Child Support CommuniQue - May 2020

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Table of Contents<br />

President’s Message …………………………………………………………...3<br />

NCSEA Approves Resolution Seeking Legislation<br />

in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic…………………………………………..4<br />

Community Corner: The Challenges of<br />

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion ………………………………..………………..5<br />

Michigan Predictive Analytics Pilot Project<br />

Delays in the Pre-Obligation Timeline…………………………………………..8<br />

Point: The Paternity Performance Standards: Should<br />

They Be Re-structured for Optimal Policy Outcomes?................................15<br />

Counterpoint: The Paternity Performance Standards:<br />

Should They Be Re-structured for Optimal Policy Outcomes?....................22<br />

Faster Payments in the United States: What Are<br />

Implications for the <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Program?...............................................26<br />

Trauma and Self Care…………………………………………………………..30<br />

Crisis Care………………………………………………………………………..32<br />

Australian <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> System Problems:<br />

Results from a Recent Study……………………………………………….…..36<br />

Work/Life Balance: The Never-Ending Pursuit<br />

Part 1 – Communication…………………………………………………………42<br />

What’s on the Horizon for <strong>2020</strong>? An Update on the Work<br />

of NCSEA Emerging Issues and Leading Practices Subcommittee………..44<br />

NCSEA’s <strong>2020</strong> Policy Forum: Engagement:<br />

Putting Policy into Practice……………………………………………………..47

President’s Message <strong>May</strong> <strong>2020</strong><br />

by Tanguler Gray, NCSEA President<br />

The past few months have been a challenging time for<br />

every one of us, to say the least. We are experiencing a<br />

change of circumstances and living a “new normal” due to<br />

the outbreak of COVID-19. Although this pandemic has<br />

significantly disrupted the daily operations of our services<br />

as child support professionals, as an association, we still<br />

hold to our vision of shaping the future of child support.<br />

Now more than ever, NCSEA is needed as an advocate of<br />

the child support community. State and county agencies<br />

nationwide look for training and support. To support our<br />

membership, NCSEA has expanded the resources we offer, adding a very<br />

popular and interactive Engagement Lounge and recordings of plenaries from the<br />

<strong>2020</strong> Policy Forum to our upcoming Web-Talks, the extensive library of Web-<br />

Talks, and other materials on our website. While we may find it necessary to<br />

make some changes during this time, one thing that will never change is our<br />

commitment to increasing engagement, influencing policies for the well-being of<br />

children and families, and educating and inspiring those who work in child<br />

support.<br />

As you know, after much consideration, NCSEA has made the difficult decision to<br />

cancel the <strong>2020</strong> Leadership Symposium, scheduled for August 9-12, <strong>2020</strong> in<br />

Anaheim, California. We have taken this action due to public health and safety<br />

concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The health and well-being of our<br />

attendees, and the child support community as a whole, is our primary concern,<br />

and the many unknown factors related to the pandemic were carefully considered<br />

in the decision-making process. We appreciate your patience as we came to this<br />

decision. However, while NCSEA will not have a face to face event this year, we<br />

are excited to introduce some unique and relevant programs in <strong>2020</strong>. These<br />

events will be introduced in the second half of <strong>2020</strong>. Stay tuned!<br />

Tanguler Gray, is the IV-D Director for the Georgia Department of Human Services Division of<br />

<strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Services. During Director Gray’s 23 years in child support she has held<br />

leadership roles in accounting, fiscal operations, customer service, organizational<br />

effectiveness, field and state operations and executive management. She spearheaded the<br />

Rapid Process Improvement (RPI) Initiative; leading the Georgia to capture the 2007<br />

Governor’s Award for Customer Service and the 2008 National <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Enforcement<br />

Association (NCSEA) Commissioner’s Award for High Performance. Prior to serving as

NCSEA President, Tanguler served as Secretary and President-elect of the orgranizaion, and<br />

has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2014. She is a graduate of Valdosta State<br />

University.<br />

Print President’s Message here<br />

NCSEA Approves Resolution Seeking Legislation<br />

in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic<br />

The National <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Enforcement Association (NCSEA)<br />

Board of Directors approved a resolution addressing many concerns impacting<br />

the child support program in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic<br />

disruption affecting millions of families.<br />

The NCSEA resolution calls for program flexibility and increased funding so IV-D<br />

programs can continue serving families. This includes flexibility in program<br />

performance, mandates adversely impacted by office closings, and other COVID-<br />

19-related government orders. The financial stability of child support programs<br />

will also be compromised due to COVID-19 and is a focus of the resolution.<br />

The resolution also requests the expansion of current employment programs for<br />

non-custodial parents so that child support programs can provide critical<br />

resources to get Americans back to work post-COVID-19. These employment<br />

programs help unemployed and underemployed non-custodial parents increase<br />

their capacity to meet their child support obligations.<br />

The third and final provision of the resolution addresses important technology<br />

concerns, to provide state child support programs significant options for providing<br />

services remotely, offering flexibility in services for families resulting in improved<br />

cost-effectiveness, and ... to bring the technology supporting the child support<br />

program into the 21st century.<br />

In mid-April, the NCSEA Board of Directors also approved a resolution to exclude<br />

any future COVID-19-related relief payments from offset for past-due child<br />

support. The resolution expressed concern that parents who owe past-due<br />

support must have enough employment opportunities to be self-sufficient without<br />

a relief payment and encouraged Congress to address this critical issue.<br />

Print full article here

Community Corner<br />

The Challenges of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion<br />

by Dr. Trish Skophammer, Office of the Ramsey County Attorney<br />

Mention diversity training at your staff meetings and you’ll get the familiar<br />

eye roll. Diversity training is far too often seen as a mandatory training<br />

requirement that allows us to check a box saying we did what we were<br />

supposed to do. A necessary evil, or if evil is too strong a word, a<br />

necessary bore. Reactions may vary from diversity being “shoved down my<br />

throat” to “I treat everyone with respect, so why do I need this” to “I am not<br />

a racist!”<br />

Organizations increasingly understand the critical need for initiatives<br />

related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This is especially important<br />

work for those of us in the public sector, where our mission statements<br />

include things like promoting justice, protecting the vulnerable, and<br />

encouraging family self-sufficiency and child well-being. To be successful,<br />

we need the cooperation and trust of the people we serve.<br />

While I have always supported the work of our office’s DEI committee, it<br />

was something I understood more from my head than from my heart.<br />

A bit about me…I am a white woman. I come from a white family and was<br />

raised in a white community. In my early years, the only African Americans<br />

I knew were the daughters of doctors and professional football players. I<br />

was clueless about matters of racial inequity, and I had not seen up close<br />

and personal the challenges that people of the non-dominant culture often<br />

face. In my sheltered world, I believed that being a good person and<br />

treating everyone with respect was all I needed to do.<br />

Then I was challenged, and I had to learn a different perspective. My<br />

challenges came in different ways.

I was challenged by a colleague to be an ally in the fight for racial equity. I<br />

wanted to be an ally. I wanted to be more than an ally; I wanted to be a<br />

leader. I knew this was important work, but I was afraid. I was afraid of<br />

using the wrong language and offending others when I spoke, and so I<br />

chose not to speak up very often. When people came to me about their<br />

experience and looking for help, I was afraid that I would do the wrong<br />

thing and make it worse, so it was easier to do nothing and to discount the<br />

experience.<br />

I was challenged through the process of taking the Intercultural<br />

Development Inventory (IDI). This assessment tool places individuals and<br />

organizations on a continuum of intercultural development. I showed up in<br />

minimization. Minimization means that we recognize the common humanity<br />

of all people and that we see universal values and principles. This is ok,<br />

and even good. But, to further my intercultural development, I needed to<br />

develop a deeper recognition and understanding of differences.<br />

I met with an IDI facilitator who<br />

coached me through my results and<br />

helped me identify goals. I read books<br />

and watched movies and TED Talks. I<br />

found trusted co-workers to help me<br />

explore my assumptions and<br />

reactions. I wrote and reflected.<br />

Gradually, and through some aha<br />

moments, the issues of racial equity<br />

moved from my head to my heart, and I changed from doing DEI work<br />

because it is the right thing to do, to doing it because I care. I’m learning<br />

that being a good person and treating others with respect is not enough.<br />

I’m learning that bold conversations need to happen, that we must commit<br />

resources and time to DEI work, and that we must apply what we learn<br />

along the way to our policies and service delivery.<br />

DEI work doesn’t have to stop because we are physically distanced and<br />

working from home. Our office recently engaged in an office-wide event.<br />

We were all asked to watch True Justice, a film about Bryan Stevenson<br />

and the work of the Equal Justice Initiative. Then we gathered on a Zoom<br />

video conference, and with four colleagues serving as panelists, 275<br />

people reflected on the film and how it applies to our lives and our work. It

was a powerful event and an excellent way to carry on DEI work during a<br />

pandemic—a pandemic that we know has a disparate impact on African<br />

Americans, making it even more important to continue DEI work and raise<br />

our awareness.<br />

There is so much DEI work to be done, and it is indeed real work. We are<br />

all challenged to move this work from our heads to our hearts. We are<br />

challenged to strive for racial equity and access to justice. We are<br />

challenged to be courageous in our words and actions. We are challenged<br />

to look for opportunities to be more than allies, to also be leaders in this<br />

work.<br />

______________________<br />

Dr. Trish Skophammer is currently serving as the Director of the <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong><br />

Services Division in the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office located in St. Paul,<br />

Minnesota. She has over 22 years of child support experience in all areas of child<br />

support, from intake to arrears. She has been involved in NCSEA for many years,<br />

serving on Leadership Symposium and Policy Forum planning committees and as cochair<br />

for the Leadership Symposium for 2016-2018, as co-chair and member of the<br />

Emerging Issues and Leading Practices subcommittee, and as a Director on the<br />

NCSEA Board from 2015-2019. She is involved in associations and committees at the<br />

local level as well. Trish has presented on numerous topics at national, regional and<br />

local conferences as well as web talks and training workshops. In addition to her<br />

expertise in child support policy and practice, Trish’s expertise includes leadership<br />

topics such as performance management, process improvement, and strategic<br />

planning. Trish has a master’s degree from Bethel University in Organizational<br />

Leadership and a doctorate degree in Public Administration from Hamline University.<br />

Print article here

Michigan Predictive Analytics Pilot Project<br />

Delays in the Pre-Obligation Timeline<br />

by Ian Broughton, Michigan Office of <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong><br />

Like other child support programs, Michigan's program has a lot of data<br />

that can provide useful insight. On its surface, data tells<br />

you the basics - trends go up and down; benchmarks are<br />

or are not met. However, delving deeper in the data<br />

allows you to better understand your processes and<br />

identify the levers to improve outcomes for families.<br />

Analyzing data and taking action on that data can result<br />

in benefits that positively impacts customers’ lives. The<br />

Michigan Office of <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> (OCS) within the<br />

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services<br />

recently undertook a data analytics project to do just that, hoping that the<br />

information and recommendations gleaned from this project could lead to<br />

payments reaching the children who need them faster.<br />

OCS is dedicated to helping families achieve well-being and selfsufficiency.<br />

Before a family in the Michigan <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Program can<br />

begin working towards those goals, the court must establish an order that<br />

determines the support payment obligation. As many as one out of every<br />

five cases in Michigan was delayed during this pre-obligation time period,<br />

leaving many children waiting to receive the support they need.<br />

The Michigan <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Program is strategically focused on improving<br />

four key areas to help families reach their goals of well-being and selfsufficiency:<br />

child support processes, customer experience, education and<br />

outreach, and data tools and technology. During the fall of 2018, OCS<br />

collaborated with Accenture on a 16-week project to analyze cases in the

time period between when a child support case opens and when the child<br />

support order is established. This project had the potential to provide OCS<br />

with insights and tools that would improve all four goal areas. The project<br />

objectives were to reveal case and demographic attributes that lead to<br />

delays in establishing an order and to reveal actions that would move a<br />

case through the establishment process more efficiently. In addition, the<br />

project team wanted to use predictive modeling to identify which cases<br />

were most likely to have a delay and determine if child support<br />

professionals could take any actions to mitigate the risk.<br />

One of the most important steps in the process was assembling the project<br />

team. It was imperative to select people with the needed technical<br />

expertise and to make sure that the subject matter experts from the<br />

program side were represented. The OCS Planning, Evaluation, and<br />

Analysis Section coordinated the program side of the team with experts<br />

from both operations and policy who had a wealth of program expertise.<br />

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget<br />

(DTMB) and Accenture provided the technical experts, which included two<br />

data scientists to develop the predictive models.<br />

The first phase of the project was to create the environment for the<br />

technical team to access the data. After the environment was stabilized, the<br />

proper permissions were set up. Some members of the project team were<br />

unfamiliar with Michigan’s child support data, so knowledge transfer was<br />

also a key component during this phase. Once the technical team was<br />

acclimated, the project moved into the data discovery and analysis phases.<br />

During the data discovery phase of the project, the team met to discuss<br />

potential predictors that could indicate a case might be delayed. This<br />

activity enabled the team to compile a list of data elements that were<br />

needed for analysis. The team identified attributes in five main categories<br />

including: case details, demographics, employment, dependents, and<br />

macro, which contained county-level data, such as crime and<br />

unemployment rates. During this phase, the team also performed quality<br />

checks on the data and created a data dictionary, which contained<br />

metadata, or additional information about the data.<br />

As the team did the initial analysis of the data, two key delay points were<br />

identified: when the OCS <strong>Support</strong> Specialist sends the court action referral<br />

(CAR) to the prosecuting attorney, and when the prosecuting attorney’s<br />

office serves the non-custodial parent (NCP). The median number of days

for the <strong>Support</strong> Specialist to send the CAR was 42 days from when the<br />

case was opened. The team decided that any case that took longer than 42<br />

days would be considered delayed. For service of process (SOP), the team<br />

used the established threshold of 75 days as the delay point.<br />

It was necessary for all data elements to be compiled into a single source<br />

for the modeling and analysis phase of the project. The Michigan Case<br />

Analytical Record (MiCAR) framework was created as a large table<br />

combining the full dataset. The team evaluated over 300 tables in the<br />

Michigan child support data warehouse and gathered approximately 400<br />

data elements from over 40 different tables to include in the MiCAR. Cases<br />

were added if they had been opened in the past four years. Next the team<br />

focused on those that eventually had an order established. Another<br />

important aspect of the MiCAR was the addition of case snapshots at<br />

various events in the pre-obligation process. For each case a snapshot was<br />

taken with the data as it existed at the following points: case opened, NCP<br />

located, referral sent to the prosecuting attorney, NCP served, and order<br />

established.<br />

The team then built two predictive models to analyze the cases in the<br />

MiCAR; each focused on one of the pre-determined delay points. The first<br />

model predicted the chance of delay between the date the case was<br />

opened and the date the case worker sent the referral to the prosecuting<br />

attorney (CAR Delay Model). The second model predicted the chance of<br />

delay between when the referral was received by the prosecuting attorney<br />

and when the NCP was served to appear in court (SOP Delay Model).<br />

The CAR Delay Model identified several key variables that affect the risk of<br />

a case delay in this portion of the pre-obligation timeline. When the NCP’s<br />

address has been updated multiple times in the system during the past<br />

year, the case is less at risk for delay. The subject experts agree this is

most likely because there is a general awareness of the NCP’s<br />

whereabouts. The risk is also reduced when the NCP’s address was<br />

provided by the custodial party (CP), and the presence of the CP email<br />

address and phone number. These variables may have a favorable effect<br />

on the risk level due to increased accessibility to the guardians and/or they<br />

could be indicators of cooperation and effective communication between<br />

the CP and the case worker(s). Two variables that were high in relative<br />

importance, but that OCS cannot influence, are Medicaid cases and born<br />

out-of-wedlock children. If either of those conditions exist, the case is more<br />

likely to be delayed.<br />

The SOP Delay Model identified different variables as delay predictors. The<br />

variable with the highest relative importance was the location of the case.<br />

Cases from the central region have the highest likelihood for delay. The<br />

project team believes this is due to how the largest county in the central<br />

region handles service of process. The variable that caught the attention of<br />

OCS involves the likelihood of delay when the NCP is African American.<br />

This variable was present regardless of the region in which the case is<br />

located or the income level of the NCP. OCS is determined to understand<br />

why race is a significant indicator of delay for service of process.<br />

The models were trained on the four years of case data in the MiCAR.<br />

When new cases are added to MiCAR, the models assign a risk score. The<br />

risk score is dynamic and as the case moves through the pre-obligation<br />

process and more information is added to the case, the score fluctuates.<br />

The models were very accurate in predicting the delay for the top 30%-40%<br />

of the cases with the highest risk for any given time period. The models<br />

allow OCS to identify which pieces of information could be added to the<br />

case to reduce the risk of being delayed. Communicating these insights<br />

help staff by identifying which data elements are needed to reduce the<br />

chance of a delay in the establishment process.

The project team identified five key analytic insights.<br />

1. Process Efficiency – communicate positive and negative influencers<br />

to child support staff through policy, training, and other<br />

communication strategies.<br />

2. Model Implementation – operationalize and deploy the models so that<br />

staff can mitigate the risk.<br />

3. NCP Address – prioritize address information from sources that<br />

correspond to fewer delays (e.g., CP, NCP, and the Dept. of<br />

Corrections).<br />

4. Dashboards – develop to monitor case movement and deploy<br />

appropriate strategies to effectively reduce delays.<br />

5. MiCAR Asset – use for additional analytic inquiries in the preobligation<br />

space.<br />

Shortly after the project was completed the OCS took two actions based on<br />

the insights. The first was to create an infographic for OCS <strong>Support</strong><br />

Specialists, explaining (1) the delay that was identified between case open<br />

and the court action referral being sent, (2) why it’s important to decrease<br />

the length of time, and (3) the specific information that can reduce the<br />

chance of delay. The second was to add a pop-up message to the

customer self-service portal to notify custodial parties when they failed to<br />

add their mobile phone number, letting them know that it can be added at<br />

any time in the profile settings. This “nudge” produced a dramatic increase<br />

in the number of mobile phone numbers submitted during registration,<br />

which is one of the attributes that can reduce the risk of a delay.<br />

This project demonstrated to the Michigan <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Program the<br />

potential of predictive analytics. The accuracy with which the models can<br />

predict a delay in the pre-obligation timeline is very powerful information.<br />

<strong>Child</strong> support staff can reduce the risk of delays by proactively addressing<br />

the influential attributes. This means fewer children will need to wait for the<br />

support they need. In addition to the predictive models, the MiCAR asset<br />

has allowed OCS to increase efficiency in performing new research<br />

inquiries because of the wealth of information and case snapshots in one<br />

location. This project also created momentum to expand the use of<br />

analytics within the program. Since the project concluded OCS has created<br />

a self-service reporting tool, expanded use of data visualizations, and<br />

assembled a team dedicated to providing child support staff with the<br />

information they need to make timely decisions. The Michigan <strong>Child</strong><br />

<strong>Support</strong> Program is continuing their journey towards becoming a datadriven<br />

organization.<br />

____________________________<br />

Ian Broughton is the Planning, Evaluation, and Analysis Section Manager at the<br />

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Office of <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> (OCS). He<br />

has worked for the State of Michigan for over 17 years, with more than 11 of those<br />

years in the Michigan <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Program. He has also served as policy analyst and

performance management specialist with OCS, and business process owner for<br />

Customer Education with the Michigan Office of Retirement Services. The OCS<br />

Planning, Evaluation, and Analysis Section is responsible for the OCSE-157 and Self-<br />

Assessment Audit; performance management and improvement initiatives; data<br />

analytics and visualization; strategic planning; and advancing the program’s data-driven<br />

capabilities.<br />

Print article here<br />

How Has COVID-19 Impacted Your Organization?<br />

<strong>2020</strong> has certainly brought its challenges – forcing many organizations to not only<br />

rethink how they do their everyday business, but also reimagine what that<br />

business will look like in the future. We have heard many stories of child support<br />

agencies across the country who had to made quick decisions to ensure the<br />

health and safety of their employees and their customers, some rapidly moving<br />

staff to a teleworking environment, others rethinking their staffing plans, or unique<br />

ways to serve their customers, still others facing tough economic decisions.<br />

Through it all, there are tales of triumphs, declarations of success, and a renewed<br />

energy surrounding what we do. NCSEA’s CSQ committee wants to hear from<br />

you!<br />

• Has your office encountered unique challenges because of the pandemic?<br />

• Have you come up with innovative solutions to address these challenges?<br />

• How has your office organization changed? Will these changes become<br />

permanent?<br />

We want to hear from you. The July <strong>2020</strong> <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> <strong>CommuniQue</strong> will focus<br />

on responses to the pandemic. If you’d like to include your organization’s<br />

experience, email us at customerservice@ncsea.org

The Paternity Performance Standards:<br />

Should They Be Re-structured for Optimal Policy Outcomes?<br />

by Bob Williams, Veritas HHS<br />

Since the advent of federal performance measures, IV-D programs have been<br />

bedeviled by dueling paternity requirements, alternative paternity establishment<br />

percentage (PEP) measures, and a quixotic base year designation. Recently<br />

there has been discussion of possible changes to federal performance<br />

measures, with the paternity standards being a significant focus.<br />

This leads us to address the question: what would be an ideal paternity standard<br />

(or standards) if we had complete flexibility to redesign the existing standards to<br />

achieve optimal policy outcomes? Right now, there is a minimum program<br />

paternity performance requirement of 90 percent. States are penalized by a 1 – 5<br />

percent loss of their TANF block grant if that minimum 90 percent requirement is<br />

not attained. However, paternity is also one of the five federal performance<br />

standards. For incentive purposes, states earn the maximum amount for the<br />

paternity measure if paternity exceeds 80 percent. These are the dueling<br />

paternity requirements referenced above.<br />

To make matters more confusing, there are two versions of the PEP. A state<br />

selects one of these versions both to meet the 90 percent minimum program<br />

requirement and also to determine the amount of incentives earned.<br />

In addition, rather than basing the paternity calculations on the number of<br />

nonmarital children in the current year, they are based on the number in the IV-D<br />

caseload or statewide at the end of the previous year. Each state then computes<br />

its PEP by dividing all those having paternity established at the end of the current<br />

year by the number of nonmarital children at the end of the prior year [45CFR<br />


The conflict between minimum requirements and incentives, the dual versions of<br />

PEP, and the prior year base have caused confusion in the program for more<br />

than 20 years. These are the reasons that there is interest in the IV-D community<br />

either in rationalizing the paternity standards or eliminating them altogether.<br />

In view of these issues, I address three specific questions in this article:<br />

1. Should we eliminate the paternity standards under the justification that they<br />

are closely linked to the cases-under-order measure and are therefore<br />

redundant?<br />

2. If not, should we change to one paternity measure, either the statewide or<br />

IV-D PEP – but not both?<br />

3. If we retain a paternity measure, should we change the base year from the<br />

prior fiscal year to the current one?<br />

Should the paternity standards be eliminated<br />

because they are so closely aligned to the order<br />

establishment metric?<br />

From an operational point of view, there is<br />

considerable logic to eliminating the paternity<br />

standards. Generally, performance on the paternity<br />

standards (at least for the IV-D version of PEP), is<br />

From an operational<br />

point of view, there<br />

is considerable logic<br />

to eliminating the<br />

paternity standards.<br />

closely coupled with performance on cases under order. In any paternity case,<br />

paternity must be established for an order to be established, so an increase in<br />

cases established leads to an increase in the proportion of paternities<br />

established. As a result, eliminating the paternity performance standards would<br />

have little impact on State’s performance on the IV-D PEP.<br />

Unfortunately, this option ignores two other significant considerations. First, for<br />

the statewide PEP, there is not such a close linkage between paternity<br />

establishment and order establishment. For a state to achieve high performance<br />

on the statewide PEP, it must focus close attention on its voluntary paternity<br />

acknowledgment program as well as establishing paternities for IV-D cases. A<br />

state can have a high level of cases under order and still fall short of the<br />

performance expectations for paternity if its voluntary paternity acknowledgment<br />

program is not effective.<br />

Second, eliminating the paternity standards in favor of cases under order would<br />

ignore the broader mission of the IV-D program to address paternity as a discrete<br />

issue, not just as one element of child support. Specifically, the title of the Social<br />

Security Act’s Title IV-D is “Paternity and <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong>”, not just “<strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong>”.

Consistent with this title, Congress has been concerned throughout the history of<br />

the IV-D program with the program’s role in addressing the high rate of nonmarital<br />

births. Congress has attempted to ensure, to the maximum extent<br />

possible, that the program establish legal links between children and their<br />

unmarried fathers as an end in itself, not just as the first step in the child support<br />

enforcement process.<br />

We all know that establishing paternity has benefits for children and their parents<br />

other than a child support obligation. These benefits include completing a child’s<br />

identity based on legal links with both parents, facilitating the rights of the father<br />

to child access, providing information – sometimes critical – about a father’s<br />

health history, establishing eligibility for governmental payments such as social<br />

security and veterans’ benefits, and other economic and non-economic factors.<br />

The high rate of unmarried births has been a significant factor motivating<br />

congressional action with respect to paternity and child support. The first<br />

paternity performance standard (requiring paternity establishment for 50 percent<br />

of IV-D cases) was enacted in the Family <strong>Support</strong> Act of 1988 (P.L 100-485). In<br />

the 25 years prior – from 1963 to 1988 – the nonmarital birth rate had<br />

dramatically increased from 6.3 to 25.7 percent. By 1993, the nonmarital birth<br />

rate had increased further to 31 percent. Thus, in that year, Congress further<br />

tightened the paternity performance standard as well as adding the requirement<br />

that states provide a “simple civil process” for paternity acknowledgment, i.e. inhospital<br />

and post-birth voluntary acknowledgment processes (Omnibus<br />

Reconciliation Act of 1993 H.R. 2264 (103 rd )).<br />

By 1996, the year that Congress enacted PRWORA (welfare reform legislation)<br />

the nonmarital birth rate had continued to climb to 32.4 percent. With early<br />

voluntary paternity acknowledgment programs showing promise and new data<br />

available on statewide paternity establishment rates, Congress established a<br />

much more stringent minimum performance standard of 90 percent. It tweaked<br />

requirements for voluntary paternity acknowledgment programs and provided<br />

that a state could select either the IV-D version of PEP, or a statewide standard,<br />

which counted all paternities established in a state against all nonmarital births,<br />

whether the children were enrolled in the IV-D program or not (Personal<br />

Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act P.L. 104-193).<br />

Two years later, based substantially on input from the IV-D community, Congress<br />

enacted the Performance Standards and Incentives Act, which included paternity<br />

establishment as one of the five performance measures, with a maximum ceiling

for incentive purposes of 80 percent (<strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Performance and Incentives<br />

Act of 1998 P.L. 105-200). Thus, if a state’s performance on either the statewide<br />

or IV-D version of PEP (as selected by the state) were 80 percent or greater but<br />

less than 90 percent, it could earn the maximum allowable incentive for that<br />

performance measure, but could be penalized with loss of 1 – 5 percent of TANF<br />

block grant funds for failing to meet the 90 percent minimum program<br />

performance standard.<br />

This anomaly continues to pose a conflict within the program today. It causes<br />

confusion for administrators and state legislators alike. Aligning the minimum<br />

program paternity performance standard (currently 90 percent) with the<br />

maximum paternity incentive level (80 percent) would rationalize this anomaly<br />

and contribute to more effective administration of the program.<br />

Following enactment of PRWORA, the nonmarital birth rate continued to climb<br />

until it peaked at 41.0 percent in 2009. Since that year, the rate has plateaued at<br />

around 40 percent and its most recent level was 39.6 percent in 2018 i . This<br />

remains a very high level and one that, in my personal experience, is surprising<br />

to the general public. With the rate this high, it is even more critical than when<br />

PRWORA was passed that the IV-D program continue its focus on establishing<br />

legal links between children and their unmarried fathers. States can do so by<br />

monitoring and supporting voluntary paternity acknowledgment programs,<br />

including robust public outreach, to maximize paternity establishment for<br />

unmarried parents whether or not they are participating in the IV-D program.

Because paternity remains such a major issue, it is essential that the IV-D<br />

program retain paternity as a separate measure. This ensures that paternity<br />

continues as a program focus and that state IV-D programs do not lose sight of<br />

its broader significance to society. The IV-D program remains the only program<br />

with a mandate to address the high rate of nonmarital births by establishing legal<br />

links between children and their unmarried fathers. If not us, then who will do it?<br />

From my experience testifying about this and other child support issues, and<br />

observing the historical development of child support legislation, any proposed<br />

legislation to eliminate the paternity measure would be dead-on-arrival. Congress<br />

is certainly aware of, and remains deeply concerned about, the high rate of<br />

nonmarital births. It would not want to take any action that would reduce the<br />

priority placed on addressing this issue.<br />

Should the IV-D program change to one version of PEP? Currently there are<br />

two versions of the paternity establishment percentage. The IV-D version is the<br />

most intuitive to those operating the program. It is based on the proportion of<br />

nonmarital child in the IV-D program that have paternity established (using the<br />

prior year as the base). The statewide version, on the other hand, is based on<br />

the proportion of all nonmarital children in the state who have paternity<br />

established (using the prior year as the base). In federal fiscal year 2018, exactly<br />

half the states used the IV-D version and half used the statewide version. States<br />

using the IV-D PEP have average rates of 102 percent, nine points higher than<br />

the average 93 percent rate of states using the statewide PEP. It is unclear,<br />

however, whether this difference results from an upward bias of the IV-D PEP<br />

rate, or whether the states using the IV-D PEP happen to be better performers.<br />

Having two PEP versions enables states to switch if they think they can improve<br />

their PEP by moving to a different version (usually from statewide to IV-D).<br />

Changing versions is an arduous process, however, entailing case-by-case<br />

review of paternity status and a three-year look-back at data reliability.<br />

The problem with having two measures, of course, is that it precludes any<br />

apples-to-apples comparison of state performance. In comparing two states, if<br />

they are on different versions of PEP, it is not possible to determine whether any<br />

differences result from variances in performance or variances due to the different<br />

PEP measures. This undercuts one of the primary reasons to have a uniform set<br />

of national performance measures: so that there can be accurate comparisons of<br />

performance between states and an accurate assessment of program-wide<br />

performance on these measures. As a result, it would be better to move to a

single version of PEP, although this would have to be done over a reasonable<br />

period of time to accommodate the substantial effort that would be required.<br />

Although there would be a lively debate over which version should be adopted,<br />

my preference would be to standardize on the statewide PEP. While being a bit<br />

more difficult to administer, the statewide version more accurately measures the<br />

broader role of the IV-D program in addressing the high rate of nonmarital births.<br />

In addition, it is less closely coupled with the cases under order metric, so it gives<br />

more useful information than the IV-D PEP.<br />

By adopting the statewide version, states would need to ensure they are<br />

adequately monitoring and supporting voluntary paternity programs. They would<br />

also need to ensure that they are continually engaging in effective outreach to<br />

unmarried parents and health care providers so that they maximize their<br />

voluntary paternity rates. This broader focus will link more children to their<br />

unmarried fathers with all the benefits those links entail, and it will also benefit IV-<br />

D programs indirectly by reducing the number of their cases that require legal<br />

action to establish paternity.<br />

Should the PEP base be changed to the<br />

current year instead of the prior year? One of<br />

the most confusing aspects of the PEP is the<br />

use of the prior year as the base of the<br />

calculation. For both versions, the number of<br />

nonmarital children with paternity established at<br />

the end of the current federal fiscal year is<br />

compared with the total number of nonmarital<br />

children during the prior federal fiscal year. Apparently, the prior year was chosen<br />

as the base of the calculation so that states would know with certainty what their<br />

denominator would be in planning their efforts for the current year.<br />

In practice, the use of the prior year as the base has resulted in non-intuitive<br />

outcomes which have complicated program administration. It makes no sense<br />

that a state could establish paternity for more than 100 percent of its caseload,<br />

yet the average performance level for states reporting the IV-D PEP is 102<br />

percent, and in FFY 2018, 15 of the states using this version reported results<br />

exceeding 100 percent.<br />

Switching to a current year calculation base will give more intuitive results that<br />

would never exceed 100 percent and would give a truer picture of a state’s<br />

paternity level. This would help administrators plan better and help legislators

gauge actual performance more accurately. It would also be more meaningful to<br />

staff.<br />

Unfortunately, changing the base year will lower the PEP for many states. At<br />

minimum, states that have been reporting results exceeding 100 percent will see<br />

their results fall lower. It will be important for the federal Office of <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong><br />

Enforcement or the Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for<br />

Planning and Evaluation to model the impact of a base year change so that its<br />

effects could be clearly understood before any definitive action is taken.<br />

Changing the base year without lowering the minimum program requirement may<br />

take some states perilously close to, or even below, the 90 level and even bring<br />

about TANF block grant sanctions. This underscores the need to resolve the<br />

current conflict between the 90 percent minimum performance standard and the<br />

80 percent ceiling on incentives. Ninety percent is too high of a bar to trigger<br />

imposition of penalties. It would make more sense to lower the minimum<br />

performance standard for penalty purposes to 80 percent. It should be no higher,<br />

and could be lower, than the maximum level for incentives. Reducing the<br />

minimum performance standard to 80 percent should reduce or eliminate any<br />

adverse impacts of changing the base year.<br />

*****<br />

As implied in the title of its authorizing legislation, the IV-D program is intended to<br />

address paternity specifically, as well as child support generally. Retaining a<br />

discrete performance standard for paternity establishment reflects this focus.<br />

However, this performance standard can be improved by settling on a single<br />

version that will show consistent results across all states. In addition, by using<br />

the current year as the calculation base, the results from a single PEP measure<br />

will be more intuitive, easier for program administrators and legislators to<br />

understand, and will facilitate effective program planning. Lowering the minimum<br />

performance standard to 80 percent will be a more realistic threshold for penalty<br />

purposes and should offset any adverse impact of changing the base year.<br />

Finally, use of the statewide version as the single PEP measure will keep state<br />

IV-D programs focused on a broader paternity mission, one that is intended to<br />

cast a wider net of paternity establishment than a measure based on program<br />

participants alone.<br />

_________________________<br />

Bob Williams has worked in child support at the national level for 36 years. He is President<br />

and Founder of Veritas HHS, which provides child support consulting services and also<br />

operates IV-D agencies in four states. Bob was formerly founder and CEO of Policy Studies

Inc. where he developed the income shares model for child support guidelines and managed<br />

child support research, consulting, and operations projects. He is a member of NCSEA’s<br />

Emerging Issues and Leading Practices Subcommittee. Bob earned his B.A. from University of<br />

Illinois at Chicago, and his M.P.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University.<br />

i<br />

Historical data on nonmarital birth rates through 2013 are drawn from Carmen Solomon-Fears,<br />

Nonmarital Births: An Overview, Congressional Research Service, July 30, 2014. More recent data on<br />

nonmarital birth rates are drawn from Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Vital<br />

Statistics Reports, Births: Final Data for 2018, Volume 68, Number 13, November 27, 2019.<br />

Print article here<br />

The Paternity Performance Standards:<br />

Should They Be Re-structured for Optimal Policy Outcomes?<br />

by Jim Fleming, North Dakota <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Division<br />

I am about to disagree with Bob Williams (see companion Bob Williams article)<br />

on a child support issue! Next, maybe I’ll argue with my pastor about the authors<br />

of the four Gospels, insist with my optometrist that the fly-speck at the bottom of<br />

the chart is a B instead of an E, and debate with my doctor over the nutritional<br />

value of hops and barley. Bob is an amazing resource to the child support field,<br />

and I have enjoyed having several conversations with him over the years about<br />

the paternity performance measure. When the Editorial Board of the CSQ<br />

decided to run a series on performance measures, it was a great chance to put<br />

our “pros and cons” in writing.<br />

The groups that have met over the years since the Personal Responsibility and<br />

Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) to review the performance<br />

measurement system have consistently noted that performance measures are<br />

best when they assess outcomes rather than the means of achieving those

outcomes. Bob makes an articulate and compelling argument for the importance<br />

of paternity establishment as an outcome of the child support program. I agree<br />

100% – but I also think the Paternity Establishment Percentage (PEP) measure<br />

is both the most outdated and the most expendable of the five measures.<br />

To maintain public support for the IV-D program, we will always find value in<br />

compiling data on the number of legal parent-child relationships established as a<br />

result of the program, and we should continue to tabulate results in this area. But<br />

as part of the performance measurement and incentive distribution system, the<br />

measure has considerable overlap with the support establishment measure. So,<br />

if the smart people in child support came up with another measure and we were<br />

limited by Congress to having only five measures, I’d offer up PEP in a hurry as<br />

the first to go. i I might quibble with Bob a little: removing PEP from the<br />

measurements doesn’t necessarily mean we are ignoring parentage as an<br />

important outcome in a child support case, just that the measurement of<br />

parentage establishment is adequately covered by the support order<br />

establishment measure.<br />

Assuming we keep the PEP measure for now, it is in dire need of an overhaul.<br />

Let’s start with the gender-specific word “paternity” and look at the changes in<br />

family composition since the measure was created. Parentage, whether in or out<br />

of wedlock, takes a lot more forms these days than just one male and one female<br />

parent for each child. It is not always clear whether paternity is an issue in a<br />

case, and it can be challenging for a state to know how to report some cases to<br />

OCSE.<br />

I suggest it is time to replace the word “paternity” with “parentage,” and embrace<br />

the use of voluntary acknowledgments to establish legal parentage regardless of<br />

gender or genetic connection between the acknowledged parent and the child.<br />

Does this pose a risk of equating to an informal adoption of a child without the<br />

usual independent best interest analysis? Yes, but no more so than today when<br />

a person signs an acknowledgment of paternity or parentage and assumes legal<br />

responsibility for the child knowing full well that the person is not the child’s<br />

genetic parent.<br />

I agree with Bob it is time to adopt one common PEP measure and start using<br />

same-year numbers. As one who has tried to explain to legislators many times<br />

how you can have a IV-D PEP of more than 100%, it is nearly impossible to<br />

prevent legislators from discounting the other four measures. Someone once told<br />

me that Congress decided to look at the number of out-of-wedlock children from<br />

the previous year because it gave states two years to establish paternity.

Whether true or not, I struggle today to come up with a reason not to use sameyear<br />

PEP as long as each state follows the same approach and the penalty and<br />

incentive thresholds are adjusted accordingly.<br />

Bob is right – as long as states use two PEP alternatives, we are not truly<br />

comparing apples to apples. I prefer the IV-D PEP over statewide PEP. The<br />

statewide PEP measure is admittedly broader because IV-D cases with paternity<br />

established are already included in the support order establishment measure.<br />

But, as a state using the IV-D PEP and working safely above the 90% penalty<br />

threshold, our program is still driven to foster a strong in-hospital<br />

acknowledgment process. The 90% a state needs to avoid a penalty is still a high<br />

number, so even if only 50% to 75% of out-of-wedlock births lead to a IV-D case,<br />

it is still time well spent to stay far away from the 90% level.<br />

By contrast, statewide PEP would be a scary change because it is not a number<br />

that can be controlled by the IV-D program. Going from a two-year to a one-year<br />

measurement period for PEP might help reduce the impact of a rising out-ofwedlock<br />

birthrate, which is one of the challenges in using statewide PEP, but the<br />

IV-D program cannot require parents to apply for services. My state actively<br />

markets IV-D services to parents in non-IV-D cases, yet still entices<br />

disappointingly few parents to apply for services. It would seem questionable for<br />

one of the five measurements of the IV-D program to be so significantly<br />

influenced by facts outside the control of the IV-D agency. In the last few years, a<br />

high-performing state endured the process of converting from statewide PEP to<br />

IV-D PEP, and its post-conversion PEP performance is much more consistent<br />

with the high level of performance of that state on the other four measures.<br />

One could wonder if any state using a same-year statewide PEP could reach the<br />

90% threshold. Same-year IV-D PEP, as Bob predicts, would bring even the<br />

higher-performing states uncomfortably close to the 90% PEP penalty. Currently,<br />

the dueling 80% incentive and 90% penalty thresholds equate to a redundant<br />

carrot and stick approach that is unique to the PEP measure. Perhaps explaining<br />

a change to same-year PEP as a way for states to accelerate their paternity<br />

establishment efforts could give comfort to Congress in repealing the PEP<br />

penalty and relying on the same incentive approach that is used for the other<br />

measures.<br />

In conclusion, to answer Bob’s three questions:<br />

1. No, we should not eliminate the paternity standards for now, but we should<br />

update it to be a “parentage” standard in recognition that legal parentage<br />

can take many forms.

2. Yes, we should change to one parentage measure, and it should be the IV-<br />

D PEP as a more accurate measure of the IV-D program’s efforts in the<br />

cases in which it provides services.<br />

3. Yes, we should change the base year from the prior fiscal year to the<br />

current one because it provides a result that is easier to understand.<br />

___________________________<br />

James C. Fleming is the director of the <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Division of the North Dakota<br />

Department of Human Services, President of the National Council of <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Directors<br />

(NCCSD), and Treasurer of the National <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Enforcement Association (NCSEA). Jim<br />

is a member and former co-chair of NCSEA’s Policy and Government Relations Committee<br />

and NCCSD’s Policy and Practice Committee, and a member of the editorial committee for the<br />

NCSEA <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> <strong>CommuniQue</strong> (CSQ). A second-generation attorney, Jim earned his<br />

Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Dakota and his Juris Doctorate from Notre<br />

Dame Law School.<br />

i<br />

Many might offer the arrears establishment first since it is not scaled to the amount of arrears<br />

collected. Knowing that arrears are not touched until current is collected, the arrears measure<br />

is insightful as a measure of the percentage of cases where our case management is<br />

successful in collecting current support in full and making progress toward eliminating the full<br />

arrears. Alas, that is topic for another CSQ article.<br />

Print article here<br />

__________________________________________________________________________<br />


Faster Payments in the United States: What Are Implications<br />

for the <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Program?<br />

by Patricia O’Donnell, Vice President of Payment Processing,<br />

YoungWilliams<br />

For several decades, the United States payment infrastructure (how we<br />

make and receive payments) has worked well and seamlessly. We<br />

(individuals, businesses, organizations) take it for granted while industry<br />

and government have made behind the scenes improvements to<br />

incorporate technological advancements, as well as improvements in<br />

security and privacy of transactions. Traditionally, the American “standard”<br />

for settlement of electronic payments has been a 2-day time period from<br />

payment initiation (payor “sending” the money) to settlement (payee’s<br />

financial institution verifying payment from payor). Some areas, i.e., bank<br />

account to bank account transfer through the Automated Clearing House,<br />

have been reduced to a 1-day time period.<br />

In other parts of the world, countries implemented additional innovations to<br />

improve the time of payment initiation to settlement to minutes/hours vs.<br />

days, working toward an objective of “real-time” payment credit to the<br />

payee. In order to remain competitive in the global economy, the United<br />

States Federal Reserve Banks embarked on a research effort, which led to<br />

several tangible steps taken. These steps have resulted in a collaboration<br />

between public and private sector entities to continue to improve the<br />

timeliness, safety, and security of payment transactions in the United<br />

States payment system. For more information about the Federal Reserve’s<br />

research, refer to the following:<br />

• The Federal Reserve Banks. (2013) Payment System Improvement -<br />

Public Consultation Paper<br />

• The Federal Reserve Banks. (2015) Strategies for Improving the U.S.<br />

Payments System

• The Federal Reserve Banks. (2018) U.S. Faster Payments Council<br />

Announced<br />

So …. while this is interesting …. what does this have to do with child<br />

support?<br />

Many states have been working on the modernization of their child support<br />

case management system. Other states are in the discussion and planning<br />

stages on modernization efforts, yet all systems continue to work on the<br />

base premise of daily “batch” file transmissions between the payment<br />

processor and the State case management system.<br />

As “faster” or “real-time” payments become more prevalent in the United<br />

States, states may wish to consider how “faster” or “real-time” payments<br />

could be accommodated within the child support program.<br />

What is "Faster?" The term "faster payments" is broadly used in the<br />

payment industry to indicate simply that increased speed, convenience,<br />

and accessibility are essential features for the future of the payment<br />

and settlement system. In addition to the expedited movement and<br />

availability of funds, the more efficient and transparent provision of<br />

information about the transaction is a key component of faster<br />

payments.<br />

What does “Faster” mean?<br />

An Immediate payment is one that can be sent 24/7/365 (subject to the<br />

service offering of the financial institution). The sending bank must<br />

receive a response within 15 seconds from the receiving bank<br />

confirming the payment has been accepted or rejected.<br />

“Faster” payments may also be Instant meaning an electronic retail<br />

payment solution is available 24/7/365, resulting in the immediate or<br />

close-to-immediate interbank clearing of the transaction and crediting of<br />

the payee’s account with confirmation to the payor (within seconds of<br />

payment initiation).<br />

A Same Day payment is defined as the effective settlement date of a<br />

payment is the same as the date on which the transaction was initiated<br />

by the payor.<br />

<strong>2020</strong> is the target date that the Federal Reserve’s Faster Payments Task<br />

Force has set for faster payments to be available to every U.S. consumer<br />

and business. That task force – composed of more than 300 delegates

epresenting financial institutions, corporate treasurers, consumer<br />

advocates, financial technology firms, industry associations, academics,<br />

and many other groups – convened in 2015 to establish the criteria for a<br />

successful faster payments system in the U.S. How different organizations<br />

prepare for and adapt to the changes “faster payments” will introduce will<br />

be a matter for us to consider in the child support community across the<br />

United States. An assessment of the impact to each state’s current policies<br />

and processes should also be conducted.<br />

How can states plan/prepare for “Faster Payments?”<br />

States should:<br />

• Consider the changes within systems and processes that would need<br />

to be undertaken to receive and credit payments 7/24/365.<br />

• Determine if the benefits of receiving and settling incoming child<br />

support payments faster are “worth it” in light of the significant reengineering<br />

that would be required to modify existing policies,<br />

systems and processes.<br />

• Consider development of an Application Programming Interface (API)<br />

for the state’s case management system that could be made<br />

available for financial institution and payment processing providers to<br />

utilize versus traditional batch file transmissions. An Application<br />

Programming Interface is analogous to a “bridge” that is built between<br />

disparate information technology systems so information can be<br />

exchanged without requiring changes to the sender’s or receiver’s<br />

systems. Once implemented future modifications can be made to the<br />

“bridge” software only which is accomplished more quickly and at a<br />

lower cost than direct system to system custom programming.<br />

• Assess the benefits to the state child support program as well as the<br />

payor and payee to incorporate faster payment options:<br />

o Payor – can receive “immediate” credit for payments made<br />

7/24/365,<br />

o Payee – expedited receipt of child support funds, and/or<br />

o State – reduce financial impact/risk associated with “nonsufficient”<br />

funds transactions.<br />

As assessments are made regarding what, if any, of the payment<br />

innovations and options can/should be included in a state’s child support<br />

program, it is important to consider how quickly the payment technologies<br />

and policies are evolving in the United States. Accepting “faster” payments

in <strong>2020</strong> may not be a priority for the agency, but its importance will likely<br />

continue to increase over the next 2-3 years as “faster” payments become<br />

broadly accepted and the capability expected by our child support partners<br />

(employers) and customers. Initiating discussions now with your<br />

information technology team, financial institutions, and payment processing<br />

service providers will enable thoughtful dialogue to occur and a subsequent<br />

plan developed to enable the acceptance of “faster payments” in a manner<br />

which best suits your payors and payees, as well as the other critical<br />

stakeholders in the child support community.<br />

__________________________________<br />

Pat O’Donnell leads the YoungWilliams’ state disbursement unit and payment<br />

processing businesses. Pat’s career spans multiple disciplines and includes experience<br />

in child support, banking, technology, and business operations. Previous positions<br />

include Senior Vice President at a large regional bank, where she led an initiative to<br />

create industry-specific payment solutions with a focus on the public sector. She also<br />

served as Managing Director at one of the nation’s largest financial institutions focused<br />

on government payment programs including child support, SNAP, WIC, TANF and<br />

unemployment insurance. She is a member of the Board of Directors and current Chair<br />

of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association (EFTA – www.efta.org). Additionally, she<br />

serves on the NCSEA Communications and Awards Committees.<br />

Sources:<br />

https://fasterpaymentsplaybook.org<br />

https://fasterpaymentstaskforce.org/payment-landscape/payments-in-the-u-s/<br />

https://www.theclearinghouse.org/banking-perspectives/2017/2017-q4-bankingperspectives/departments/faster-payments-the-road-to-<strong>2020</strong><br />

Print article here<br />



Trauma and Self Care<br />

by Shenandoah Chefalo, The Center for Trauma Resilient Communities<br />

Panic is a real feeling. Anxiety about the unknown is real. For many of us,<br />

the current pandemic has switched our brains into survival mode, also<br />

called trauma brain. Survival mode is necessary and can be a lifesaving<br />

response. However, it can also send us into overdrive and become an<br />

automatic response instead of a lifesaving one.<br />

The signs of trauma brain aren’t always the same and they can be deadly.<br />

The broad range of symptoms includes migraines, rashes, hormonal<br />

imbalance, tiredness, digestive problems, tension,<br />

trouble focusing, and insomnia to even more severe<br />

illness.<br />

The first step in understanding the trauma brain<br />

mode is recognizing our actual feelings. I talk often<br />

about my survival and the lifetime I have spent trying to<br />

rewire myself from those learned conditions. On<br />

March 12, <strong>2020</strong>, I was triggered just reading about<br />

how the stock market was at levels similar to Black<br />

Monday in 1987. In short, 1987 was a horrible year<br />

for me—lack was everywhere and frankly I was<br />

starving to death (quite literally). It was the year before I was ultimately<br />

placed into<br />

foster care, and I was doing absolutely everything I could to survive.<br />

Feelings surrounding scarcity and lack are real, and those feelings can be<br />

all too familiar.<br />

The pandemic has triggered similar feelings in me, and I knew I had some<br />

hard and difficult work ahead of me. Others may feel that way, too. Doing<br />

the work doesn’t necessary alleviate some of the triggers Coronavirus is<br />

having in my life.

Once I recognized my feelings, I knew I had to implement my self-care<br />

plan. A self-care plan will help people who live with a trauma brain. I<br />

recommend this for all the teams, individuals, and organizations with whom<br />

I work. Part of the plan is daily self-care. These are the things that bring us<br />

absolute joy and fill us up. We also need to address issues within our own<br />

individual personal development that can prevent our growth. We often find<br />

those things we work on when we look at our trigger care. You know those<br />

things that “push our buttons” or send us into negative swirls. We often<br />

blame the button-pushing on how others behave, but in truth, it is often<br />

hitting at a piece of our own personal development that we need to work<br />

on.<br />

These areas are crucial, but right now, we need a crisis care plan. How will<br />

you care for yourself when chaos ensues, when you encounter the<br />

unknown? Some people in trainings don't want to think about it or have a<br />

tendency to think they don't have to worry about it. But if nothing else, this<br />

virus is proving that chaos can happen when we least expect it, from places<br />

we couldn't even imagine, and we need to have a plan.<br />

It is critical when we talk about wanting to implement trauma-informed care<br />

within our organization to understand that the work really does start on an<br />

individual basis. That we each need to take extraordinary care of ourselves<br />

so that we can be overflowing enough to give to our teams. When we are<br />

overflowing enough individually, that overflow can pour over to our teams,<br />

allowing us to support those teams to be overflowing enough to give to<br />

those that we serve. Here are some easy tips to help us care for ourselves:<br />

EASY TIPS:<br />

1. Appoint someone from your team to lead wellness.<br />

2. Ensure every meeting, whether virtual or in person, starts with<br />

connection first.<br />

3. Especially during tele-meetings, make sure collaboration is still<br />

happening. Is everyone’s voice being heard?<br />

4. Slow Down and Let Go. Everyone is experiencing a new type of<br />

normal, and our pace of work needs to make space for our grief. Slow<br />

your pace!<br />

5. Employees follow leaders. If you want staff to take care of<br />

themselves, you need to take care of yourself. Monkey see, monkey<br />


Our goal at the Center for Trauma Resilient Communities is to keep as<br />

many adults well-regulated and operating within their executive functioning<br />

brains because many others in our community are going to need us, and<br />

we must care for ourselves before we can properly care for others.<br />

_____________________<br />

Shenandoah Chefalo is a former foster youth, consultant and advocate. She is the<br />

author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase; co-founder of #4600andCounting, a<br />

grass-root movement to find missing foster youth; and a faculty member at The Center<br />

for Trauma Resilient Communities, where she helps translate trauma information into<br />

skills to help build resilience and heal communities, organizations and individuals. You<br />

can learn more about her and her work at upcoming free webinars at<br />

http://www.crossnore.org/center-for-trauma-resilient-communities/ or<br />

www.garbagebagsuitcase.com<br />

Print article here<br />

Crisis Care<br />

by Diane Potts, SLI Government Solutions-Center for the<br />

<strong>Support</strong> of Families<br />

The COVID-19 pandemic profoundly changed our professional and<br />

personal lives in March <strong>2020</strong>. <strong>Child</strong> support programs across the country<br />

shifted operations in response to shelter in place orders and physical<br />

distancing protocols. Leaders at the federal, state, and local levels faced<br />

difficult decisions that had to be made quickly, balancing the safety of their<br />

staff with the needs of parents and children in the program.<br />

The enormity of a crisis like COVID-19 takes a traumatic toll mentally and<br />

physically. With 24/7 access to news combined with inconsistent and at<br />

times conflicting information, the crisis has been all around and consuming<br />

our thoughts, conversations, and reactions. Left unchecked, stress caused

y trauma will overwhelm the ability to cope and manage emotions and<br />

daily life.<br />

Poet Audrey Lorde once wrote that self-care is not about self-indulgency;<br />

instead, it’s about self-preservation. Self-care has been defined as giving<br />

deliberate and adequate attention to one’s physical and psychological<br />

wellness. Simple enough—yet in the depths of a crisis, physical and<br />

psychological health often end up being compromised.<br />

The first step of self-care is simply to realize that a traumatic event is<br />

happening and recognize trauma’s physical and mental effects. Common<br />

physical effects include distraction and the inability to concentrate. Some<br />

people may experience fatigue and depression, while others experience<br />

sleepless and anxiety. Feelings of helplessness, fear, and despair are also<br />

common especially when the traumatic event is of uncertain magnitude and<br />

duration, as is the case with the COVID-19 pandemic.<br />

The second step of self-care is to take action to<br />

combat the trauma and stress. Again, that sounds<br />

simple, but the overwhelming nature of trauma tends<br />

to consume and paralyze, making it difficult to take<br />

necessary self-care actions such as building and<br />

maintaining strong personal relationships, exercising<br />

daily, and focusing inward, which are covered below.<br />

Staying social and<br />

connected is critically<br />

important because<br />

strong personal<br />

relationships keep us<br />

happier and healthier.<br />

An important step in reducing the negative effects of<br />

trauma is to spend more time with friends and family. While unfortunately<br />

phrased “social” distancing, COVID-19 protocols are for physical<br />

distancing. Technology today provides for unprecedented abilities to check<br />

in with family and friends. In virtual spaces, grandparents can read bedtime<br />

stories to their grandchildren, friends can get together from all across the<br />

country for book clubs and happy hours, and families can exchange<br />

memories and stories of past vacations, weddings, graduations, and<br />

holiday celebrations with pictures, videos, and stories.<br />

Staying social and connected is critically important because strong<br />

personal relationships keep us happier and healthier. The Harvard Study of<br />

Adult Development is one of the world’s longest longitudinal studies of<br />

happiness and health in adult life. The study began by tracking the health<br />

of 268 Harvard sophomores in 1938 during the Great Depression.<br />

Scientists eventually expanded their research to include the men’s<br />

offspring, who now number 1,300. In the 1970s, the control group

expanded to include 456 inner-city residents from Boston’s poorest<br />

neighborhoods. More than a decade ago, Harvard researchers began<br />

including wives in the studies.<br />

Each participant in the study has an annual interview and medical check-up<br />

including a brain scan. This has allowed researchers to study health<br />

trajectories over time in the context of the participants’ broader lives<br />

including triumphs and failures in careers and relationships.<br />

The goal of the study was to find out what factors made the most difference<br />

to health and happiness. The answer: close relationships, more than<br />

income or fame, are what keep people happy. Those ties protect people<br />

from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are<br />

better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even<br />

genes. The happiest and mentally healthiest adults were those who leaned<br />

into relationships with family, friends, and the community. In times of stress<br />

and crisis, building and maintaining personal<br />

relationships are even more critical to mental<br />

health.<br />

Regular exercise is another way to mitigate the<br />

negative effects of chronic stress on the mind<br />

and body. Exercise also improves mental<br />

health. Many experts believe that routine<br />

exercise is as powerful in treating anxiety and<br />

mood disorders as antidepressants.<br />

But how does exercise help? The mental benefits of exercise have a<br />

neurochemical basis by reducing the levels of the body’s stress hormones,<br />

such as adrenaline and cortisol. Exercise also stimulates the production of<br />

endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural<br />

painkillers and mood elevators.<br />

The mental benefits of exercise also have a behavioral component such as<br />

an increased self-image. It also results in more energy. Finally, exercise<br />

provides the essential opportunity to get away from the news and thoughts<br />

of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s a robust walk, online exercise<br />

class, or bike ride—just commit to do something every day.<br />

Finally, to resist the effects of stress caused by crisis, it is vitally important<br />

to focus inward. This includes finding ways to relax and be kind to yourself.<br />

Take time a few times every day to breathe deeply and focus on what

makes you happy. Read books and dig out enjoyable hobbies. Plant<br />

flowers this spring and watch them grow.<br />

Self-care is about permission to pause. In the wise words of Lao Tzu,<br />

If you are depressed, you are living in the past.<br />

If you are anxious, you are living in the future.<br />

If you are at peace, you are living in the present.<br />

As child support professionals, making self-care a priority now is crucial.<br />

The families in our program are facing high levels of sudden unemployment<br />

and loss of income and children at home in virtual classrooms. They also<br />

are experiencing the stress from the COVID-19 pandemic and not knowing<br />

if or when life will return to normal.<br />

By making self-care a priority for the child support community today, we will<br />

be better equipped mentally to provide help tomorrow to the families that<br />

we serve. The work and challenges of child support programs across the<br />

country in response to COVID-19 will be featured in next quarter’s CSQ<br />

but, for right now, remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup—take<br />

care of yourself first.<br />

_________________<br />

Diane Potts is the Director of <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> at the Center for the <strong>Support</strong> of Families<br />

(CSF), a Division of SLI Government Solutions. Diane joined CSF in 2015, after serving<br />

for 6 years as Illinois Deputy Attorney General for <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong>. During her 20-year<br />

career with the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, Diane argued over 100 cases on<br />

behalf of the State in the Illinois Supreme Court, Appellate Court, and the Seventh<br />

Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2015, she won the Illinois <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Lifetime<br />

Achievement Award. Diane is a Past-President of NCSEA and its past Secretary, and<br />

served on NCSEA’s Board of Directors from 2013-2019, as co-chair of the Forum in<br />

2015, 2016, and 2019, and currently is the co-chair for the Policy and Government<br />

Relations Committee. Last year, she was appointed to serve on the Board of Directors<br />

of the Eastern Regional Interstate <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Association (ERICSA). In 2016, Diane<br />

was appointed as an official observer to the Uniform Law Commission’s amendment of<br />

the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) and currently sits on the UPA’s Enactment<br />

Committee. Diane received her law degree from Washington University Law School and<br />

her undergraduate degree from University of Illinois.<br />

Print article here

Australian <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> System Problems:<br />

Results from a Recent Study<br />

by Zoë Goodall, Swinburne University of Technology,<br />

and Kay Cook, Swinburne University of Technology<br />

The Australian child support system may seem, on the surface, to be a fair<br />

and equitable one. All child support money is passed through to the<br />

recipient parent. Parents are also given the option of having the<br />

government transfer payments for them or transferring the money between<br />

themselves, privately. Payment amounts are calculated using a formula<br />

that takes both parents’ incomes and proportion of overnight care-time into<br />

account. i The assessment is then adjusted if either parent has additional<br />

children with new partners. The rhetoric around the system is genderneutral,<br />

with a focus on individual choice. Unfortunately, however, this<br />

rhetoric hides deep-seated problems across the system.<br />

Unpaid child support in Australia currently stands at $1.64 billion AUD<br />

(approximately $1.066 billion as of <strong>May</strong> 12 <strong>2020</strong>), a figure which does not<br />

take into account the 54 percent of cases that transfer payments privately<br />

and are assumed by the government to be 100 percent compliant. ii This<br />

staggering—and staggeringly underestimated—debt level, of course,<br />

means that children in separated families are missing out on this vital<br />

source of household income.<br />

One of the starkest features of the Australian system is that child support<br />

payments interact with benefits support in ways that financially<br />

disadvantage low-income mothers and their children. The situation is<br />

completely incongruent with the system’s original purpose of keeping<br />

children from single-parent families out of poverty. iii

Researchers from Swinburne University of Technology, in Melbourne,<br />

Australia, in conjunction with the National Council for Single Mothers and<br />

their <strong>Child</strong>ren, surveyed 469 mothers about their experiences in the<br />

Australian child support system. The results informed the report title: Debts<br />

and Disappointment. Researchers asked mothers about their experiences<br />

with the assessment process, collection methods, unpaid child support<br />

(debt) and its impacts, domestic violence, and the ways child support<br />

interacts with the welfare benefit system. iv<br />

Below are some of the most striking results.<br />

The Assessment Process<br />

Survey participants reported that the formula assessment process was<br />

fraught due to an unequal onus of proof and deception on the part of their<br />

ex-partners. Key to this was that parents’ income in the formula is based on<br />

their tax returns.<br />

When parents don’t lodge tax returns, the Department of Human Services –<br />

<strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> (DHS-CS) uses an income estimate. v Of participants who<br />

had a DHS-CS formula assessment, 47 percent reported that their expartner<br />

did not file regular tax returns. Seventy-five percent of participants<br />

whose assessment depended on an income estimate believed the estimate<br />

was not accurate and had a negative impact on the amount of child support<br />

due. Many participants also stated their ex-partners used incomeminimising<br />

strategies, such as doing cash-in-hand work or placing assets<br />

under a third party’s name. They also reported that they were constantly<br />

required to “prove” their situation to the DHS-CS, while their ex-partner was<br />

not subject to the same scrutiny.<br />

Collection Types, Underpayment, and Enforcement<br />

Despite the majority of child support caseloads being privately transferred<br />

(called Private Collect), only 15 percent of participants reported receiving<br />

child support through this method. A further 55 percent of participants<br />

received payments via DHS-CS (called DHS-CS Collect).<br />

As mentioned earlier, the government counts Private Collect payments as<br />

100 percent compliant, which is particularly insidious as these payments<br />

are not subject to government oversight, and the government specifically<br />

encourages parents to use this method. vi

Forty-one percent of participants using Private Collect reported payment<br />

problems, including partial, sporadic, rare, or non-existent payments. Fortythree<br />

percent of participants who used DHS-CS Collect were also owed<br />

unpaid child support from the previous month. While the government does<br />

not oversee Private Collect transfers, DHS-CS Collect recipients have<br />

payments reported by the department. However, of participants who used<br />

DHS-CS Collect, and whose payments were incomplete, inconsistent, or<br />

non-occurring, 23 percent chose not to flag underpayments to DHS-CS<br />

because they believed there was no point. Fifteen percent also said that<br />

they don’t report underpayment to avoid conflict with their ex-partner.<br />

Interactions with Welfare Benefits<br />

<strong>Child</strong> support in Australia interacts with the government cash payment,<br />

Family Tax Benefit Part A (FTB-A). To be eligible for FTB-A payments, a<br />

family’s adjustable income needs to be less than $104,184 AUD if they<br />

have one child (and slightly higher income limits with each additional child<br />

and depending on the children’s ages). vii Ninety percent of survey<br />

participants reported receiving these benefit payments. If recipients of FTB-<br />

A choose not to seek child support, they can only receive the base rate of<br />

the benefit. <strong>Child</strong> support then reduces FTB-A by 50 cents for every dollar<br />

above the Maintenance Income Free Area of $1,653.45 AUD per year. viii<br />

Of DHS-CS Collect FTB-A recipients in the survey, 59 percent received<br />

less child support than expected. There are two methods DHS uses to<br />

calculate FTB-A payments in DHS-CS Collect cases. Both of them<br />

reconcile FTB-A and child support payments annually. But the<br />

department’s default method of calculation is the Modified Entitlement<br />

Method, which relies on the “expected” amount of child support, thereby<br />

reducing low-income mothers’ FTB-A throughout the year until annual FTB<br />

reconciliation occurs. A second method, the Disbursement Method, uses<br />

the actual amount of “received” child support in fortnightly FTB-A<br />

calculations, but it is only used in cases where FTB-A recipients specifically<br />

request it.<br />

Because Private Collect payments are assumed to be fully compliant, DHS-<br />

CS calculates the payment of FTB-A on the “expected” rather than the<br />

“received” amount of child support. This means that recipients’ household<br />

budgets are reduced not only by the child support that they didn’t receive,<br />

but also by a portion of their FTB-A payment above the Maintenance<br />

Income Free Area.

The most harmful aspect of the interaction between child support and FTB<br />

for the majority of the Private Collect caseload, however, is the one that is<br />

most out of recipient parents’ control. If paying parents don’t file tax returns<br />

until years later, the adjusted taxable income will trigger a retrospective<br />

recalculation of child support, and thus FTB-A. In many cases, this will<br />

mean that more child support should have been paid in previous years,<br />

which the department regards as having been fully compliant at the time it<br />

was due. The department then retrospectively imputes that the recipient<br />

parents should have received less FTB-A for the relevant years. A<br />

government debt is raised against Private Collect recipients, which they<br />

must start paying back immediately. ix<br />

Domestic Violence<br />

Mothers who have experienced domestic violence can be exempt from<br />

seeking child support. x This is, of course, contingent on them knowing<br />

about the exemption process and having the capacity to prove the violence<br />

to DHS-CS. Twenty-four percent of survey respondents said they had<br />

conflict with their ex-partner, and a further 19 percent reported experiencing<br />

domestic violence or financial abuse/pressure. Of these women, 41 percent<br />

were not aware that violence was grounds for an exemption, begging the<br />

question of why DHS-CS staff are not informing women of the exemption<br />

process.<br />

However, the fact that exemptions are the only solution offered to domestic<br />

violence victims is a problem in itself. Women with exemptions receive their<br />

full FTB-A entitlement, but they miss out on any child support income.<br />

Consequently, abusive fathers are financially rewarded by being excused<br />

from paying support for their children.<br />

Of women who did not have an exemption but had experienced domestic<br />

violence, 59 percent said their ex-partner deliberately made partial,<br />

sporadic, or non-payments to cause them financial uncertainty and<br />

distress. Over 50 percent also said that their ex-partner used child support<br />

as a bargaining chip. But when asked if they had informed DHS-CS of this<br />

behaviour, 25 percent said they had but had received an unhelpful<br />

response.<br />

Financial and Emotional Impacts<br />

The survey asked women about the financial and emotional impacts of not<br />

receiving child support. In relation to financial impacts, 75 percent of

espondents said it caused their children to miss out on regular or planned<br />

social activities. Sixty-four percent said they had to reduce their food<br />

purchases, and 64 percent said it meant struggling to pay for school costs.<br />

Forty-one percent of women said the debt had led to children missing<br />

medical appointments or other healthcare needs, which is particularly<br />

striking in the context of Australia’s universal healthcare.<br />

In terms of emotional impacts, 76 percent of respondents said they could<br />

not provide their children with what they should, and 73 percent said they<br />

got depressed watching their children miss out. The most common<br />

response, reported by 80 percent of respondents, was that the child<br />

support debt produced and/or increased worry, followed by 79 percent<br />

saying it increased financial uncertainty.<br />

Implications<br />

The survey results demonstrate that the child support system in Australia is<br />

often not working for the people who need it the most—low-income single<br />

mothers and their children. Hostile ex-partners and an overly-complicated,<br />

largely unhelpful bureaucratic system combine to produce financial<br />

uncertainty and emotional distress for single mothers. For children, this<br />

results in missing out on crucial items and experiences.<br />

While a government inquiry into child support is upcoming, xi any effective<br />

inquiry needs to pay attention to the key problems with the systems,<br />

namely, the ones outlined in the report. Australia has had three inquiries<br />

into child support since 2003, but the resulting reforms have not had an<br />

overwhelmingly positive effect on single mothers and their children and<br />

instead have been found to have had negative financial and symbolic<br />

consequences. If any progress is to be made—if single mother-headed<br />

families are to receive the money they are entitled to on their children’s<br />

behalf—the government must crack down on payers’ tax evasion, reform<br />

the way child support interacts with welfare benefits, and stop encouraging<br />

Private Collect. Only then will the system work as it was originally intended.<br />

_________________________<br />

Zoë Goodall is a Research Associate in the Department of Social Sciences at<br />

Swinburne University of Technology. Her research interests include child support,<br />

economic security, marriage, surnames and masculinity.<br />

Dr Kay Cook is an Associate Professor and Australian Research Council Future Fellow<br />

in the Department of Social Sciences at Swinburne University of Technology, and a<br />

Founding Co-Director of the International Network of <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Scholars. Kay’s

Future Fellowship project examines the personal, practical and institutional barriers to<br />

child support faced by women in Australia, the UK and USA.<br />

i<br />

https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/child-support/child-supportassessment/how-we-work-out-your-assessment/basic-formula#eightstep.<br />

ii<br />

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-02/child-support-payments-parents-report-revealsfailures/11750710.<br />

iii<br />

https://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/families-and-children/programs-services/history-ofthe-child-support-scheme.<br />

iv<br />

Cook, Kay, Zoë Goodall, Juanita McLaren and Terese Edwards. 2019. Debts and<br />

Disappointment: Mothers'<br />

Experiences of the <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> System. Melbourne: Swinburne University of Technology.<br />

Available online at https://apo.org.au/node/268591.<br />

v<br />

https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/child-support/child-supportassessment/how-we-work-out-your-assessment/how-your-income-affects-your-child-support<br />

vi<br />

Department of Human Services. 2019. Annual Report 2018-2019. Page 111. Available online<br />

at https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/sites/default/files/annual-report-191019-v2.pdf.<br />

vii<br />

https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/family-tax-benefit/howmuch-you-can-get/income-test-ftb-part.<br />

viii<br />

https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/family-tax-benefit/howmuch-you-can-get/income-test-ftb-part.<br />

ix<br />

https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/family-tax-benefit/whatcan-affect-your-payment/child-support-and-your-family-tax-benefit-part/what-happens-if-weupdate-your-child-support-assessment#a3.<br />

x<br />

https://guides.dss.gov.au/family-assistance-guide/3/1/5/70.<br />

xi<br />

https://www.pm.gov.au/media/joint-parliamentary-inquiry-family-law-and-child-support.<br />

Print article here

Work/Life Balance: The Never-Ending Pursuit<br />

Part 1 – Communication<br />

by Ellen Rutledge, YoungWilliams<br />

Why is it so hard to communicate our wants and needs at work? This<br />

article, the first of a three-part series on work/life balance, will explore the<br />

role that communication plays in achieving the right balance between<br />

professional and personal life. This article complements the NCSEA On<br />

Location podcast, Work/Life Balance Series – Part 1, that is also being<br />

released today. In this podcast, Jennifer Coultas, Los Angeles County <strong>Child</strong><br />

<strong>Support</strong>; Mike Moreno, Deloitte Consulting; and Kim Newsom Bridges,<br />

Conduent, address how communication plays a critical role for employees<br />

with work/life balance issues.<br />

As with many things, the first step is admitting there is a problem.<br />

According to Coultas, recognizing there is a work/life balance issue is<br />

difficult, but critical. To start, you need to think through what is going on and<br />

how you got there. This includes labeling your feelings, identifying the exact<br />

stresses and challenges, and knowing that you need to make changes.<br />

Once you have accepted you have an issue, reach out to your support<br />

networks. Ideally, you have both a personal and professional support<br />

network. Having these people is necessary to a good work/life balance.<br />

These are the people with whom you can be transparent about your goals<br />

and challenges. It is important to be able to speak freely with the people in<br />

these networks. This ensures an honest dialogue and builds strong<br />

relationships. It also means that these people can provide you with helpful<br />

feedback.<br />

Managers should be an important part of your professional support network<br />

but may be the most intimidating with whom to communicate. Preparing for

this conversation is key. Once you have identified the root cause of your<br />

work/life balance issue, think of possible solutions. Bounce ideas off your<br />

support network. When you meet with your manager, frame the situation as<br />

positively as possible, be open to ideas, and seek ways to collaborate.<br />

The costs to a company whose employees suffer from a work/life<br />

imbalance include high turnover, low performance, and low morale.<br />

Today’s managers are monitoring for work/life balance issues. According to<br />

Moreno, managers should<br />

take the time to get to<br />

know their employees so<br />

that they recognize when<br />

something is off. Regular<br />

one-on-one check-ins are<br />

a great way to stay in<br />

touch with employees.<br />

During these informal<br />

check-ins, managers<br />

should not only discuss work-related projects, but also take a personal<br />

interest in employees by asking about family, talking about weekend plans,<br />

or discussing shared interests such as hiking, movies, or music. It takes<br />

time and work to develop the kind of relationship that leads to high<br />

performance and job satisfaction. As a manager, developing these<br />

relationships is key, so that when times are tough, it is easier for team<br />

members to approach you with these difficult conversations, adds Bridges.<br />

Work/life balance looks different for everyone and changes with time.<br />

Learning to communicate our needs and challenges serves to improve our<br />

overall health and job satisfaction.<br />

__________________________________<br />

Ellen Rutledge, YoungWilliams' Professional Development Coordinator, uses her<br />

experience as a child support attorney and project manager to develop training and<br />

professional development activities. Her efforts support project managers and attorneys<br />

to grow and develop into leaders within the company and the child support community.<br />

Her work/life balance issues revolve around her two children, EC and Annika.<br />

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What’s on the Horizon for <strong>2020</strong>?<br />

An Update on the Work of NCSEA Emerging Issues and Leading<br />

Practices Subcommittee<br />

by Margot Bean and Lara Fors, Co-chairs,<br />

Emerging Issues & Leading Practices Subcommittee<br />

The NCSEA Policy and Government Relations Committee (PGR) is a standing<br />

committee formed to, among other things, manage NCSEA’s policy development<br />

efforts that include tracking and reviewing proposed legislation and regulations to<br />

assess their impact on the child support program and to develop resolutions for<br />

the NCSEA Board to adopt. In addition, PGR oversees four subcommittees,<br />

including Emerging Issues and Leading Practices (EI&LP). The EI&LP<br />

subcommittee collects and compiles information about emerging issues in the<br />

child support program and leading practices used by local, state, tribal, and<br />

international child support agencies. EI&LP shares the information through<br />

informational documents on the NCSEA website and suggests topics and<br />

speakers for the Leadership Symposium and NCSEA webinars. If appropriate,<br />

EI&LP can seek to educate the greater IV-D community by elevating issues<br />

through the PGR Committee to the NCSEA Board for broader education or<br />

advocacy for the child support program.<br />

As we move into the second half of this NCSEA year, EI&LP is hard at work,<br />

making progress on researching hot topics and identifying leading practices to<br />

share across the child support program. With the changes in family dynamics,<br />

increased desire for parental engagement, and the need to strengthen the link<br />

between child support and workforce development, EI&LP is focusing on three<br />

emerging issues: (1) the effectiveness of foster care referrals to child support; (2)<br />

further defining employment services in the IV-D program; and (3) the study of<br />

gender-neutral voluntary parentage acknowledgments.<br />

We have examined several aspects of our first issue concerning foster care<br />

cases and their intersection with the child support program.

We have discussed everything from the inefficiencies for the courts when local<br />

programs are in silos to the larger scale concern of considering the best interests<br />

of the child within both federal programs. When it comes to foster care referrals,<br />

there is still ambiguity about how the IV-D program can determine its role when<br />

the child goes into state custody. The 2016 Final Rule updated the federal code<br />

regarding case closure (45 C.F.R. § 303.11(b)(20)) to allow IV-D agencies to<br />

close a case when another assistance program, including IV-E, refers a case that<br />

is inappropriate to establish, enforce or continue to enforce for child support and<br />

the custodial or non-custodial parent has not applied for IV-D services. However,<br />

IV-D programs have different definitions of appropriateness and different levels of<br />

review for IV-E referrals. We<br />

have not found federal program<br />

guidance to define<br />

“appropriateness,” and we<br />

encourage a larger discussion<br />

on this issue between OCSE<br />

and local, state, and tribal<br />

agencies. Last, we reviewed<br />

research from Wisconsin,<br />

Minnesota, California, and<br />

North Dakota that studied the<br />

With the changes in family dynamics, increased desire for<br />

parental engagement, and the need to strengthen the<br />

link between child support and workforce development,<br />

EI&LP is focusing on three emerging issues: (1) the<br />

effectiveness of foster care referrals to child support; (2)<br />

further defining employment services in the IV-D<br />

program; and (3) the study of gender-neutral voluntary<br />

parentage acknowledgments.<br />

IV-E cases in the IV-D program. From those studies, EI&LP is reviewing two<br />

substantive issues: (1) whether the establishment of child support orders against<br />

the parent seeking reunification can be a significant obstacle to that reunification;<br />

and (2) the cost-effectiveness of enforcement for IV-D agencies in relation to IV-<br />

E referrals to the IV-D program.<br />

Our second issue, employment services, is exploring the need for more clarity on<br />

the appropriate employment services that child support agencies and their<br />

partners could provide. Closely related is the issue of funding for these services.<br />

Since referring parents to workforce agencies is not always successful, many<br />

child support agencies are looking for ideas on how to partner with employment<br />

service providers within their communities. Additionally, we are determining if<br />

any local agencies have expanded employment services to low-income,<br />

unemployed, or underemployed custodial parents in their caseload as part of<br />

holistically addressing family poverty. EI&LP plans to identify and publish leading<br />

practices around successful linkages of child support agencies and employment<br />

programs along with how to best leverage IV-D funding and resources to link<br />

both parents with employment.<br />

Finally, the third emerging issue acknowledges the necessary evolution of the<br />

child support program to meet the needs of changing family structure families of<br />

all types—married, divorced, never-married, different-sex couples, same-sex .

Keeping child support and family law forms updated is challenging. The program<br />

serves couples, caretaker relatives, guardians, and others. With recent changes<br />

to federal law, paternity is one part of the broader concept of parentage, the legal<br />

relationship that is the cornerstone of our program. Following the recent updates<br />

to the Uniform Parentage Act, six states have adopted new or amended forms to<br />

determine legal parentage, including the use of gender-neutral voluntary<br />

acknowledgments of parentage. EI&LP is researching the use of these forms, as<br />

well as recent state case law regarding paternity vs. parentage.<br />

The co-chairs of the Emerging Issues & Leading Practices Subcommittee of PGR<br />

are Margot Bean and Lara Webb Fors. Members are: Phyliss Nance; Paula<br />

Phillips; Diane Potts, PGR co-chair; Patrick Quinn; Adrienne Reddick; Amy<br />

Roehrenbeck; Lisa Kelly Skenandore, PGR co-chair; Trish Skophammer; Jeremy<br />

Smith; Amy Turner; Carla West; Bob Williams; Ann Marie Ruskin, NCSEA<br />

Executive Director; and Tom Joseph, NCSEA Advocate.<br />

Please check the website in upcoming months for informational updates on these<br />

emerging issues and a section for posting references for leading practices.<br />

____________________________<br />

Margot Bean is a Managing Director in Deloitte Consulting’s Public Sector Practice. Margot’s<br />

wide variety of government experience prior to joining Deloitte provides her with deep<br />

understanding and insight: Commissioner of the federal Office of <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Enforcement,<br />

IV-D Director of the New York State <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> program, IV-D Director of the Guam <strong>Child</strong><br />

<strong>Support</strong> Program, and child support attorney. A Past President and Honorary Life Member of<br />

the National <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Enforcement Association (NCSEA), Margot is a member of the<br />

Current Board of Directors and co-chairs the Emerging Issues subcommittee and the<br />

Corporate Relations Committee. She is a Past President and Honorary Board Member of the<br />

Eastern Regional Interstate <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Association (ERICSA). Margot also serves as an<br />

advisor to the Western Interstate <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Enforcement Council (WICSEC).<br />

Lara Fors joined the Center for the <strong>Support</strong> of Families as a Senior Associate in 2019 after<br />

serving for over twenty-five years in the IV-D programs of Missouri state and local<br />

governments, including serving as the IV-D Director. Lara currently serves on three NCSEA<br />

committees. She is a past president of ERICSA and of the Missouri child support professional<br />

association, MCSEA. Lara has presented to numerous child support conferences and events.<br />

Lara was awarded the MCSEA Honorary Life Member (2014), the Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly<br />

Women’s Justice Award for Public Service Practitioner of the Year (2016), and the ERICSA<br />

Honorary Life Member (2019). She received her undergraduate degree at Central Methodist<br />

College and received her J.D. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.<br />

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NCSEA’s <strong>2020</strong> Policy Forum: Engagement: Putting Policy<br />

into Practice<br />

by Carla West and Lyndsy Irwin, Co-chairs <strong>2020</strong> Policy Forum<br />

More than 530 child support professionals gathered at the J.W. Marriott in<br />

Washington, D.C., on February 6-8, <strong>2020</strong>, to attend the NCSEA Policy<br />

Forum. This represents the largest number of attendees on record for the<br />

Policy Forum.<br />

Linda Boyer, deputy commissioner of the federal OCSE, and several<br />

deputies kicked off the Policy Forum Thursday morning with a program on<br />

each of their division’s roles in engaging with program grantees. Ryan<br />

Martin and Kimberly Meinert, Congressional staff members, followed with<br />

federal legislation updates and their individual perspectives on the child<br />

support program.<br />

The afternoon plenary highlighted the recent study on ending childhood<br />

poverty in ten years, “A Roadmap to Reducing <strong>Child</strong> Poverty.” The<br />

plenary, headlined by Ron Haskins from the Brooking Institution’s Center<br />

on <strong>Child</strong>ren and Families, Christine James Brown from the <strong>Child</strong> Welfare<br />

League of America, and Erin Oalican from the State of Vermont’s Reach<br />

Up Program, kicked off three breakout workshops. The workshops focused<br />

on the impact of child support guidelines on low-income families, engaging<br />

customers through targeted and integrated services, and using social<br />

determinants of health to improve outcomes for families in poverty. To end<br />

our first day, attendees had an opportunity to network and discuss all they<br />

had learned at the President’s Reception.<br />

On Friday, attendees learned about recent research that will have an<br />

impact on the future of our child support program from members of<br />

NCSEA’s Research Subcommittee: Maria Cancian, Dean of the McCourt<br />

School of Public Policy with Georgetown University; Letitia Passarella,

Research Director with the Family Welfare Research and Training Group at<br />

the Ruth H. Young Center for Families and <strong>Child</strong>ren, University of Maryland<br />

School of Social Work; Steven Eldred, Director of the Orange County<br />

California <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Services; and Kate Cooper Richardson, Director of<br />

the Oregon <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Program. The panelists looked at how research<br />

connects to improvement in child support policies, not only improving the<br />

program, but having a direct, positive impact on the children and families<br />

we serve. Following the plenary, attendees broke into three sessions that<br />

examined how the research outcomes were being implemented in local<br />

offices. Topics included: 1) how to engage partners<br />

when addressing reentry; 2) the impact and<br />

effectiveness of enforcement remedies; and 3) how<br />

states are implementing the 2016 flexibility, efficiency,<br />

and modernization regulations.<br />

After lunch, leaders from several federal programs<br />

joined us to discuss engagement among federal<br />

programs. Scott Lekan, ACF, Principal Deputy<br />

Assistant Secretary and OCSE Commissioner, led the<br />

panel, which included representatives from the Office<br />

of Head Start and Early <strong>Child</strong>hood Development, Center for Medicaid and<br />

CHIP Services, Office of Family Assistance, Office of Community Services,<br />

Office of <strong>Child</strong> Care, Food and Nutrition Services, Administration on<br />

<strong>Child</strong>ren, Youth, and Families, Substance Abuse and Mental Health<br />

Services Administration, and the Department of Justice. Panel members<br />

shared with the group how their agencies are working together to turn<br />

policies into action and help families gain economic security.<br />

The workshops offered Friday afternoon included discussions on<br />

successful fatherhood programs, effective collaboration between programs<br />

on the state and local level, and customer employment programs.<br />

Author Shenandoah Chefalo (see Chefalo article) started the final day of<br />

the conference with an emotional plenary on trauma-informed services.<br />

She made us all a part of her journey as she shared her experience as a<br />

young child in foster care and the long-lasting effects trauma has had on<br />

her life. Dr. Katherine Crawford followed up the discussion with practical<br />

approaches our programs can take to implement an organizational traumainformed<br />

system when providing services to our families. To end the Policy<br />

Forum, attendees heard from Etay Maor, Chief Security Officer for<br />

Intsights, who described the methods cyber criminals use to attack our

systems and taught each of us the many ways we personally open<br />

ourselves up for identity theft. OCSE’s security engineer, Derrick Cullum,<br />

closed the conference by sharing security requirements and practical tips<br />

for child support programs.<br />

If you were not able to join us for the <strong>2020</strong> Policy Forum, or even if you<br />

joined us and want to revisit what we learned, NCSEA is excited to<br />

announce that the materials from the conference are available to all<br />

NCSEA members. Not only will NCSEA members have access to the<br />

presentations and handouts provided during our plenaries and workshops<br />

through NCSEA’s website, but, for the first time, NCSEA is offering<br />

recordings of select plenaries and workshops. To see the videos that have<br />

been added, log in to the NCSEA website and look for the Web-Talk library<br />

in the Member Central section.<br />

The feedback received from attendees was overwhelmingly positive in<br />

regard to speakers and content. We (Carla and Lyndsy) cannot thank the<br />

Planning Committee members and NCSEA’s Gillyn Croog enough for their<br />

work to ensure a top-notch, thought-provoking agenda.<br />

________________________<br />

The NCSEA <strong>2020</strong> Policy Forum was chaired by Carla West, IV-D Director of the North<br />

Carolina <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Program, and Lyndsy Irwin, IV-D Director of the Mississippi<br />

<strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Enforcement Program. Both Carla and Lyndsy serve on the NCSEA<br />

Board of Directors. Carla has more than 23 years of experience in child support,<br />

working in virtually all levels of the program. She is a Past President of the Eastern<br />

Regional Interstate <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> Association (ERICSA,) and serves as the chair of the<br />

NCSEA <strong>Child</strong> <strong>Support</strong> <strong>CommuniQue</strong> (CSQ) Committee. Lyndsy previously worked in<br />

the Mississippi Division of Family and <strong>Child</strong>ren’s Services and has served as MDHS<br />

program legislative liaison since 2011.<br />

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Wa tch the recording of Ple na ry I a nd othe r Policy Forum p le na rie s

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