August 2021 CSQ

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Table of Contents<br />

July <strong>2021</strong><br />

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

Community Corner: Goodbye to Child Support (as we know it)........................5<br />

DEI Work Continues for the Child Support Community………………………...14<br />

Central Registries Doing What We Expect Them to Do………….…………….17<br />

Gender-Neutral Voluntary Establishments of Parentage ………………………25<br />

Motivational Interviewing……………………………………………………………31<br />

NCSEA Needs Your Input for the NCSEA Research Website…………………36<br />

<strong>2021</strong> Leadership Symposium Preview…………………….….………………….38<br />

Meet NCSEA U Alumni……………………………………………………………..41

President’s Message July <strong>2021</strong><br />

by Lisa Skenandore, SMI<br />

Greetings!<br />

I hope this finds you doing well and enjoying the change<br />

in seasons. This year, especially, I found myself happy<br />

to have summer arrive so I can enjoy the outdoors. It is<br />

hard to believe it has been over a year, although<br />

sometimes it feels longer, we have been living through<br />

the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been happy to see<br />

some normalcy return as well as the reemergence of regular activities. This<br />

spring and summer do seem to be a rejuvenation of sorts for us.<br />

Speaking of rejuvenation, it is almost the time of year when NCSEA passes<br />

the gavel for the next leader to take reign. My term as your President started<br />

ten months ago and, before I knew it, it is now almost over. Through it all this<br />

past year, I have been so very pleased to be a part of NCSEA’s great work.<br />

In terms of accomplishments, we not only held two record-breaking virtual<br />

conferences, but also will see our first in-person event return with the <strong>2021</strong><br />

NCSEA Leadership Symposium in the great city of Austin, Texas in <strong>August</strong>.<br />

I, like many of you, am very excited to return in person and not only learn<br />

from each other through the fantastic plenaries and sessions but also<br />

through the networking that the conference provides. It is only the beginning<br />

of many wonderful and engaging new relationships that we are blessed to<br />

develop through these events. I hope many of you will have the opportunity<br />

to join us this year as we have a fantastic event planned with six thoughtprovoking<br />

plenaries.<br />

I’m especially grateful to all our volunteers who make NCSEA what it is, the<br />

national voice for the child support community. Sitting from my seat, I see<br />

the incredible amount of teamwork and countless hours that go into each<br />

and every one of our committees. I am grateful to each of you for your<br />

passion and commitment to NCSEA and our community. I know my work will<br />

continue with NCSEA and I look forward to supporting President-Elect Lori<br />

Bengston in her journey this next year.<br />

I feel incredibly blessed to have had this opportunity. The NCSEA board<br />

members, executive committee, staff, and membership have all played such<br />

an integral role in the success of the association over the course of the past<br />

year. I know I could not have led without the immense support from all of

you. I thank you, Yaw’ko, for sharing your time and expertise with us and I<br />

hope that our paths continue to cross.<br />

All the best,<br />

Lisa<br />

Lisa Skenandore joined Systems and Methods Inc. as the Vice President of Business<br />

Development in January of 2016. Prior to joining SMI, Lisa led the Oneida Nation Child<br />

Support Department as IV-D Director which became a comprehensive tribal child<br />

support program in April of 2008. She began her career in child support when her tribe<br />

received its start-up grant in 2005. Along with child support she has also led other<br />

human service programming in the areas of child welfare, domestic violence, prevention<br />

and foster care. She has served as President of the National Tribal Child Support<br />

Association and National Association of Tribal Child Support Directors. Lisa currently<br />

serves as NCSEA President and is on the Board of Directors of the Eastern Regional<br />

Interstate Child Support Association. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Public<br />

Administration from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay.

Goodbye to Child Support<br />

(As We Know It)<br />

by Jeff Ball, Project Manager, YoungWilliams<br />

I retired July 9 th . I have spent 34 years thinking about and working in the<br />

child support world. I found my career extremely rewarding. Like Forrest<br />

Gump, I was hanging around during many key moments in the history of<br />

the program, and I have seen its evolution into a well-regarded and welloperated<br />

program.<br />

It is time to ditch this paradigm.<br />

Since the national program’s birth in 1975 when Congress created Title IV-<br />

D, we have focused on collections as the measure of our success. Even<br />

the federal performance measures rely more on the collection base for the<br />

amount of incentive dollars a state receives than how the state performs in<br />

the five indicators.<br />

Parents owe over $113 billion in past due support. Some of it is interest; a<br />

large percentage is owed to governments for TANF reimbursement. But<br />

what sticks out is that most of the billions of past-due support are owed by<br />

parents who are low income, and disproportionately, people of color. Are<br />

we perpetuating poverty and parental discord?<br />

Originally, the goal in 1975 was reimbursing the federal, state, and local<br />

governments for the cost of welfare. The program broadened in the early<br />

1980s to assist parents who had never received public assistance.<br />

Eventually, the family’s past-due support became prioritized in the<br />

distribution chain over the government debt. Some states today pass part<br />

or all of the current support to parents receiving TANF instead of<br />

reimbursing government. We are incrementally moving away from first<br />

paying back governments to giving families their support dollars, whether<br />

timely paid or not.<br />

Today, we are examining the contours of our program and offering<br />

employment assistance to paying parents. We provide referrals to<br />

programs that can aid a parent to overcome barriers, not only to<br />

employment, but to fruitful interaction with his or her children.

But we have dropped ourselves, deus ex<br />

machina, into the lives of people, many<br />

of whom do not want us involved.<br />

Conversely, we have not involved<br />

ourselves in enough situations where our<br />

intervention may make a large difference<br />

to a family, but no one has reached out<br />

to us.<br />

By not representing either parent, we have often disregarded the<br />

arguments and concerns of parents, who appear pro se in the vast majority<br />

of our cases. They usually have a hard time navigating the rules of civil<br />

procedure and evidence in an adversarial court structure that they may<br />

have only previously experienced vicariously by watching Law and Order<br />

episodes.<br />

We usually have an inadequate referral for a parent who cannot see his or<br />

his kids. Our funding is siloed so that all but de minimis activities<br />

associated with parenting plans receive no federal funding.<br />

So what can we do to make two-household children’s lives better? How do<br />

we support children?<br />

Enough of incremental change, building on a 1975 model jazzed up to<br />

collect for parents instead of governments but with many of the<br />

weaknesses found in the original model.<br />

What are the elements of a new system to support children?<br />

The Economic Part<br />

First, we implement child support assurance and child support guarantees.<br />

What is this radical notion of child support assurance? It is an idea that has<br />

been floated since the 1980s. The Institute on Research and Poverty at the<br />

University of Wisconsin’s researchers have written extensively about the<br />

topic. Even the American Enterprise Institute has weighed in favor of the<br />

concept to reduce poverty in 2018. While the pay first model will have a<br />

price tag of several billion dollars, the collection activities that follow will<br />

keep us close to our current collection rate of about two dollars collected for<br />

every three dollars currently owed. Since time is not of the essence in most<br />

cases, since most if not all child support is paid before it is collected, we<br />

can recalibrate how we collect and devote fewer resources.

Child support assurance could be paid directly to the primary residential<br />

parent for the first $10,000 of child support owed per year for one child,<br />

$12,500 for two children, and $15,000 for three or more children. The<br />

program would pay support out in monthly increments and then collect it<br />

from the paying parent through income withholding and tax adjustments. A<br />

few other enforcement tools would be used, but not license suspension. No<br />

interest would accrue on past-due support. Any support order that includes<br />

payments above the assurance amount will be paid monthly through<br />

income withholding or through automatic withdrawal from a bank account.<br />

What is a child support guarantee? It is a floor of support for a child of lowincome<br />

parents who need a supplemental amount of money to even the<br />

playing field with other children. It is a cousin of the child credit that is<br />

starting in July <strong>2021</strong>.<br />

If the order for child support fails to provide sufficient support to meet the<br />

basic needs of the child, a floor of child support will supplement the ordered<br />

amount. For instance, the paying parent is incarcerated, the order is $300<br />

per year for one child, and the<br />

custodial parent’s contribution to<br />

child support used in the order<br />

calculation is $2400 per year. If<br />

the marginal cost of a child is<br />

$6,000 per year (the difference<br />

between the majority residential<br />

time parent’s costs for herself or<br />

himself and the cost for that<br />

What is a child support guarantee? It is a<br />

floor of support for a child of low-income<br />

parents who need a supplemental amount of<br />

money to even the playing field with other<br />

children. It is a cousin of the child credit that<br />

is starting in July <strong>2021</strong>.<br />

parent with one child), the government would pay $500 per month to the<br />

majority residential time parent minus the $200 monthly contribution that<br />

the parent could provide ($2400 divided by 12). So for the year, the<br />

government would pay $3600 to the family, and the paying parent would be<br />

billed for $300 of that amount, and whatever was not paid would be a debt<br />

on his or her taxes the next time they were filed.<br />

If the paying parent is granted parole and is gainfully employed in the<br />

future, the new income level would be used to adjust the support order<br />

automatically on an annual basis. Similar adjustments would be made for<br />

the majority residential time parent as well when it comes to the ordered<br />

amount and the minimum contribution that is then supplemented.

We also should institute a national age of majority at 18 or high school,<br />

whichever is later. The order goes down automatically when one child<br />

emancipates if there are younger children under the order. A disabled child<br />

may have support continued beyond the age of majority upon proof that the<br />

child is not<br />

able to be selfsupporting<br />

from any income<br />

source<br />

(including<br />

Supplemental<br />

Social<br />

Security Income).<br />

Custody<br />

switches and<br />

significant<br />

increases or<br />

decreases<br />

in overnights for<br />

the paying<br />

parent, once<br />

affirmed as<br />

accurate, instantly<br />

amend the<br />

support amount for<br />

the rest of<br />

the year,<br />

proportionately by months.<br />

The Parental Emotional Ties Part<br />

Title IV-D should be interwoven with the new Title IV-G, which addresses<br />

initial custody decisions, access and visitation issues, and parenting plans.<br />

The two parts of Title IV will have separate appropriations, yet the funding<br />

for each part can be used in the other part. In other words, Title IV-D as a<br />

funding source will not prohibit economic child support staff from working in<br />

unison with Title IV-G emotional child support staff. The more seamless the<br />

process the better, including the sharing of computer systems.<br />

Title IV-G would offer mediation of custody and visitation, promotion of<br />

parenting plans, and provide paid referrals for counseling on anger<br />

management and domestic violence victim therapy as part of the new<br />

approach. Title IV-G would also work with the Court Appointed Special<br />

Advocate Program (CASA) on supervised visitation assistance. Title IV-G<br />

staff would entertain modifications of parenting plans when there were<br />

substantial changes in circumstances, children aging out of a previous<br />

plan, or the two households’ distance apart made the last plan impractical.<br />

The Customer Case Ownership Part<br />

Today, the child support agency is the assignee of rights in TANF cases,<br />

stepping in the place of the TANF parent. And even though an applicant in<br />

a never-TANF case can withdraw at any time, Title IV-D agencies control

the destiny of that case. Most parents are sidelined by our approach,<br />

waiting for us to act and respond to changes in income, custody,<br />

overnights, etc. The agencies play catch up since we are not directly<br />

involved in the day-to-day life of the family and often not informed of key<br />

changes until months or years later.<br />

Every person who is not living with the other alleged parent or spouse<br />

should be highly encouraged to use IV-D and/or IV-G services as soon as<br />

the separation occurs. A large, national promotional campaign would help<br />

explain our services and availability.<br />

If one goes to court regarding the children and support, all cases should be<br />

placed in Title IV-D and IV-G agencies unless both legally recognized<br />

parents opt out. Unlike today when parents sign away control of their case<br />

until they withdraw, parents can work out settlements at any time during the<br />

early stages of separation and later for modification purposes to reflect the<br />

changing realities of life. For those<br />

parents who cannot agree, both<br />

parents should be given access to<br />

digital sources or handed paper<br />

materials that explain the processes.<br />

Attorneys will be provided for each<br />

parent or caretaker, but the forum will<br />

not be an adversarial, formal<br />

courtroom but an informal setting where parents can discuss their<br />

difference and try to forge a solution. If a stipulation is reached, the court<br />

will review it to be sure that it reflects equal bargaining power, and then<br />

enter an order incorporating the stipulation.<br />

If parents cannot agree, the points in dispute will be heard by a mediator.<br />

No evidentiary rules apply except for relevancy of the testimony or exhibits<br />

to the issues before the mediator, and an appropriate discounting of<br />

hearsay testimony. The mediator will recommend a solution and if there is<br />

no appeal, it becomes final. If either party still wants to appeal, the case<br />

could go to a traditional court venue.<br />

Parentage can be done on a national scale, with parties appearing for a<br />

buccal swab at the closest lab to them. The results are sent to the OCSS<br />

(Office of Child Support Services) Division of Parentage. Using the Revised<br />

Uniform Parentage Act guidelines, the Division inquires to see if there is a<br />

psychological or nurturing alternative parent. If there is none, then the

iological parent is made the legal parent. If there is a nurturing parent or<br />

parents as well as a biological parent, then a hearing will be held of the<br />

possible legal parents to determine who should be a legal parent and who<br />

should have primary legal responsibility for support.<br />

Domestic violence screening should be done at the start of every case to<br />

ensure that the program proactively aids those who feel threatened.<br />

The Implementation of Procedural and Fair Justice Part<br />

The use of the adversarial system of justice is meant to ferret out the most<br />

credible evidence and produce a series of decisions a third-party judge or<br />

jury can make after carefully reviewing the evidence. It does not work well<br />

in domestic cases.<br />

First, when both parents do not have competent legal representation of<br />

their interests, it is almost impossible for a pro se litigant to match up well<br />

against a well-represented agency or other party. The setting for settling<br />

domestic disputes and creating the atmosphere for a stable two-household<br />

future for the parties and their children should not be a formal courtroom.<br />

Post-COVID, parents should meet in a room<br />

with comfortable chairs with a mediator,<br />

talking about each issue to see if a common<br />

ground exists for a solution, and work<br />

toward a document that is acceptable to<br />

both parents. The mediator must make sure<br />

that there is no arm-twisting or threats,<br />

veiled or otherwise, occurring. For issues<br />

still unresolved, a second mediation is scheduled. If after that mediation,<br />

there is no settlement on all remaining issues, the mediator will make a<br />

recommended finding for the parties to either accept or reject. If the finding<br />

is rejected, a court hearing can be scheduled. The court could hold a final<br />

pre-hearing meeting to discuss options and if there still is no settlement, a<br />

court hearing would be held.<br />

Whoever is writing the orders (attorney, judge, mediator, magistrate) needs<br />

to use a federally approved order that includes more alternative<br />

occurrences than are generally written in orders today to accommodate<br />

changes in family structure without a return to court. Laddering orders for<br />

each child’s emancipation, anticipating a switch in custody or a change in

geographic distance between households (beyond reasonable driving<br />

distance) could be addressed. Proofs of these changes may be filed with<br />

the court and the parties to trigger the changes.<br />

Modification of the support ordered amount may be based on alleged<br />

changes that alter the order<br />

by more than 10% and are<br />

contemplated to be<br />

continuous for one year or<br />

more, subject to rebuttal<br />

arguments by the other<br />

Parents (parties) should and would be in<br />

control of their own cases to a much<br />

greater degree than they are today.<br />

party. A mediator will settle the modification issue. Retroactive modification<br />

will be allowed back to the date of the triggering change or one year,<br />

whichever is shorter.<br />

The Restructuring of Roles Part<br />

Parents (parties) should and would be in control of their own cases to a<br />

much greater degree than they are today. The presumption is the parents<br />

are taking care of their issues, with basic remedies such as income<br />

withholding, tax offset, worker’s compensation, and unemployment benefit<br />

intercept automatically in place. If additional remedies are needed, the child<br />

support agency could assist, working with both parents on a payment plan.<br />

At the end of the year, if there is a balance owed, it is adjusted on the<br />

payor’s tax return based on a form sent to the payor in January.<br />

(Remember that child support assurance and guarantee may make<br />

collection efforts less of a timeliness issue.) Anytime there are disputes that<br />

the parents cannot resolve or if a parent is very hard to track down for<br />

compliance purposes, an elevated response by the agency could be put in<br />

place; however, contempts and criminal prosecutions will be reserved for<br />

only the rarest of egregious situations (e.g., well-off payor purposely hiding<br />

assets or a self-employed payor who dramatically overstates business<br />

deductions or takes small draw-downs).<br />

The federal OCSS and Title IV-G agencies would oversee paternity and<br />

order establishment documentation, using the national guideline, the<br />

national age of majority, and the federal support order and parenting plan<br />

template. All the mediation work would be handled locally. The final orders<br />

would be uploaded to the enhanced National Case Registry, and the

paternity orders and Acknowledgments of Paternity would be filed with<br />

state offices of vital records for birth certificate amendment.<br />

Enforcement would be mostly automated at the national level, replacing<br />

state-level automated enforcement activities. When additional enforcement<br />

efforts are needed, the local office may be asked to conduct local<br />

enforcement activities such as imposing real property liens, conducting a<br />

state financial institution match, file a few contempts, etc. Since many<br />

traditional child support state and local jobs would disappear, the federal<br />

government would hire many of the same workers for the expanded federal<br />

role, all working remotely. Both Title IV-D and IV-G local agencies would<br />

hire several thousand mediators, counselors, and employment specialists.<br />

The New Automation Part<br />

As the federal government develops a national child support system, the<br />

vestigial state systems would be replaced or modified by one model system<br />

adaptable to each state’s and tribe’s needs. The model’s licensing would<br />

be available to several vendors, but the common programming and<br />

platform would be the same.<br />

The federal case management system would expand to handle casework,<br />

with the capacity to handle all IV-D, non-IV-D, and IV-G cases. Needless to<br />

say all documents are imaged and universally available to those with<br />

security clearance to work cases. A federal customer service unit would<br />

respond to all texts, emails, calls, and hard mail as a first-tier response,<br />

sending requests for follow up to the appropriate worker at the federal,<br />

state, or local level.<br />

Interstate cases would be handled at the federal level, unless a local<br />

enforcement technique is needed or a modification request needs<br />

mediation. In the local enforcement case, a local child support attorney<br />

would be deputized by the U.S. Attorney’s office for that district for that<br />

case. UIFSA would be replaced by a revised and expanded Full Faith and<br />

Credit for Child Support Orders Act that<br />

provides federal nationwide jurisdiction<br />

for child support, with venue based on<br />

where the child resides (alternatively, the<br />

parties can agree to the venue in the<br />

state where the last order was issued).<br />

Ideally, child support venue will follow<br />

custody and visitation jurisdiction based

on where the child has resided for the past six months. Congress would<br />

have to make a finding that the in personam jurisdictional limitations of<br />

Kulko v Superior Court are removed to comport with international law and<br />

child custody jurisdiction based on federal plenary nationwide child support<br />

jurisdiction. This is currently the case in federal criminal nonsupport cases.<br />

Mobile applications for both parties would not only put a lot of case data<br />

and program information at the fingertips of the parties, it would allow the<br />

parties to start taking actions in a case, such as a modification. A Q and A<br />

approach like TurboTax would walk the party through the process. Through<br />

the power of videoconferencing a mediator may remotely serve parents in<br />

two different states.<br />

Conclusion<br />

Our collections foundation is too small for the new child support world. The<br />

new goals are:<br />

• Consistent, timely payments to families with a floor level of support;<br />

• more self-help customer service in which the parents are more in<br />

control of their cases;<br />

• a move away from court confrontation to mediation; providing<br />

remedies for all parenting time issues;<br />

• helping parents overcome barriers to parenting and paying support;<br />

and,<br />

• restructuring child support and invigorating the role of the federal<br />

government in establishment, enforcement, and modification of child<br />

support through national jurisdiction and federalized automated<br />

enforcement.<br />

As the 46-year old program refocuses on a broader base for assisting<br />

families, add your vision to what we can do to make the lives of the children<br />

living in two households as enriching as possible.<br />

_______________________________________<br />

Jeff Ball is the Project Manager/IV-D Administrator in Colorado for the El Paso and<br />

Teller County Child Support Services offices for YoungWilliams, PC. He has worked in<br />

the child support field for 28 years and has been an attorney for 34 years. Previously,<br />

Jeff was senior advisor to the OCSE Commissioner, OCSE Technical Assistance<br />

Branch Chief, and OCSE Welfare Reform Liaison. He was general counsel to the U.S.<br />

Commission on Interstate Child Support and helped write the report to Congress:<br />

Supporting Our Children: A Blueprint for Reform. He is a past president of ERICSA and<br />

the 2010 winner of its Felix Infausto Award.

NCSEA’s Emerging Issues and Leading<br />

Practices Sub-Group Continues DEI Work<br />

for the Child Support Community<br />

by Lara Fors, Public Knowledge<br />

The Emerging Issues and Leading Practices (EI & LP) subcommittee of the<br />

Policy and Government Relations Committee examines issues and<br />

practices that can have an impact on the child support program. EI &LP<br />

has a subgroup devoted to continuing the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion<br />

(DEI) work that began at the NCSEA Policy Forum. The EI & LP DEI subgroup<br />

members are Trish Skophammer, Phyllis Nance, Landis Rossi, Tish<br />

Keahna, Sean Gorman, and Lara Fors.<br />

Vision for DEI Work<br />

NCSEA believes in the importance<br />

of fostering diversity, equity, and<br />

inclusion in the child support<br />

program for staff and for participants<br />

of the program. NCSEA<br />

acknowledges systemic racism and<br />

discrimination exist. NCSEA will<br />

work through education and<br />

advocacy to raise awareness, eliminate biases, and reduce disparate<br />

outcomes in the child support program. We refer to this self-examination,<br />

and the changes we make as a result, as “doing DEI work.”<br />

The EI & LP DEI subgroup formed last year and spent some time thinking<br />

about the best way to approach the DEI topic in the child support program.<br />

We eagerly awaited the <strong>2021</strong> Policy Forum to hear the expert speakers<br />

and listen to the attendees’ reactions and feedback. In our subgroup<br />

meetings, we agreed to ground rules to be respectful, thoughtful, and<br />

gracious with ourselves and one another when we discussed racism and<br />

discrimination in our child support program and in our society. We noticed<br />

our own speech slowed as we became aware of our words and considered<br />

their origins of use. One member referred to the different “silos” of

government offices, and one of us<br />

pointed out that not everyone<br />

understands “silos” or how the word<br />

applies to that situation. 1 Even a<br />

regional or occupational (in this<br />

case, farming) reference can<br />

exclude others from understanding,<br />

which serves an as important<br />

reminder there are many ways we<br />

inadvertently exclude and there are also many ways we can proactively<br />

create more inclusivity.<br />

After the Policy Forum, the EI & LP DEI group met and reflected on<br />

comments during the Discussion Groups and in the conference feedback,<br />

which highlighted organizations would like to be doing DEI work, but were<br />

not sure where or how to start. The EI & LP DEI group believes NCSEA<br />

can be a resource for child support programs by developing a roadmap<br />

toolkit for child support leaders and their organizations. The roadmap toolkit<br />

will include an order of activities, resources, and offer a community of<br />

support.<br />

NCSEA Connects: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion<br />

We also discovered at Policy Forum that child support professionals<br />

appreciated the opportunity to talk about DEI issues and learned from<br />

sharing their questions and experiences. We think the best way to continue<br />

this self-examination is to energize and empower NCSEA’s existing group,<br />

NCSEA Connects: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion.<br />

This group is a clearinghouse for resources and highlights leading<br />

practices. NCSEA created this community to bring together child support<br />

professionals who are on the forefront of DEI education and reflection and<br />

create a place for sharing research and other information about DEI work.<br />

Currently 69 NCSEA members have joined this community. This is a great<br />

place to start with reviewing DEI research, materials, and leading practices<br />

to create the roadmap toolkit. We propose NCSEA assigns co-chairs to<br />

manage the clearinghouse, secure facilitators, and schedule regular<br />

discussion groups.<br />

1<br />

Merriam-Webster defines a silo as “a trench, pit, or especially a tall cylinder (as of wood or concrete)<br />

usually sealed to exclude air and used for making and storing silage.”

Next Steps<br />

The EI & LP DEI subgroup would like to start with empowering the NCSEA<br />

Connects: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion community. This will be a great<br />

place to begin creating the roadmap toolkit based on the experiences and<br />

resources of the members already sharing their DEI work in child support.<br />

The EI & LP DEI subgroup would like to expand our group to include others<br />

that are interested in creating this roadmap toolkit for child support<br />

programs. To create the best toolkit that includes the right questions and<br />

answers, we are looking for people who are either experienced with DEI<br />

work in their child support program or who are wanting the roadmap toolkit<br />

to start their own journey.<br />

Invitation for Volunteers<br />

If you are already a member of the NCSEA Connects: Diversity, Equity &<br />

Inclusion community and would like to help facilitate the community,<br />

contact Gillyn Croog. If you would like to join the EI & LP DEI subgroup<br />

and help create the roadmap toolkit, please contact Lara Fors at<br />

lfors@pubknow.com.<br />

_________________________________________<br />

Lara Fors joined the Center for the Support of Families in 2019, now known as Public<br />

Knowledge®, after serving for over 25 years in the IV-D program of Missouri. In<br />

Missouri, Lara served as the IV-D Director of the Family Support Division, the First<br />

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and Director of a multi-county prosecutors’ office in<br />

Springfield, and as Assistant Prosecutor in Kansas City. Lara currently serves on two<br />

NCSEA committees: Policy and Government Relations (PG&R) and is Co-Chair of the<br />

Emerging Issues and Leading Practices P&GR subcommittee. Lara is a past president<br />

of the Eastern Regional Interstate Child Support Association, ERICSA (2014), and of<br />

the Missouri child support professional association, MCSEA (2007).

Central Registries – Doing What We<br />

Expect Them To Do, Plus So Much More<br />

by Rob Velcoff, Intergovernmental Support Services<br />

Question – What is this a definition of: "A single unit or office within the<br />

State IV-D agency which receives, disseminates and has oversight<br />

responsibility for processing incoming interstate IV-D cases, including<br />

UIFSA petitions and requests for wage withholding in IV-D cases?"<br />

Answer:<br />

A: Central Authority<br />

B: Interstate Tribunal<br />

C: Central Registry<br />

D: What it will say on the author’s tombstone when the time comes.<br />

Assuming you read the title to this article, you know the correct answer is<br />

“C”. Even if you didn’t read the title, there’s a pretty good chance you would<br />

have gotten the correct answer based on your overall knowledge of the IV-<br />

D child support program, especially if you regularly work intergovernmental<br />

cases. After all, each state is federally mandated to operate a Central<br />

Registry. But do you really know everything that Central Registries do?<br />

As previously stated, Central Registries within state IV-D programs are a<br />

requirement in federal regulations: CFR §303.7(b) Provision of services in<br />

intergovernmental IV-D cases. (b) Central registry. (1) The State IV-D<br />

agency must establish a central registry responsible for receiving,<br />

transmitting, and responding to inquiries on all incoming intergovernmental<br />

IV-D cases.<br />

Okay, so what does this mean? Simply put, it means that all IV-D child<br />

support offices within the jurisdiction of the United States (50 states, 4<br />

territories, 60 tribal IV-D agencies) must send all new outgoing interstate<br />

cases to the Central Registry office in the state/territory where the<br />

respondent to an action resides. Hague, federal bilateral, and state-level<br />

agreement foreign countries should send their child support cases in this<br />

same manner. Note that this could mean a filing by either the custodial or

the noncustodial parent. So that’s a lot of incoming cases! In fact, prepandemic<br />

numbers from some of the larger states showed that Central<br />

Registries might receive in excess of 10,000 cases per year.<br />

Not only must the cases be reviewed for accuracy and completeness, they<br />

must be done so within a very limited timeframe, just 10 working days. Plus<br />

the review process is very detailed. CFR §303.7(b)(2)(i – iv). (2) Within 10<br />

working days of receipt of an intergovernmental IV-D case, the central<br />

registry must:<br />

(i) Ensure that the documentation submitted with the case has been<br />

reviewed to determine completeness;<br />

(ii) Forward the case for necessary action either to the central State<br />

Parent Locator Service for location services or to the appropriate agency<br />

for processing;<br />

(iii) Acknowledge receipt of the case and request any missing<br />

documentation; and<br />

(iv) Inform the initiating agency where the case was sent for action.<br />

The next task is somewhat gray. What happens if a case is incomplete,<br />

lacking the required UIFSA forms to complete a tribunal filing? The<br />

regulations state: §303.7(b)(3) If the documentation received with a case is<br />

incomplete and cannot be remedied by the central registry without the<br />

assistance of the initiating agency, the central registry must forward the<br />

case for any action that can be taken pending necessary action by the<br />

initiating agency.<br />

The gray area is what the Central Registry should do if there is no action<br />

that can be taken without the required documentation, which is generally<br />

the case. Although there is a difference of opinion here, and the actions<br />

vary from Central Registry to Central Registry, many such units hold onto<br />

these incomplete cases pending receipt of the required documents. After<br />

all, what is the logic behind sending a case into court for establishment of a<br />

child support order if the Uniform Support Petition or General Testimony is<br />

missing? How can a tribunal register a foreign order without a certified<br />

copy? Simply put, they can’t. So this author’s recommendation has always<br />

been for the Central Registry to hold onto such cases pending receipt of<br />

the required documents.<br />

Note the word “required” in the previous sentence. If the pending document<br />

is not a mandatory UIFSA form, or some other item required by state law<br />

(i.e., a certified copy of the order to be registered, as per UIFSA<br />

§602(a)(2)), then the case should not be held at the Central Registry. But if

there is literally no action that can be taken by the responding agency<br />

without certain information there is no logic to sending the case forward.<br />

Local county child support agencies have enough on their plates that they<br />

should not have to deal with cases where they are unable to take any<br />

follow-up actions. This is more the role of the Central Registry.<br />

Federal case closure criteria come into play here as well. Per CFR<br />

§303.11(b)(17) Case closure criteria, (17) The responding agency<br />

documents failure by the initiating agency to take an action that is essential<br />

for the next step in providing services. The timeframes are very exact and<br />

spelled out. Per §303.7(c)(6) Initiating State IV-D agency responsibilities. 6)<br />

Within 30 calendar days of receipt of the request for information, provide<br />

the responding agency with an updated intergovernmental form and any<br />

necessary additional documentation, or notify the responding agency when<br />

the information will be provided. This means that if the initiating jurisdiction<br />

does not forward the requested documents, the responding state’s Central<br />

Registry may begin the case closure process. §303.11(d)(2) In an<br />

intergovernmental case meeting the criteria for closure under paragraph<br />

(b)(17) of this section, the responding State must notify the initiating<br />

agency, in a record, 60 calendar days prior to closure of the case of the<br />

State's intent to close the case.<br />

What all of this amounts to is that the Central Registry may close its case if<br />

mandatory documentation is not received within appropriate timeframes<br />

following a request to the initiating jurisdiction, and this initial request must<br />

be made within 10 working days of receipt of a case. The general<br />

consensus is that, since there is no action that can be taken without the<br />

required forms, there is no logic for forwarding an incomplete case. Again,<br />

there is some debate about this, as there are some that interpret the<br />

regulations to say that all cases must be forwarded within 10 working days<br />

after receipt by the Central Registry regardless of whether the<br />

documentation is complete or not. This author maintains that on those<br />

cases where there is literally no action that can be taken without certain<br />

documentation, these cases should not be forwarded to a local county child<br />

support office where they would do nothing more than sit idly in a file<br />

cabinet while awaiting the follow-up mandatory paperwork.<br />

Still, since the required documents are received over 90% of the time on<br />

appropriate case referrals (see the statistics below), the overwhelming<br />

majority of cases that are reviewed by the Central Registry are either<br />

complete upon receipt, or are made complete due to follow-up<br />

communication with the initiating jurisdiction. Even incomplete returned

cases can be corrected and made complete, and then sent back to the<br />

appropriate Central Registry for eventual processing. Let’s look at some<br />

recent numbers which the New York Central Registry was kind enough to<br />

provide specifically for this article.<br />

Total Number of Cases<br />

Received<br />

2018 8,388<br />

2019 8,653<br />

2020 4,657<br />

(Note the huge drop in 2020 due to the pandemic!)<br />

Initial Cases Lacking Complete<br />

Documentation<br />

2018 1,271 (15.2%)<br />

2019 1,140 (13.2%)<br />

2020 492 (10.6%)<br />

(Note: In 2018 the Child Support Agency Confidential Information Form<br />

was still relatively new, and many local county child support agencies did<br />

not yet know that this form is required for all new outgoing interstate cases.<br />

Hence the larger percentage of initial incomplete cases.)<br />

Initial Cases Lacking Complete Documentation Over a 3 Year Period<br />

13%<br />

87%<br />

Cases Lacking Complete Documentation<br />

Cases Containing Complete Documentation

Incomplete Cases that Eventually Received the Missing<br />

Documentation<br />

2018 590 (46.4%)<br />

2019 642 (56.3%)<br />

2020 224 (45.5%)<br />

Final Disposition of Initially Incomplete Cases Over a 3<br />

Year Period<br />

49.8%<br />

50.2%<br />

Complete Documentation Eventually Received<br />

Complete Documentation Never Received<br />

Total Percentage by Case Disposition<br />

Case<br />

Case<br />

Completed Returned<br />

Case Inappropriate<br />

2018 7095 (84.6%) 681 (8.1%) 612 (7.3%)<br />

2019 7624 (88.1%) 498 (5.8%) 531 (6.1%)<br />

2020 4042 (86.8%) 268 (5.8%) 347 (7.5%)

Total Percentage by Case Disposition Over a 3 Year<br />

Period<br />

7% 7%<br />

86%<br />

Case Completed Case Returned Case Inappropriate<br />

Total Percentage by Case Disposition for<br />

Appropriate Cases Only<br />

Case Completed Case Returned<br />

2018 7095 (91.2%) 681 (8.8%)<br />

2019 7624 (93.9%) 498 (6.1%)<br />

2020 4042 (93.8%) 268 (6.2%)

Total Percentage by Case Disposition for<br />

Appropriate Cases Only Over a 3 Year Period<br />

7%<br />

93%<br />

Case Completed<br />

Case Returned<br />

* All statistics were provided by the New York Central Registry, New York<br />

State Division of Child Support Services, along with their permission to<br />

include same in this article.<br />

In and of itself, the processing of incoming intergovernmental cases would<br />

be a huge undertaking, but Central Registries are federally mandated to<br />

perform one additional task. §303.7(b)(4) The central registry must respond<br />

to inquiries from initiating agencies within 5 working days of receipt of the<br />

request for a case status review. You know all of those times when you are<br />

working an interstate case and you can’t seem to obtain any status<br />

information from the other state? Well, help is on the way! After performing<br />

due diligence in attempting to obtain case status information from the<br />

appropriate local county child support office, or possibly from a regional<br />

office, the next step would be to contact the Central Registry in the<br />

responding state for assistance. Contact information for all Central<br />

Registries can be found on the federal Office of Child Support<br />

Enforcement’s Intergovernmental Reference Guide, the IRG. Such contact<br />

can be made via e-mail, telephone, fax, or written letter (although why an<br />

agency would use the last two options is really bizarre – send an e-mail or<br />

call!). Central Registries are experts at tracking down the appropriate office

or caseworker within their own state and following up to make sure a<br />

response is sent. The Central Registries are perhaps the main tool for<br />

assistance whenever there is a breakdown in communications on an<br />

intergovernmental child support case.<br />

Need even more reasons to love those Central Registries? Well, there are<br />

a bunch of them. The author has only listed the federally mandated tasks<br />

that all Central Registries must perform. That being said, they pretty much<br />

all do many other things as well. Most of them assist their own in-state child<br />

support workers when dealing with an unresponsive agency in another<br />

jurisdiction. Many of them contain expert staff when dealing with<br />

complicated UIFSA issues. More conduct many other functions as well; just<br />

ask them and it’s a certainty they would be happy to list all the tasks they<br />

routinely take care of. And they really do try their very best to assist with<br />

any intergovernmental questions or issues you might have.<br />

So if you’re seeking the unsung heroes of the IV-D program nationwide,<br />

look no further than the state/territory Central Registry offices. And it<br />

wouldn’t hurt to add a ‘thank you’; they would certainly appreciate that!<br />

Rob Velcoff is an independent child support consultant with his own agency,<br />

Intergovernmental Support Services. Previously, he worked for the New York State<br />

Division of Child Support Services for over 30 years. He served as President of the<br />

Eastern Regional Interstate Child Support Association (ERICSA), and is a recipient of<br />

their Felix Infausto Award (President’s Award). Mr. Velcoff has presented at hundreds of<br />

workshops at more than 100 state, regional, federal, national, and even international<br />

child support conferences on a wide range of topics. An individual member of NCSEA,<br />

Mr. Velcoff received a BS in Criminal Justice from the State University College of New<br />

York at Brockport and an MA in Criminal Justice from the State University of New York<br />

at Albany.

Gender-Neutral Voluntary<br />

Establishments of Parentage: A<br />

Survey of the Early Adopters<br />

by David Love, Mississippi Project, Young Williams<br />

The Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage (VAP) 1 is a document that<br />

parents use to legally establish the parentage of a child without the need<br />

for a court order. Traditionally, heterosexual parents use this form to<br />

establish the paternity of a child born out of wedlock.<br />

With the advent of the United State Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell<br />

v. Hodges, 2 the law of the land guaranteed same-sex couples the legal<br />

right to marry; however, unmarried same-sex couples still face additional<br />

obstacles as most states’ VAPs still use the gender-specific “mother,”<br />

“father,” and “paternity” terminology.<br />

This practice is beginning to change. Eight states have adopted genderneutral<br />

VAPs. These forms contain language that removes any reference to<br />

the gender of the parent, thereby allowing same-sex couples to use the<br />

forms to establish parentage. Gender-neutral language is often used to<br />

establish the parentage of children born through assisted reproduction or<br />

surrogacy. In these situations, the use of a VAP eliminates the need to<br />

undertake a time-consuming and expensive co-parent adoption process to<br />

establish legal parentage.<br />

The Emerging Issues and Leading Practices Subcommittee of the NCSEA<br />

Policy and Government Relations Committee sent a survey to the eight<br />

state IV-D agencies, and seven provided responses. 3 The chart below<br />

shows the states that have adopted gender-neutral VAPs, the year of each<br />

state’s implementation, and whether the revisions were part of adopting the<br />

Uniform Parentage Act 2017 (UPA). The chart also includes links to state-<br />

1<br />

While these documents are not designated as VAPs in every state, this article uses the term to<br />

apply to all states’ acknowledgments of parentage forms.<br />

2<br />

576 U.S. 644 (2015).<br />

3<br />

Nevada did not participate in the srvey.

specific statutory provisions creating the gender-neutral VAP, and links to<br />

the VAP forms in English and Spanish.<br />

State<br />

Year<br />

Implemented<br />

Part of<br />

UPA 2017<br />

Adoption?<br />

California 2020 Yes 4<br />

Maryland 2019 No<br />

Statutory Citation<br />

CA Fam Code §§<br />

7570 -7581<br />

MD Code Family<br />

Law § 5–1028<br />

Link to<br />

VAP<br />

ENG<br />

SPA<br />

ENG<br />

SPA<br />

Massachusetts 2018 No None ENG<br />

Nevada 2017 NRS 126.053 ENG<br />

New York <strong>2021</strong> No PBH § 4135-B ENG<br />

Rhode Island <strong>2021</strong> Yes 5 R.I. Gen. Laws §<br />

15-8.1-301<br />

ENG<br />

Vermont 2018 Yes 6 15C V.S.A. § 301 ENG<br />

Washington 2019 No RCW 26.26A.205<br />

ENG<br />

SPA<br />

Differences between Gender-Neutral VAP and Traditional VAP<br />

The most notable characteristics shared by each of the forms are the<br />

replacement of the term “paternity” with “parentage” and the removal of<br />

mandatory references to the parents’ gender. This allows same-sex<br />

couples to be signatories.<br />

Five of the gender-neutral VAPs use terminology that distinguishes the<br />

birth parent. 7 The remaining three do not make such a distinction and<br />

instead simply use the term “parent.” Each of the surveyed states also<br />

chose to use a single form. The survey responses indicate this decision<br />

was driven by a desire for simplicity and the equal treatment of all parents. 8<br />

4<br />

California’s revision of the VAP was part of the adoption of the UPA 2017; however, there was not a full<br />

replace and repeal of the paternity statutes as some of the provisions in the UPA 2017 were already<br />

implemented.<br />

5<br />

Rhode Island adopted a combination of the UPA 2017 and the Vermont Parentage Act.<br />

6<br />

Vermont adopted a modified version of the UPA.<br />

7<br />

California, Maryland, New York, Vermont, and Washington require that one of the signatories be the<br />

birth parent.<br />

8<br />

Massachusetts’ initial gender-neutral VAP was one of two forms. The dual forms were necessary due to<br />

initial state system limitations. A single gender-neutral form was implemented in 2019.

Six of the VAPs do not contain language to identify gender of the non-birth<br />

parent. However, both California and New York require the “other parent” to<br />

indicate whether they are the biological father of the child. Both states<br />

indicated this question was included only for statistical purposes. 9<br />

Massachusetts’ VAP requires notarization, and two additional states<br />

require the use of a notary under certain circumstances; however, the<br />

remaining forms no longer contain language requiring notarization. 10 New<br />

York requires two witnesses who are not related to either parent, but the<br />

remaining states only require a single witness.<br />

Three states use a Denial of Parentage form. 11 These documents allow a<br />

presumed or biological parent to release any parental claim to the child. By<br />

completing the denial, the signatory is discharged of all parental rights and<br />

duties. However, the denials must be completed in conjunction with a<br />

properly executed VAP containing the signatures of two parents. The use<br />

of these forms allows these states greater flexibility in situations involving<br />

assisted reproduction and surrogacy.<br />

Processes and Stakeholders Involved in the Creation of Gender-<br />

Neutral VAPs<br />

All the surveyed states except Massachusetts 12 required legislative action<br />

to create a revised VAP. For California, Rhode Island, and Vermont, this<br />

was part of the adoption (in part or in whole) of the 2017 version of the<br />

UPA. In Maryland and New York, the legislative changes addressed the<br />

need for the legal establishment of parentage for those who use assisted<br />

reproduction technologies. In Washington, one goal of the legislation was<br />

to align Department of Health policies with those of the Department of<br />

Licensing. 13<br />

9<br />

California indicated it included the question for statistical reporting of the usage by same-sex couples,<br />

while New York indicated it included the question for the purposes of determining eligibility of the current<br />

federal Paternity Establishment Percentage (PEP) performance measure. Rhode Island indicated it also<br />

asks the gender of each parent for statistical purposes, but that designation is not reflected within the<br />

language of its VAP.<br />

10<br />

Maryland’s VAP requires notarization unless signed by a staff member of the hospital, IV-D office, or<br />

Health Department. California requires notarization if the VAP is signed outside of California or outside of<br />

a hospital, prenatal clinic, or authorized agency.<br />

11<br />

Vermont, Rhode Island, and Washington allow the use of denial forms.<br />

12<br />

The impetus to revise the existing VAP was the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in<br />

Partanen v. Gallagher, 59 N.E.3d 1133 (Mass. 2016).<br />

13<br />

The Washington Department of Licensing updated its polices to include gender-neutral licenses and<br />

state identification cards.

As is common with legislative change, revising the VAPs was not swiftly<br />

accomplished in all states. In Rhode Island, legislation had to be introduced<br />

three consecutive years before it passed. In Vermont, the first workgroup to<br />

study the issue was convened in 2014, and the necessary legislation was<br />

not passed until 2018. 14 Other states adopted the revisions more quickly. In<br />

Maryland, the legislation passed in the first year it was introduced.<br />

Massachusetts adopted the revisions within a year and a half after the<br />

state’s Supreme Judicial Court suggested that same sex couples could<br />

establish parentage by signing a VAP.<br />

To implement these revisions to the VAPs, each state’s IV-D agency<br />

consulted with a collection of governmental agencies. In every surveyed<br />

state, this manifested at a minimum as a partnership between the state’s<br />

IV-D agency and the Department of Health/Vital Records. 15 The states<br />

indicated there was extensive collaboration to ensure that both agencies<br />

would accept the revisions. Training was also an important part of this<br />

cooperation. Vermont worked closely with its Department of Health to<br />

develop training materials and brochures for the new forms, while New<br />

York developed, coordinated, and hosted trainings for hospital staff in<br />

conjunction with its Department of Health. Some states created a larger<br />

coalition which included the courts, the private bar, medical providers, other<br />

state agencies, advocacy groups, and legislators. 16<br />

Challenges in Creating a Gender-Neutral VAP<br />

Most surveyed states indicated that the major challenge to establishing a<br />

gender-neutral VAP was creating a single form for multiple factual<br />

situations that would address complex legal concepts while keeping the<br />

format concise, user-friendly, and easily understandable. To avoid gender<br />

identification complexities, California chose to ask whether a birth parent is<br />

married and whether the other parent is the only possible genetic parent.<br />

Vermont uses the terms “birth parent” and “parent,” but acknowledges this<br />

terminology may lead to confusion.<br />

14<br />

The 2014 workgroup’s recommendation was that a statutory change was necessary. In 2017, the state<br />

legislature commissioned a subsequent workgroup, that recommended the passage of the Vermont<br />

Parentage Act, a modified version of the UPA. The legislation was introduced and passed in 2018.<br />

15<br />

Rhode Island and Washington both listed these two entities as being the only agencies involved in the<br />

process.<br />

16<br />

California created a large-scale workgroup within the IV-D agency that consulted with its Department of<br />

Health, the courts and advocacy groups. Vermont’s legislative workgroup included representatives from<br />

the courts, the private bar, legislatures, medical providers, Family Services, and the IV-D agency. New<br />

York consulted with its Department of Health, the New York City Department of Health and Mental<br />

Hygiene, and its state IV-E agency.

States also focused on inclusive language, demonstrated with the form’s<br />

neutral terminology. 17 In addition to the form itself, states indicated that the<br />

language revisions often increased the length and complexity of the<br />

instructions.<br />

All the responding states answered that there have been no legal<br />

challenges to the validity or use of the gender-neutral VAP. 18<br />

Services Provided to Same-Sex Couples<br />

All surveyed states answered that they provide full parentage<br />

establishment services to same-sex couples. This includes filing parentage<br />

complaints when a VAP was not signed or cannot be signed. 19 All<br />

responding states indicated that, with an open IV-D case, they provide the<br />

same services for establishment and enforcement of support to same-sex<br />

couples as they do different-sex couples.<br />

Lessons Learned<br />

Based upon the survey results, implementation of gender-neutral VAPs has<br />

been quite successful. Most of the states would not make any adjustments<br />

to the current VAP process. Rhode Island and Washington commented<br />

that removing the notarized signature requirement is what they like best<br />

about their form.<br />

Several states have acknowledged that the current VAP forms and<br />

processes are not perfect. California indicated the instructions are too<br />

complicated and would ideally prefer to reduce the complexity of the<br />

process, while acknowledging that is likely not possible without the use of<br />

multiple forms. Vermont echoed that assessment and expressed concern<br />

about how the overall complexity of the process places a large burden<br />

upon the signatories; however, Vermont concluded that additional revisions<br />

to the VAP would not lessen that burden. Vermont also noted that its<br />

requirement that signatories initial multiple statements creates a higher<br />

likelihood that the form will not be correctly completed. Rhode Island would<br />

17<br />

California uses the term “person who gave birth” rather than the UPA term “woman who gave birth” and<br />

allows parents to identify as male, female, or nonbinary. New York noted difficulty in translating the form<br />

as the Spanish word for “parent” is not gender neutral.<br />

18<br />

Washington commented that there were objecting organizations and individuals while Senate Bill 6037<br />

was moving through the legislature, but once the law was passed, there have been no challenges.<br />

19<br />

Massachusetts specifically indicated it would assist same-sex couples who file an application with the<br />

establishment of parentage through judicial action. Vermont noted that, while its VAP can be used only by<br />

same-sex couples who are married or by a party to assisted reproductive technologies or a gestational<br />

carrier agreement, it would pursue other judicial avenues for the establishment of parentage in other<br />


have redesigned the form so that the Notice of Rights and Responsibilities<br />

is on the back of the VAP.<br />

Number of Gender-Neutral VAPs Used for Same-Sex Couples<br />

There is little data on the usage of VAPs by same-sex couples. This is due<br />

to the relatively recent implementation in most states coupled with the<br />

forms’ design, which often solicits no information regarding the gender of<br />

the signatories. Two states have provided data: in California from January<br />

2020 through March <strong>2021</strong>, over 1,000 same-sex VAPs were executed, and<br />

in Massachusetts since 2018, 67 same-sex couples completed a VAP. 20<br />

Next Steps<br />

NCSEA will post the survey questions and responses for members to view<br />

on the Emerging Issues and Leading Practices page of the NCSEA<br />

website. The resources linked to this article are offered to any state or<br />

territory considering the implementation of a gender-neutral VAP. The<br />

experiences of the surveyed states indicate revisions to existing VAPs are<br />

not easily accomplished. According to these states, the VAP changes will<br />

require legislative and/or judicial action but do not necessarily require<br />

adoption of UPA 2017. Additionally, IV-D agencies need to build a coalition<br />

of support including multiple governmental agencies, stakeholders, and<br />

advocacy groups to create a document that properly addresses the needs<br />

of all seeking to establish parentage.<br />

_________________________________________<br />

David Love recently joined YoungWilliams as the Assistant Legal Director for the<br />

Mississippi Project after working as an attorney for the Mississippi Department of<br />

Human Services for more than two decades. Before retiring from MDHS, David served<br />

as a Deputy Director. In that role, he led the policy and systems support liaison teams.<br />

David earned his juris doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1996<br />

and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Mississippi State in 1993.<br />

20<br />

California and Massachusetts statistics were provided May 5, <strong>2021</strong>, and March 19, <strong>2021</strong>, respectively.

Motivational Interviewing Introduction<br />

by Stacey Riley, Senior Child Support Specialist, Michigan<br />

Office of Child Support<br />

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a meaningful, collaborative conversation<br />

that allows staff to engage customers on a deeper level and strengthen<br />

individuals’ motivation to change. MI is an empathetic and practical<br />

approach to reduce customer ambivalence, placing responsibility on<br />

customers by giving them ownership of their actions and success.<br />

More than two years ago, the Michigan Office of Child Support (OCS), a<br />

bureau of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services<br />

(MDHHS), began researching the strengths and benefits of MI, and<br />

exploring how it could improve customer cooperation with the child support<br />

program to ensure assistance benefits remain open at the appropriate<br />

level. With the use of MI, OCS had high hopes of reducing the number of<br />

cases in noncooperation, while treating all customers fairly to achieve a<br />

common goal.<br />

OCS created and successfully launched a pilot group in September 2019.<br />

This small group of child support specialists logged hundreds of cases and<br />

used MI methods when calling these customers. Of the cases that began in<br />

noncooperation, 80% returned to cooperative status by the end of the call.<br />

Specialists reported they felt less stress on 97% of the MI calls. Due to the<br />

COVID-19 pandemic, the rollout of MI was delayed, but OCS is happy to<br />

announce that, as of the end of May <strong>2021</strong>, more than 100 staff have been<br />

trained on MI.<br />

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at MDHHS<br />

While researching and learning more about MI, it became apparent that<br />

there was a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) component to this

approach. The child support program is comprised of people of all races,<br />

sexual orientations, socio-economic statuses, religions, and so on. MDHHS<br />

continuously seeks methods to improve the lives of Michigan families by<br />

finding ways to reduce and prevent risks, promote equity, foster healthy<br />

habits, and transform the health and human services system (MDHHS,<br />

2019). To achieve this, the department needs to ensure its employees<br />

understand the power of health and social inequities, are aware of the<br />

communities at greater risk for experiencing inequities, and work together<br />

to create effective strategies for promoting equity (MDHHS, 2019).<br />

In 2018, MDHHS proposed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan<br />

(MDHHS, 2018) with the following mission statement:<br />

To promote and foster a culture that values diversity, equity,<br />

and inclusion throughout the Michigan Department of Health<br />

and Human Services and the diverse communities we serve in<br />

order to achieve our highest potential. (MDHHS, 2018, p. 1)<br />

The plan’s vision statement asserts:<br />

Diversity, as reflected in our leadership and throughout our<br />

workforce, offers a valuable range of experiences and<br />

perspectives. Our diverse workforce will be an essential asset<br />

for developing and providing health and human services that<br />

are culturally proficient to address existing and emerging health<br />

and social issues. (MDHHS, 2018, p. 1)<br />

MDHHS created a proposal to exemplify the values of diversity,<br />

equity, and inclusion (DEI) while aligning with MDHHS’s strategic<br />

priority. The department felt this step was “necessary to improve<br />

outcomes for employees, communities, stakeholders, and customers<br />

by addressing inequities at a systemic level” (MDHHS, 2018, p. 3). In<br />

addition to the internal improvements DEI would create for MDHHS,<br />

the department anticipated that DEI would also improve relationships<br />

between employees and the people they serve. In 2019, MDHHS<br />

implemented its Mandatory Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training<br />

Policy (APB 2019-037) to reduce inequalities and improve the lives of<br />

Michigan’s citizens (MDHHS, 2019).<br />

Achieving DEI through MI<br />

There is a legacy of inequity in the world, and state government has not<br />

escaped this problem. Fighting against these injustices can seem<br />

overwhelming. It takes more than individual action to enact change.

Motivational interviewing will help ensure OCS customers are viewed as<br />

unique individuals and treated fairly and equally, regardless of their<br />

differences, by creating more consistent interviewing processes and<br />

allowing customers to direct their own outcomes. Allowing customers to<br />

lead conversations through the use of MI will limit implicit bias. Often called<br />

unconscious bias, implicit biases are thoughts, attitudes, and stereotypes<br />

that manifest as a result of one’s environment, culture, and even the media,<br />

without the individual realizing the biases are occurring (Ruhl, 2020). These<br />

biases are typically related to race, gender, and sexuality, although there<br />

are additional categories (Ruhl, 2020). Implicit bias differs from the more<br />

familiar explicit bias, which presents as conscious acknowledgment and<br />

expression of discrimination and unfair treatment of others (Maxfield,<br />

Thorpe, Koontz, & Grimm, <strong>2021</strong>). While both implicit and explicit biases can<br />

change the way an individual shapes his or her decisions, explicit bias<br />

involves more malice because the individual is aware of his or her<br />

discriminatory behavior and yet continues to act accordingly (Daumeyer,<br />

Onyeador, Brown, & Richeson, 2019).<br />

Implicit bias causes discrimination even when the individual is unaware it is<br />

happening. Implicit bias may pollute decision-making and cause impulsive<br />

negative reactions, which are often undetectable because they are<br />

unconscious and difficult to measure (Mitchell, 2018). Implicit bias can be<br />

powerful enough to influence the decisions a child support specialist makes<br />

(Mitchell, 2018) for a customer. This is why it is best to remove decisionmaking<br />

responsibility from the specialist and place it back onto the<br />

customer, using MI methods. Implicit bias can elicit a visceral reaction and<br />

can be harmful; however, it can be managed through self-awareness<br />

(Maxfield, Thorpe, Koontz, & Grimm, <strong>2021</strong>). Studies show that, where<br />

implicit bias is present, accountability decreases because of the<br />

unconscious nature of the bias and unintentional discrimination (Daumeyer<br />

et al., 2019). Trainings and policies addressing implicit bias and the<br />

consequences of discrimination are beneficial in the reduction of implicit<br />

bias over time (Daumeyer et al., 2019).<br />

The goal of MI is to support the customer’s freedom of choice, while<br />

keeping the child support specialist’s personal feelings and experiences out<br />

of the conversation. One of the four key elements in the spirit of MI is<br />

evocation. Evocation involves eliciting the customer’s ideas and solutions,<br />

which is advantageous to the outcome because the customer knows best<br />

his or her own motivation for, and obstacles hindering, change. MI helps<br />

staff avoid communication traps such as taking sides, labeling, blaming,<br />

interrogating, giving unsolicited advice, or setting goals the customer is

unable to achieve. These communication traps can also lead to or be<br />

caused by implicit bias or discrimination.<br />

Conclusion<br />

Many child support customers are socially and economically<br />

disadvantaged. Cooperation with the child support program is critical to<br />

these families’ financial survival. Introducing motivational interviewing skills<br />

into the child support program helps families lead their own changes and<br />

reduces implicit bias, discrimination, and otherwise unfair and unequal<br />

treatment. Moving responsibility for the outcome of child support cases<br />

from staff to customers and allowing customers to lead the conversations<br />

removes unintended discrimination and behaviors. It is important to<br />

remember that, while the specialist brings child support expertise to the<br />

conversation, the customer is the expert on what is best for himself or<br />

herself. Only the customer knows the history and circumstances that<br />

brought him or her to this moment.<br />

The use of motivational interviewing, in combination with existing<br />

MDHHS policy and mandatory training, will help enact change and combat<br />

racism and other disparities throughout the department. Understanding<br />

implicit bias and training staff to recognize it will reduce unintentional<br />

discrimination that can occur as a result of these unconscious thoughts and<br />

attitudes.<br />

References<br />

Daumeyer, N. M., Onyeador, I. N., Brown, X., & Richeson, J. A. (2019).<br />

Consequences of attributing discrimination to implicit vs. explicit<br />

bias. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 84, 103812.<br />

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2019.04.010<br />

Maxfield, C., Thorpe, M., Koontz, N., & Grimm, L. (<strong>2021</strong>). You’re Biased!<br />

Deal With It. Journal of the American College of Radiology, 18(1), 161–165.<br />

https://www.jacr.org/article/S1546-1440(20)30680-3/fulltext<br />

MDHHS. (2018). Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan.<br />

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdhhs/MDHHS_Diversity_Equity_an<br />

d_Inclusion_Plan_649033_7.pdf MDHHS. (2019).<br />

https://dhhs.michigan.gov/OLMWEB/EX/AP/Public/APR/500.pdf<br />

Mitchell, G. (2018). An implicit bias primer. Virginia Journal of Social Policy<br />

& the Law, 25, 27–59. http://vjspl.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Mitchell-<br />

25.1-formatted-KMM-updated.pdf<br />

Ruhl, C. (2020). Implicit or unconscious bias. Simply Psychology.<br />


Stacey Riley is a Senior Child Support Specialist for the Michigan Office of Child<br />

Support (OCS), where she has served for the last 7 years. She was previously an<br />

Eligibility Specialist for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Stacey<br />

began researching Motivational Interviewing (MI) 2.5 years ago for OCS, and it carried<br />

over into her master’s degree journey at Central Michigan University, providing her with<br />

the opportunity to expand on ideas and knowledge to bring back to OCS. Stacey, joined<br />

by co-lead, Lawrence White, pioneered MI within the OCS along with a small group of<br />

Support Specialists (Kristin Bejarano, Mary Duddles-Smith, LaTresa Eason-Worthy,<br />

Mary Jo Neirink, and Antoinette Wilder), all of whom she would like to thank for their<br />

contributions to the effort. Stacey looks forward to seeing MI expand and grow across<br />

the entire Michigan Child Support Program. Stacey holds a Bachelor of Science in<br />

Psychology and a Master of Science in Administration with a concentration in Project<br />


NCSEA Needs Your Input for the<br />

NCSEA Research Website<br />

by Austin Holik, Terri Jones, Ryann Levering-White<br />

and Jane Venohr<br />

The NCSEA Research Subcommittee is reviewing research relevant to the<br />

child support program and working to make this information easily<br />

accessible. The Research Topics section of the NCSEA website houses a<br />

significant amount of valuable research, but we need your input to make it<br />

better. To keep the website viable and relevant, we ask the child support<br />

community to complete this brief survey as soon as you can. The survey<br />

will close on <strong>August</strong> 15 th .<br />

Our goal is to provide a one-stop place for NCSEA members and those<br />

exploring the NCSEA website to find recent studies, basic child support<br />

statistics, and research informing child support policy and operations. If you<br />

are not a regular user of the website, we encourage you to check it out and<br />

provide your feedback. Keep reading to learn more about what the website<br />

currently has to offer.<br />

The NCSEA Research Corner contains publications organized into seven<br />

broad categories. Click https://www.ncsea.org/resources-info/research/<br />

and save the link in your favorites for quick access.<br />

1<br />

Child Support Caseloads<br />

and Demographics<br />

Publications include summaries of caseload and<br />

demographics from U.S. Census data, federal Office of<br />

Child Support Enforcement data, and other large databases.<br />

2<br />

Financial Support and<br />

Ability to Pay<br />

Publications on parents’ ability to contribute financially to<br />

their children’s well-being, materials regarding earnings,<br />

factors associated with support payment or nonpayment,<br />

parent work programs, impacts of large arrearages, and<br />

other related topics.<br />

3<br />

Parental Engagement and<br />

Emotional Support<br />

4<br />

Intersection of Child Support<br />

with Other Family-Focused<br />

Programs<br />

Publications on parents’ ability to contribute to their children’s<br />

emotional and psychological well-being. This includes<br />

materials regarding custody, parenting time, healthy parenting,<br />

benefits of fatherhood, two-parent cooperation, and other<br />

related topics.<br />

Publications that provide insight into how local, state,<br />

and/or federal programs impact family well-being and<br />


5<br />

Child Support Operations<br />

and Program<br />

Administration<br />

Publications that pertain to child support operations and<br />

the administration of the child support program. This<br />

includes publications on performance and program<br />

outcome measures.<br />

6<br />

Child Child Support Guidelines<br />

Reports from state child support guidelines<br />

reviews.<br />

7<br />

Other Websites with<br />

Additional and Related<br />

Research<br />

Links to websites with research relevant to<br />

child support.<br />

The Research Corner was produced through the collaborative efforts of<br />

NCSEA’s all-volunteer Research Subcommittee and NCSEA leadership<br />

and staff. Other current activities include drafting a research brief on<br />

modifications, identifying administrative data fields that could be pooled<br />

across states and tribunals for the purpose of researching child support<br />

issues, and developing strategies to encourage research organizations to<br />

produce research and surveys informing child support policies and<br />

practices. We welcome your input on any of these activities. Please provide<br />

your suggestions by answering the last question of the survey.<br />

_________________________________________<br />

Austin, Terri, Ryann, and Jane are part of a workgroup within the NCSEA Research<br />

Subcommittee dedicated to improving the research links for the NCSEA community.<br />

Austin Holik is a Human Services Program Specialist with the Minnesota Child Support<br />

Division in Saint Paul.<br />

Terri Jones is the Central Registry Manager for the Division of Child Support Services of<br />

the Georgia Department of Human Services.<br />

Ryann Levering-White is the Senior Policy Analyst with the Ohio CSEA Directors’<br />

Association (OCDA) in Columbus, Ohio.<br />

Jane Venohr is a research associate/economist with the Center for Policy Research in<br />

Denver, Colorado.

NCSEA <strong>2021</strong> Leadership Symposium:<br />

A Preview<br />

by Ashley Dexter & Charles Smith<br />

Co-chairs, Leadership Symposium<br />

NCSEA’s <strong>2021</strong> Leadership Symposium will be held IN PERSON <strong>August</strong> 1<br />

– 4 at the Austin Marriott Downtown in Austin, TX. The venue is centrally<br />

located to many of downtown Austin’s sights, restaurants, and nightlife.<br />

Austin is a vibrant top-tier city, with a charm uniquely its own. In Austin, you<br />

can hike or bike around Lady Bird Lake, rent a canoe, or fish from the<br />

shore. Whether you are a shopper, foodie, or enjoy the nightlife, Austin<br />

yields an abundance of shops, restaurants, and musical venues to satisfy<br />

every craving, all within downtown walking distance.<br />

The theme for this year’s symposium is Think Forward. The past 15 months<br />

brought uncharted territory for everyone in the program, and things<br />

continue to evolve daily. As leaders, we need to lead ourselves, our teams,<br />

and the child support community forward. The planning committee<br />

reviewed all your wonderful proposal submissions and put together<br />

innovative workshops aimed at helping all of us “think forward” by<br />

continuing to grow in the child support program through vision and a<br />

service-minded focus.<br />

This year’s symposium continues with the focus on leadership in the child<br />

support community. Attendees will find a variety of plenaries, workshops,<br />

and hands-on learning labs that will address leadership, child support<br />

program improvements and innovations, technology, and diversity, equity,<br />

and inclusion. Be on the lookout for surveys prior to the conference that will<br />

be used in conjunction with a couple of the workshops or learning labs. The<br />

information you supply upfront will further enhance the robust, interactive<br />

conversations that we look forward to having with you at the Leadership<br />


The symposium kicks off Sunday evening with the Welcome Reception at<br />

5:30 p.m. CST and continues Monday morning with breakfast and Plenary<br />

I: Leading with the Heart. You will not want to miss this! Monday afternoon,<br />

we continue exploring the human side of our work, how it impacts our<br />

personal lives, and the mental health and emotional vulnerabilities exposed<br />

during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also offer three opportunities to<br />

participate in learning labs, as well as other great breakout workshops<br />

during the morning and afternoon.<br />

Tuesday kicks off with another must-see plenary, where we will hear from<br />

fathers about their experiences with the child support program. These<br />

fathers’ perspectives can help lead us forward to better collaborate and<br />

engage fathers in our daily work. In the afternoon, several IV-D directors<br />

from around the country will share their thoughts and recommendations on<br />

what may become the “new normal” in the child support program. Tuesday<br />

includes three more learning lab opportunities and several breakout<br />

workshops with varying focuses.<br />

Wednesday includes two morning plenaries that will dive deeper into<br />

conversations about the future of the child support program based on<br />

current legislation, global trends, and the human side of change that we<br />

need to consider as we chart the future.<br />

Lastly, we are excited to discuss the networking opportunities at this<br />

symposium. Ninety-eight percent of past attendees said networking was<br />

their primary reason for attending. From the moment the reception begins<br />

on Sunday, we have incorporated opportunities for you to network with your<br />

peers, colleagues, and the vendors sponsoring our symposium. There will<br />

be a Welcome Reception Sunday, a President’s Reception Monday, and<br />

opportunities for vendor showcases built into the schedule.<br />

We are excited that the symposium creates the opportunity to come<br />

together, learn, establish new connections, and renew old friendships. As<br />

Austin is a city on the move, we cannot think of a better place to support<br />

this year’s focus of “Think Forward.” We look forward to seeing y‘all in<br />


Ashley Dexter is a Specialist Senior with Deloitte Consulting LLC. She has served on<br />

the NCSEA Board of Directors and as the Leadership Symposium Planning Committee<br />

Co-Chair for the past 3 years.<br />

Charles Smith is the President/CEO for Charles R. Smith Consulting, a company he<br />

created in June 2018 after retiring from Texas state government in May 2018 with more<br />

than thirty years of credited service. He serves on the NCSEA Board of Directors and<br />

co-chairs the <strong>2021</strong> Leadership Symposium.

Is NCSEA U For You?<br />

NCSEA U was chartered in 2013 and currently has<br />

more than 135 alumni. NCSEA U provides a unique<br />

premier educational and professional development<br />

opportunity. It is structured for learning leaders in the<br />

child support community and it complements NCSEA’s<br />

other educational initiatives and strategies. The<br />

program is taught by nationally recognized child<br />

support leaders, offering a variety of informative and<br />

strategic topics. Classes are structured with an<br />

emphasis on group discussions that include work/life balance and best practice initiatives<br />

with real time work environment scenarios.<br />

Whether for yourself or your staff, NCSEA U offers a transformative learning experience<br />

and is a catalyst for networking opportunities. NCSEA U alumni would love for you to<br />

become a part of this unique group. Because we are proud of NCSEA U, we will be<br />

featuring Alumni in upcoming <strong>CSQ</strong> articles. Their stories will highlight why NCSEA U is for<br />

you.<br />

Meet Our NCSEA U Alumni<br />

Laura Van Buskirk- Class 2016<br />

Placer County Department of Child Support Services<br />

Director<br />

Since attending NCSEA U, what opportunities (personal and professional) have you experienced?<br />

Since attending NCSEA U, I now co-chair an NCSEA subcommittee, co-facilitate an NCSEA affinity group,<br />

and am honored to serve on several NCSEA committees. Through NCSEA U and the opportunities that<br />

bring NCSEA U alumni together, I have forged lifelong friendships and important professional alliances. A<br />

year ago, I achieved a lifelong dream to move to California, where I have the distinct privilege of serving as<br />

director of one of the state's 47 regional and county child support agencies. I truly believe realizing this<br />

dream would not have happened without the "NCSEA U boost." Attending NCSEA U helped me form closeknit<br />

relationships with other leaders, which boosted my confidence, enlarged my vision, and emboldened<br />

me to go after my dreams.<br />

Why would you recommend NCSEA U to others? If you want to move into a position of leadership or<br />

dramatically enhance your leadership abilities, attending NCSEA U is the single most important step you<br />

can take.<br />

What is a key leadership attribute that you appreciate in others? Why? Humility - because all the other<br />

virtues of leadership stem from it. Leadership is not about the leader. It's about the team whom the leader<br />

serves. Truly inspirational leaders are not in it for themselves. They understand that this position of<br />

leadership is a tremendous responsibility - an obligation to help their team be the best every day.

Jonell Sullivan-Class 2019<br />

Arizona Department of Economic Security<br />

Organizational Enhancement Manager<br />

Most valuable aspect of the NCSEA U experience? Hearing the instructors explain the topics through<br />

their life experiences. Interacting with peers from all across the United States.<br />

NCSEA U @ Leadership Symposium focuses on the emerging and learning leader. How do you<br />

define leadership? Leadership to me is helping grow and inspire people who are within my circle to be the<br />

very best they can be. A leader wants to motivate, inspire and promote energy to their team. Leadership<br />

needs to have a bit of humor and we should not take ourselves too serious.<br />

Do you believe that attending NCSEA U helped shaped this definition? How or how not?<br />

NCSEA U absolutely helped me grow as a leader. Hearing lecture and then doing practical examples really<br />

provided some additional tools to develop leaders. Being able to hear other opinions expanded my<br />

knowledge and provided different options.<br />

Leon Fernando – Class of 2016<br />

Alameda County Child Support Services<br />

Community Relations Manager<br />

What was your course curriculum/theme? Great Ideas - From Concept to Completion. The curriculum<br />

focused on the leader's role in supporting innovation and creativity, developing and getting buy-in for great<br />

ideas, and putting them into action. We looked at everything from decision-making models and project<br />

planning, to considerations for networking and successfully advocating for support from key stakeholders,<br />

and how to deal with obstacles and setbacks successfully.<br />

Since attending NCSEA U, what opportunities (personal and professional) have you experienced?<br />

NCSEA U opened up my perspective on the child support program. I was able to take that new perspective<br />

with me into my work in engaging the public, other child support organizations, and other service agencies. I<br />

learned to see the program from the outside to understand what our participants and key stakeholders<br />

need, and this in turn has led to the development of better service delivery, more productive community<br />

partnerships, and better outcomes for the families we serve.<br />

Do you believe that attending NCSEA U helped shaped this definition? This one is from Abraham<br />

Lincoln “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” It's a reminder to me<br />

that my position doesn't make me a leader; its what I say and the actions that I take that cause other people<br />

to follow my lead. Leading an organization means advancing its aims, and also supporting the people who<br />

do the work of the organization.

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