this new Mobile Vehicle. We hope to have it up and running by summer 2019. We are already making a list of communities to visit and outreach events to attend. We look forward to sharing stories and data with you once we’re on the road!