CSQ July 2022
You also want an ePaper? Increase the reach of your titles
YUMPU automatically turns print PDFs into web optimized ePapers that Google loves.
Table of Contents
President’s Message…………………………………………………..… 3
Community Corner: Delaware is Changing With the Times….............5
Protecting Fragile Families: New Guidance to Improve Foster Care
Referral Policies and Practices…………………………………….....…..8
Introducing New IV-D Directors…………………………………………..14
Procedural Justice in the Child Support Process……………………….20
Electronic Document Exchange…………………………………………..27
Preparation,Connection,and Competency in Hiring…..........................33
Leadership Symposium Preview………………………………………….40
I hope you are all enjoying the summer months and finding time to do the
things you love. As I write this message, I am thinking back to last year
when I was about to become the president of NCSEA, feeling a little
anxious and excited all at the same time. I was contemplating my theme for
the year, forming committees, and preparing for the passing of the gavel,
and now, more than ever, the phrase “time flies” takes on a whole new
Some of you may remember last year at the Leadership Symposium I was
celebrating the birth of my five-day old grandson and becoming a first-time
grandma! The phrase “time flies” fits that situation too, as he will celebrate
his first birthday in a little over a month. Similar to my term as NCSEA
president, I look back over the past year of my grandson’s life and am in
awe of how much change and growth can happen in one short year. So
many stages, accomplishments, and bright spots to reflect upon from the
past, and such a bright future ahead. Time stops for no one, and that’s
As president and leader of the association, I often felt time was going too
fast and there was still so much to do before the end of my term. Then I
reminded myself that the privilege of being NCSEA president is just one
short year, but the work continues, rather seamlessly, to the next president.
The work toward our mission to promote and influence child support
policies and services, and to educate, connect, and inspire those who work
in child support never ends. While we have had some great
accomplishments this year, many initiatives will carry over as we strive to
do what’s best for the families we serve.
The role of NCSEA president has been the highlight of my 20+ years in the
child support program. I would like to thank the Board of Directors and the
Executive Committee for always supporting me and sharing their wisdom,
experience, and passion for the program. Your support was invaluable to
me. To the committee chairs and members, you are the heart and soul of
this association. The work you do on a volunteer basis is second to none. I
can’t thank you enough for all the times you said “yes” and the tireless
hours you worked toward our mission. To the vendor community and all
who pay to attend our events, there would be no NCSEA without your
support. Ann Marie, Katie, Latrese, and our MCI partners, you are the glue
that holds us all together. Last but not least, to my YoungWilliams family
and my family at home, thank you for your support this past year and
It has been an honor and a blessing to serve as your president, and I will
forever be grateful for the opportunity. I will never forget the confidence you
placed in me to serve this outstanding community of child support
professionals. Soon I will place the gavel in the very capable hands of
President-elect Jim Fleming, and I will look forward to continuing my
service to NCSEA and supporting Jim wherever needed. I hope to see
many of you at the Leadership Symposium in Charlotte, North Carolina,
and I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!
All my best,
In addition to serving as NCSEA President, Lori Bengston is a Project Manager for
Young Williams and has been active in the child support enforcement program for over
16 years. She has direct supervision of the Nebraska Child Support Call Center,
including the Early Intervention Project. Lori has been a speaker at many child support
conferences on the topics of customer service, call centers, and early intervention. Lori
has been active in NCSEA for many years, previously serving on the Board from 2007-
2013. She is a Past President of the Western Intergovernmental Child Support
Engagement Council (WICSEC) and the Nebraska Child Support Enforcement
Association Board of Directors.
Delaware is Changing With the Times
by Theodore G. Mermigos, Jr.
Delaware Division of Child Support
I consider myself a late bloomer in the realm of social media. It became
apparent to me that I needed to catch up quickly if I was going to use social
media to promote what we were doing at the Division of Child Support
Services (DCSS) in Delaware. So this point doesn’t get missed, I am
saying it in the first paragraph rather than in a later one: sometimes you
must stretch beyond your comfort zone and do things that are a little
uncomfortable to meet new successes. If you are not using social media to
promote child support programs, offer help to child support participants, or
share important information to the community at large, you are missing a
huge opportunity. Every office has a social media savvy person that can
help, or in some cases, take the lead on promoting your program on social
During my 26 years as a State of Delaware employee, I have always
considered myself an ambassador of the services my department and
division provide to the public. Quality customer
service always starts with communicating
effectively with the public about what services are
available, and where to begin to maneuver through
the red tape and bureaucracy.
One of the pledges we made in 2015 when we
changed our state IV-D agency’s name by
replacing the word “Enforcement” with the word “Services,” was to find
better ways to connect with all of our customers. The old ways of
communicating just weren’t cutting it anymore. Don’t get me wrong, we still
honor traditional ways of communicating such as attending community
events, signage, literature, and the occasional press release or radio
commercial. However, we made the conscious decision to enter the world
of social media. After all, you must meet the people where they are, and my
friends, that is on social media.
DCSS started with creating a Division of Child Support Services Facebook
page in January 2014. In the beginning, we used the site to post job
openings and fairs, accept and respond to personal messages from our
customers, send holiday and seasonal wishes, and share office closings
and general information. We hovered around a couple hundred followers
for a couple years, ignorant to Facebook’s full capacity to help us reach a
public desperate for information—especially the last two years during the
pandemic when customers were not able to freely visit local child support
In 2021, DCSS opened up a whole new world when we launched our first
Facebook Live event. For those who don’t know, Facebook Live provides
an opportunity to do live videos that
can then be saved to the videos
section of the Facebook page for
future viewing. I can remember as if
this were yesterday: minutes leading
up to this first Facebook Live event,
my employees in the office of the
Director were anxious. They were
worried no one would tune in, or if the public did tune in, what they would
say. Would they be confrontational? Would they reveal too much personal
information? And most worrisome to my employees, what would I say and
how would I do answering questions on the spot?
Forty members of the public tuned in to that first Facebook Live event. We
knew after the first event that this was something we needed to continue.
We established a specific day of the month (the first Monday), hour of the
day (11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time), and came up with the name
The Child Support Connection. The idea behind the time selection was that
it occurs around lunch time and could accommodate parents in the
workforce. DCSS employees from across the state submitted suggestions
for the name of our new endeavor. We received approximately 65
submissions, which my leadership team and I reviewed and voted on. That
is when our Facebook Live became known as The Child Support
The greatest advantage of The Child Support Connection is that we are
communicating with the public in real time and giving the public an
opportunity to ask questions, raise child support case concerns, and even
express an opinion about us as an agency. Questions from the public come
in via the comments—they write their specific question and for the most
part, they keep their case specific questions free of identifiable information.
I read their questions out loud on the live event and provide answers or
The viewership is not always extremely high, but this gives me the
opportunity to talk about DCSS enforcement tools,
changes we are making, programs we are offering,
upcoming events, how we handle intergovernmental
cases, and general child support information.
The DCSS Facebook page now has 5,202 followers
and reaches families in nine other countries. There
have been 23 live Child Support Connection events
that have had approximately 17,000 views.
Most participants in the child support process are looking for honest,
straightforward information in a time-efficient manner. Using social media is
an important and necessary tool to reach them. Facebook Live events have
aided in filling in the gaps and overcoming communication barriers. After
having such success on Facebook Live with The Child Support Connection,
Delaware DCSS is now working on building and expanding our social
media presence to Instagram and a YouTube Channel. We invite you to
Ted Mermigos has been the IV-D Director at the Delaware Division of Child Support
Services (DCSS) since April 1, 2015. Ted does a monthly Facebook Live Event, “The
Child Support Connection,” the first Monday of every month at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time.
Protecting Fragile Families: New
Guidance to Improve Foster Care
Referral Policies and Practices
by Diane Potts, CGI
On June 8, 2022, the Children’s Bureau issued new policy guidance i on the
referral process between child welfare and child support agencies. It is
centered around the question that more and more child support programs
recently have struggled with, namely, the “appropriateness” of referrals for
parents working toward reunifying with their children. The new guidance
recognizes that “[i]t is almost never the case that securing an assignment of
the rights to child support is in the best interests of a child during the time
the child is in title IV-E foster care.” ii
Under federal law, a state child welfare agency must take “all steps” to
secure an assignment to the state of any rights to child support on behalf of
each child who is receiving title IV-E foster care maintenance payments by
referring the case for child support services “where appropriate.” iii In 2012,
the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) issued two policy
guidance Information Memoranda (IM) on Title IV-E Referrals: IM-12-02 iv ,
Requests for Locate Services, Referrals, and Electronic Interface, and IM-
12-06 v , Requests for Locate Services, Referrals, and Electronic Interface
between Child Welfare and Child Support Information Systems.
Recognizing that the child support and child welfare programs serve many
of the same children and families, OCSE explained that the agencies
should work together to develop criteria for appropriate referrals “in the best
interest of the child involved.” vi In OCSE’s view, an appropriate type of case
may be if the child will remain in foster care for a period of time, if it helps
the permanency planning process, or if collections will help relatives
assume custody of the child. vii OCSE also provided examples of cases
where a referral may not be appropriate including if the child is being
adopted or will be in foster care for only a short amount of time, as well as
when the “parent(s) would be unable to comply with the permanency plan
of reunification due to the financial hardship caused by paying child
support” or if the parent who formerly did not reside with the child is a
potential placement resource. viii
Research studies conducted since OCSE’s guidance was published
generally demonstrate that pursuing child support in foster care cases may
cause harm to poor parents working towards reunification. The research
also has found that pursuing child support in foster care cases is not cost
In addition, a study from Orange County, California found that for every
dollar expended by the child support program to pursue support, only
27 cents actually is collected—basically a $0.27 cost effectiveness ratio
compared to the national average of $5.27 for all child support cases.
Specifically, studies in Wisconsin ix and Minnesota x found that the vast
majority of parents in the child welfare system are poor, with incomes
below $10,000 per year. The Wisconsin study also found that establishing
a child support order against a parent working to reunify substantially
increased the time the child spends in out-of-home placement, with each
$100 in child support increasing the time spent in foster care by six months.
These studies began to cast doubt on the value of requiring child support
payments from parents who are already poor and trying to reunite with their
In addition, a study from Orange County, California xi found that for every
dollar expended by the child support program to pursue support, only 27
cents actually is collected—basically a $0.27 cost effectiveness ratio
compared to the national average of $5.27 for all child support cases. xii
Similarly, the Minnesota research estimated a cost-effectiveness ratio for
their foster caseload of 36 cents for each dollar spent. xiii Finally, the Orange
County study discovered that for every dollar paid in foster care
maintenance payments, the federal government recoups only four cents
through child support collections.
Although OCSE has not issued any policy guidance as a result of the
research, it did provide a new case closure criterion as part of the
Flexibility, Efficiency, and Modernization in Child Support Enforcement
Programs Final Rule that became effective in December 2016. The new
criterion provides that a child support program may close a case if:
Another assistance program, including IV-A, IV-E, SNAP,
and Medicaid, has referred a case to the IV-D agency that is
inappropriate to establish, enforce, or continue to enforce a
child support order and the custodial or noncustodial parent has
not applied for services. xiv
This provision provides child support programs with new flexibility to not
pursue support for foster care referrals when doing so would not be in the
best interest of the family and the reunification goal.
On August 11, 2020, the NCSEA Board adopted a “Resolution for A
National Review of Child Support and Child Welfare
Referral and Coordination Policies.” xv NCSEA recognized
that there was inconsistency in policies and practices
across the country, as well as inadequate informationsharing
between the child support and child welfare
agencies. In NCSEA’s opinion, “there appear to be few
jurisdictions where the relationship between child support and child welfare
agencies is functional and effective, and best practices of those positive
collaborations are insufficiently understood and publicized.”
NCSEA recognized the difference in pursuing support against the parent
who did not reside with the child versus the parent who was the former
custodian (“removal parent”) and is undergoing reunification efforts in the
child welfare case. For the former, NCSEA explained that establishing and
enforcing a child support obligation has considerable value including
paternity establishment, a possible relative placement option, and most
important, additional financial resources to the removal parent that can help
But pursuing child support is more problematic for a removal parent who is
working towards reunification. NCSEA explained that federal law requires
that reasonable efforts must be made to preserve and reunify families and
make it possible for a child to return home safely. Citing the recent
research, NCSEA recognized that there often are cases where a child
support obligation against the removal parent may not be in the best
interest of the child and family.
The resolution asked the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to
develop guidance on the appropriateness of referrals for removal parents.
Specifically, NCSEA advocated for guidance explaining that a referral to
pursue support against the removal parent working towards reunification is
appropriate against the removal parent only if the child welfare agency
determines the referral is in the best interest of the child in foster care.
NCSEA asked ACF for the following other initiatives as well:
• Convene a federal-state workgroup
consisting of child support and child welfare
leaders at the federal level and from at least
six states, as well as parents with experience
as child welfare clients, that would:
o Identify best practices for child
support/child welfare interaction that
can be disseminated nationally;
o Develop recommendations for
information-sharing between child support and child welfare
agencies, including encouraging child welfare agencies to use
FPLS data more productively;
o Assess the impact of a best-interests-of-the-child standard for use
of child support collections in foster care cases and whether states
should consider the option of using such collections for a trust fund
to help the custodial parent improve the child’s standard of living
o Specify an agenda for future research concerning the impact of
child support establishment and enforcement on child welfare
cases, especially children in out-of-home placements.
• Fund research on the impact of child support referrals on out-of-home
placement stays, cost-effectiveness, and related issues.
• Identify best practices in child support/child welfare interactions and
disseminate such information nationally.
New Children’s Bureau Guidance
The Children’s Bureau issued new policy guidance in June 2022, in order
for child welfare agencies “to define more narrowly ‘where appropriate’ so
that the default position in these determinations can be for the title IV-E
agency not to secure an assignment of the rights to child support.” xvi The
Children’s Bureau cited both the Minnesota and Orange County studies in
explaining that securing a child support obligation is generally deemed not
to be cost effective.
Further, the new guidance recognizes that children
in foster care have been removed from homes that
qualify for financial assistance—meaning “that the
parent(s) of these children are likely to be living in
poverty.” In addition, reunification efforts require
these parents to complete a variety of services such as therapy, parenting
courses, substance abuse treatment, and family time sessions. Reducing
income for these parents can divert from these efforts, potentially extending
the reunification process.
Therefore, according to the Children’s Bureau, it is almost never in the best
interest of a child in foster care to require a parent undergoing reunification
efforts to pay child support. Instead of having child welfare agencies make
appropriateness determinations on a case-by-case basis as previous policy
guidance had directed, child welfare agencies should be considering
different, across-the-board policies such as not referring cases except in
rare instances where there will be no adverse effects on the child or
permanency plan. One other example would be a policy where the child
welfare agency refers a case to the child support agency only where the
parent’s income is above a specified income level.
If a referral is made, child welfare agencies should review the case every
six months to re-assess whether child support should continue. Finally, the
Children’s Bureau encouraged the child welfare agency to work with the
child support agency when considering the recent guidance and changes to
the referral policies.
The new guidance issued by the Children’s Bureau is generally in line with
NCSEA’s resolution adopted in August 2020, that recognized the potential
harm caused by pursuing child support against removal parents living in
poverty and working towards reunification. Since OCSE’s guidance from
2012 now seems inconsistent with the Children’s Bureau’s position, OCSE
may be working on new guidance for child support agencies—especially in
light of the new case closure criterion for inappropriate Title IV-E referrals.
While it is too early to measure the overall impact of the guidance on either
the child welfare or child support programs, the ideal result will be a more
universal, family-centered approach to child support in foster care cases
across the country.
Diane Potts is a Director on the National Strategy Team at CGI Technologies and
Solutions Inc. Diane serves on the NCSEA Board of Directors and is co-chair of
NCSEA’s Policy and Government Relations Committee as well as an NCSEA Past-
President, past Secretary, and an Honorary Lifetime Member. Diane also is on the
Board of Directors for the Eastern Regional Interstate Child Support Association and is
chair of its Intergovernmental Improvement Committee.
Diane served for six years as Illinois Deputy Attorney General for Child Support. She
was appointed as the official observer to the Uniform Law Commission’s amendment of
the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) on NCSEA’s behalf, and currently sits on the UPA’s
Enactment Committee. In 2015, she received the Illinois Child Support Lifetime
Achievement Award. Diane received her law degree from Washington University Law
School and her undergraduate degree from University of Illinois.
Child Welfare Policy Manual, 8.4C Title IV-E, General Title IV-E Requirements, Child Support, Question
and Answer 5, About | The Administration for Children and Families (hhs.gov).
42 U.S.C. §671(a)(17) (a state’s Title IV-E plan must provide that “where appropriate, all steps will be
taken, including cooperative efforts with the State agencies administering the program funded under part
A and plan approved under part D, to secure an assignment to the State of any rights to support on behalf
of each child receiving foster care maintenance payments under [title IV-E]).”
IM-12-02 Requests for Locate Services, Referrals, and Electronic Interface.
IM-12-06 Requests for Locate Services, Referrals, and Electronic Interface between Child Welfare and
Child Support Information Systems.
Supra at n.4 &5.
Making parents pay: The unintended consequences of charging parents for foster care. (University of
Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty found 85 percent of removal parents have incomes below
$10,000 per year, well below the poverty line).
Child Support Collections to Offset Out of Home Placement Costs: A Study of Cost Effectiveness
(hamline.edu) (80 percent of parents have income less than $10,000 per year).
Child Support and Foster Care in California.
FY 2021 Preliminary Data Report and Tables | The Administration for Children and Families (hhs.gov).
Supra at n.10.
45 CFR § 303.11(b)(20).
Supra at n. 1.
Introducing New IV-D Directors
By Konitra Jack
Louisiana Support Enforcement Services
Most job postings for child support directors include language that
candidates should possess a commitment to the vision and function of the
agency, strong leadership skills, and an ability to build consensus. The
postings normally go on to describe individuals possessing a very specific
skill set. Then you see the addition of “knowledge of federal and state child
support laws and regulations,” which takes the list of qualifications from
specific to exclusive. These two words seem similar, but they are not.
There’s a difference and when you meet a IV-D director, you immediately
know it. When I became a director, it did not take long to learn why.
In September 2020, our director, Lydia Scales, announced that she was
retiring, and I was given the reins as Louisiana CSE Director. Shortly after,
I was invited to an “Ex-Ivy Dee” (IV-D) Annual Reunion. Now if you’ve ever
met Robbie Endris, Lisa Andry (former Louisiana IV-D directors), or any of
the other Ex-Ivy Dees, as they are known by, you surely wouldn’t blame
Lydia for deciding to join that club. They were welcoming and ready to
nurture the “future former” IV-D directors. Being with them gave me such a
sense of hope and pride that I could one day join that club. It is truly
inspiring that those who have held this position still have that passion for
And that’s the difference! When someone becomes a director, they are
taking on another role in the family. They are welcomed with open arms
and shown the way by their colleagues. They are supported, and they
quickly learn to support their teams. I believe all of the IV-D directors and
Ex-Ivy Dees would support my conclusion that being IV-D director is not
easy. Nonetheless, each of them would likely say that it is one of the most
rewarding experiences of their career. This article gives some of our
newest IV-D directors the opportunity to share their perspectives on what
the role means to them.
But first, let me introduce you to my colleagues:
When someone becomes a director, they
are taking on another role in the family.
They are welcomed with open arms and
shown the way by their colleagues.
Chad Shook is Director for the Mississippi Department of
Human Services, Division of Child Support. Chad comes to
the agency after practicing law in various capacities in the
Mississippi Delta, southwest Tennessee, and Hattiesburg for
over 22 years.
John Hurst currently serves as Assistant Deputy
Commissioner/IV-D Director for the Georgia Department of
Human Services, Division of Child Support Services (DCSS).
With more than 30 years of professional experience, John
began his career with DCSS as a case manager in the
Atlanta office. John is a member of the ERICSA Board of
Directors and an active member of NCSEA and NCCSD.
Frank DiBiase serves as Associate Director, Rhode Island
Department of Human Services, Office of Child Support
Services. Frank started in December 1990 as legal counsel
(line attorney) prosecuting the agency’s child support cases
in the Rhode Island Family Court daily. He served as
Senior Legal Counsel in child support and Chief Legal
Counsel for the agency. In July 2021, Frank was named as the Child
Tell me about your path to becoming the IV-D Director. How long have you
been in the position?
Chad Shook: I am an attorney by trade and practiced in the areas of
family law and insurance for 22 years before beginning service as
Mississippi's IV-D director in November 2020.
John Hurst: I started my career in child support as an agent (case
manager) in 1990. In 1994, I became a supervisor with Policy
Studies, Inc., which was contracted with Georgia’s child support
program to work non-TANF cases in Atlanta. After four years,
MAXIMUS won the contract rebid, and I went to that company as an
operations manager, where I stayed until 2007. I came back to work
with the state in 2007 and held positions of compliance monitor, office
manager, region manager, and deputy director before I was
appointed as IV-D director in December 2020.
Frank DiBiase: In 2004, with Sharon Santilli’s ascension from Chief
Legal Counsel to Child Support Director, I was appointed as acting
Chief Legal Counsel. In December 2004, I was honored to be made
official Chief Legal Counsel of the agency. This appointment largely
ended my days in court, as I graduated to legal issues and matters at
a different level than individual cases. In May 2021, Director Santilli
retired from state service. I was honored once again when in July
2021 I was appointed as the state’s child support director, which is
Associate Director of the Rhode Island Office of Child Support
What do you see as the role of the IV-D Director? Can you offer us a few
CS: I am very fortunate to have a seasoned team associated with our
program. I am more an administrator than active hands-on manager
of daily operations.
JH: I’m not sure I can say that there is a primary role as there are so
many different areas of focus. A few of the top roles include providing
vision and oversight leadership to the program, serving as the face of
the program for department leadership and the legislature, and
supporting the national child support organizations (NCCSD, NCSEA,
ERICSA, and WICSEC).
FD: My initial knee-jerk response to this question is that my primary
responsibility is to make all the trains run on-time—or at least remain
on the track. I think this is reflective of all the various components
associated with the position. Perhaps at a more general level, I would
say my “primary” role is to make sure child support payments are
being paid for the benefit of children and families. But because there
are so many components to the child support program, I tend to view
my job as overseeing the various components of the program and
advancing it down the track.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects, I believe, involves full
transparency with the staff so it hopefully views management as at
least fair, reasonable, and committed to trying to address their needs.
I reinforce the appreciation I have for every member of the agency by
personally funding a random drawing every two months to choose a
staff member who will receive $100 as a thank you.
What was the most surprising part of your new job?
CS: The bureaucratic red tape that causes government to move so
slowly. Coming from the private sector, that has been the biggest
adjustment for me.
JH: I would say that one of the most surprising parts of this new role
was that I had to learn to be careful with what I say. I learned quickly
that I was often the final decision maker, and what I said could be
taken as direction or a final decision. I’m a bit of an introvert naturally,
and it surprised me that people listened to what I said!
FD: Having been with the agency for more than 30 years and having
worked very closely with the previous director, I was familiar with
almost all the responsibilities associated with the position of child
support director. There is one aspect that has surprised me—and in a
pleasant way too. I did not realize that most of the other state child
support directors worked in such a close manner. These other
directors are constantly in communication, and most are eager to
help others in any way possible. As much as I worked closely with our
state’s previous director, I did not fully appreciate the degree to which
other directors are a resource for guidance and assistance.
What is the key to a successful program?
CS: Excellence in delivery of customer service.
JH: I believe that effective communication is a key to any successful
organization or program. It’s important that the program has a clear
understanding of the direction, priorities, and goals so that everyone
is paddling in the same direction. We recently converted to a new
eFiling system and one of the first things we did was make sure we
had a communication plan to ensure that our staff and key
stakeholders were aware of the change, what the benefits of the new
system were, and the rollout schedule.
FD: I would identify four “keys” to a successful program activity. The
first is resources. No matter the desire, if there simply are not
sufficient funds or personnel, it can very easily derail a well-intended
and even well-planned project.
Secondly, good advance planning is a necessity. If an agency desires
to embark on a major project, it needs to try to anticipate in advance
as many potential issues that might arise or result from the effort as
Third, I cannot overstate how important knowledgeable and motivated
senior staff are to the success of any endeavor. I say this because,
regardless of the skill set of any child support agency director, it is
impossible to be an expert in every category.
Fourth, the entire agency needs to view the agency staff as a team. I
think this is how best to achieve some ends where the result is
dependent on a multitude of staff. It is necessary to reinforce that
there is no one unit of the agency that is more important than
another. This also requires the periodic recognition of staff when a
project is achieved.
What would you say to new and aspiring directors?
CS: From my perspective, representing families in child support
cases is vastly different from managing the IV-D program. The
general public has no knowledge of the many regulations and
equirements and behind-the-scenes operations that result in a
successful IV-D program.
JH: For someone interested in becoming a IV-D director, I would
recommend that you learn the “business” of child support. By that, I
mean understand how the program and incentive funding works and
what impacts the 157 report. Know how to drive performance.
Secondly, I would encourage a potential director to become involved
in the national organizations, such as NCSEA, ERICSA, WICSEC,
and NTCSA. These organizations expose you to a great community
of child support leaders and provide you the ability to help shape the
direction of the child support program. Lastly, once you become a
director, build a strong team around you. You will not have the ability
to be too involved in day-to-day operations and you will need to rely
on your leadership team to carry out your program’s vision.
FD: I guess if I had to deliver one simple piece of advice, it would be
do not hesitate to ask questions if you do not understand something,
and do not hesitate to express a view even if you realize it is going to
be a minority view. I have sometimes been struck that after I have
raised what I thought was an obvious issue, someone in the group will
readily admit that they had not thought of that, and sometimes I have
been the person who says I did not anticipate a point raised by
someone else. I think the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson (or a simpler
variation by Thomas Carlyle) apply greatly in the child support world:
“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that
I learn from him [or her].”
Hopefully, with these interviews you’ve learned that above all things being
director requires individuality and passion for the program. Though our
states are different, organizations are different, and “official titles” are
different, we all have the same passion. Special thanks to my colleagues
for taking their time to share!
Konitra Jack serves as Louisiana CSE Director, which directs the programmatic
operations for the child support enforcement section. Konitra joined the Child Support
Enforcement team in 2008 as a caseworker in Baton Rouge, LA. Konitra Jack is from
Baker, LA. She is a wife and the mother of a 10 and 11-year-old. She holds a Bachelor
of Science Degree in Mathematics, a Master’s in Business Administration, and Juris
Doctorate from Southern University Law Center. Konitra serves on the NCSEA PGR,
NCSEA U, and CSQ Committees. She also serves on the NCCSD Policy & Practice,
Systems & Modernization, and Audit Committees, and the ERICSA Policy and
Procedural Justice in the Child Support
Process: A Research-Informed Approach
by Kate Wurmfeld, Center for Court Innovation
The Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC)
demonstration project, which began in 2016, integrated principles of
procedural justice into enforcement practices in six child support programs
across the United States. Procedural justice involves perceptions of
fairness in processes that resolve disputes and result in decisions.
Research has shown that if people perceive a process to be fair, they will
be more likely to accept the outcome whether or not the outcome was
favorable to them. 1 It is important to note that procedural justice should not
be a replacement for examining underlying structural issues and unfairness
in systems. Instead, principles of procedural justice should be considered
tools in a toolbox to achieve broader reforms in the way systems and
professionals interact with and impact the public.
The PJAC demonstration project targeted noncustodial parents who were
at the point of being referred to the legal system for civil contempt of court. 2
These parents had not met their child support obligations even though child
support programs, based on state guidelines, had determined that they had
the ability to pay. The PJAC demonstration project aimed to address
parents’ reasons for not paying, improve the consistency of their payments,
and promote their positive engagement with the other parent and their
children, as well as the legitimacy of the child support program.
The PJAC demonstration was developed by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE),
which is within the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human
Services. MDRC is leading a random assignment study of the model’s effectiveness in collaboration with
research partners at MEF Associates and the Center for Court Innovation (CCI). Parents are assigned at
random to either a program group offered PJAC services or to a control group not eligible to receive
PJAC services; instead, the control group proceeds with the standard contempt process. Oversight of the
evaluation is provided by the Georgia Division of Child Support Services. For an overview of the PJAC
demonstration, see “Project.” Swaner et al. (2018).
The noncustodial parent is the parent who has been ordered to pay child support and is generally the
parent who does not live with the child. The other parent is referred to as the custodial parent.
In 2020, PJAC added five new “peer learning” sites, 3 selected to address
specific agency challenges and to develop their own procedural justiceinformed
projects at various stages of the child support process. As
opposed to focusing only on the contempt phase, they also considered
establishment, modification, and enforcement. These new sites benefited
from the experience and expertise of the original PJAC sites, and from
training and technical assistance from the Office of Child Support
Enforcement (OCSE), MDRC, MEF Associates, and the Center for Court
The PJAC grant is drawing to a close after six years of project development
and implementation, and research and evaluation across six demonstration
grant and five peer learning sites. OCSE and the PJAC partners hope that
State and Tribal IV-D programs can draw from lessons learned to develop
more family-centered practices, utilizing procedural justice principles to
build trust, engage participants, and reduce bias in child support collection.
This article will provide an overview of procedural justice research and
guiding principles for the field as child support programs consider adopting
a procedural justice-informed approach to service delivery. The article can
also be viewed as a companion piece with the PJAC Implementation
Guide, which contains specific guidance and examples for child support
programs looking for practical ways to incorporate procedural justice in
every stage of the child support process. 4 When adapted to local
jurisdictions’ unique needs and characteristics, implementing these lessons
will enable child support programs to promote procedural justice in the
context of broader systems reform work.
Procedural Justice Principles: What Does the Research Say?
The guiding principle of procedural justice is that people believe that they
are being treated fairly and with respect, and that their concerns are taken
seriously. Research demonstrates a connection between how participants
experience the process and their willingness to engage with the system. 5
While procedural justice is well established in the legal field, the PJAC
project is the first rigorous test of the impact of procedural justice on the
child support process. While the findings from PJAC are still forthcoming,
The five peer learning sites are Georgia; St. Joseph County, Indiana; Minnesota; Texas; and Brown
Procedural Justice in the Child Support Process | MDRC
Tyler (2003); Swaner et al. (2018).
the foundational research shows that people are more likely to view the
legal system as fair when the following elements are present: 6
Voice (participants have an opportunity to be heard): For participants in the
child support process, being able to speak out (if they so choose) and to be
heard and acknowledged by caseworkers and other agency personnel is
essential. Custodial parents, who may have encountered other
professionals who ignored or minimized their experiences, may be more
likely to see the agency as a source of help. For noncustodial parents,
research from other legal contexts demonstrates that when people feel they
are being heard, their perceptions of fairness increase. They may then be
more likely to engage with the child support system and make more
consistent support payments.
Respect (participants feel that they are being treated with dignity): When
caseworkers and other agency staff members interact respectfully with all
parties to a case (including respecting their roles as parents), participants
are more likely to feel that the process is fair.
Understanding (participants understand the child support process and how
decisions are made): Participants are often confused by child support
processes and procedural rules, the language the agency uses, and other
aspects of their cases. When agencies clearly explain the rules and how
they are applied, research confirms that participants are much more likely
to understand how to meet their support obligations and to see the agency
as a helpful resource.
Neutrality (participants believe that decision-making is free from bias):
Promoting neutrality does not mandate that all participants receive identical
services and support. Instead, it requires that they be treated equitably and
that they receive meaningful information and support tailored to assist them
in their circumstances with their specific needs. Promoting this type of
equity in service delivery can improve perceptions of fairness and help
address underlying systemic issues that act as barriers to fairness,
particularly among people from marginalized communities.
Helpfulness (participants believe that staff members are interested in their
specific situation, to the extent the law allows): Many noncustodial parents
have complex needs that serve as barriers to complying with their child
Center for Court Innovation (2012); Rempel (2014).
support orders. They may have had negative and punitive experiences with
the child support agency, making it difficult for them to trust that the agency
is there to help. Promoting helpfulness, by supporting parents holistically
and addressing their particular needs, has been shown to shift perceptions
and can encourage parents to engage with the process. Custodial parents
may also have had negative experiences. A helpful process will make it
more likely that they, too, will trust the agency and view it as a resource.
Every staff person in the child support agency can contribute to the fairness
of the child support process based on how they treat participants, and the
policies and procedures they promote. Child support professionals may
recognize good, common-sense practices that engage clients, and may
already be incorporating all or some of these practices in their work.
However, many aspects of child support systems can serve as barriers to
positively engaging participants.
Guiding Principles and Overcoming Barriers to Implementing
Promoting fair and equitable processes is critical to increasing access to
justice and building trust in legal and social service systems. The following
principles address barriers to promoting procedural justice and access to
Cultural Responsiveness and Reducing Bias
Cultural responsiveness may be defined as “the ability to learn from and
relate respectfully with people of your own culture as well as those from
other cultures.” 7 A culturally responsive agency will ensure that it is
welcoming and truly accessible to individuals from all cultures within a
community, including those from underserved or marginalized groups, and
that child support processes are fair and understandable. Child support
agencies may find it more challenging to engender trust among
marginalized communities. People in these communities may be wary of
government systems. They may have experienced historic oppression
based on race or gender identity, disproportionate rates of incarceration,
National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (2008); Warshaw, Tinnon, and Cave
and negative interactions with law enforcement and other legal entities.
Promoting cultural responsiveness and working to eliminate bias in all child
support services is critical to building trust. In addition to training staff
members, child support programs should develop policies and use tools
and resources that address bias and intercultural competence. In particular,
they need to increase awareness of how bias or cultural blindness affects
their delivery of services to a diverse caseload. 8
Practices That Respond to Trauma
One of the biggest challenges for child support programs is to understand
the trauma many individuals have experienced in their personal lives and in
their interactions with systems intended to help them. If child support
programs can enhance procedures to account for trauma in the child
support process and in their policies and decision-making, participants will
be better able to avoid re-traumatization, engage with the system, and take
advantage of interventions. Raising awareness among staff members of
the existence of trauma and its effects on participants’ willingness to view
the child support program as a resource is essential to effectively serving
parents and children. 9
Promoting Safety and Enhancing Responses to Intimate Partner
A total of 10.9 percent of child support cases nationally have a family
violence indicator—that is, a mechanism in child support data systems that
identifies a party as needing to have their personal information protected
because of risks of domestic violence. Policies vary by state, but family
violence indicators can also guide service delivery in other ways, typically
involving additional safeguards to promote safety. Nevertheless, it is
difficult to accurately measure the percentage of child support cases
involving intimate partner violence. Survivors of violence often do not feel
safe reporting their experiences. One large-scale survey of custodial
parents suggests that close to four of ten fathers in the child support
system have a history of domestic violence against the mother or child. 10
Domestic violence involves coercive controlling behavior by one partner
The State of Minnesota is using the IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory; https://idiinventory.com) to
build intercultural competence and to inform its procedural justice work.
Warshaw, Tinnon, and Cave (2018); The Trauma Stewardship institute (2021).
Osbourne et al. (2013).
against the other. It can affect how parties to a case interact with each
other and with the child support agency. If it is not adequately understood
or addressed, the program risks being complicit with the parent causing
harm and endangering the safety and security of survivors. For example,
survivors may not be able to advocate for themselves because of power
imbalances or may be fearful of engaging in the process at all. Parents who
cause harm may try to use the process to further exert control or harass the
survivor parent. Programs should account for the possibility of intimate
partner violence throughout the process and in every case. They need to
train staff persons, implement screening, develop specific case
management strategies, and collaborate with community service providers
to provide appropriate referrals and interventions. 11
Parenting Time and Child Support Processes 12
Child support programs are clear that financial support and parenting time
are legally separate issues. While there are valid reasons for this policy,
and child support agencies are prohibited from using federal funds to
address parenting times issues, the separation of these two core parenting
functions poses a fundamental challenge in terms of how parents perceive
the fairness of the child support process. From a noncustodial parent’s
perspective, the system is solely focused on their responsibilities and
completely disinterested in their rights. A custodial parent—even a parent
who has experienced intimate partner violence—may not understand why
they cannot access safe parenting time orders without the need for a
separate action. In response, many child support agencies have developed
mechanisms for addressing parenting time rights. Thirty-five states, for
example, include some parenting time calculations in their child support
guidelines. While this tacitly acknowledges the intertwined relationship of
financial support and parenting time, it further clouds the validity of
separating the two issues from many parents’ perspectives. Simply telling
parents child support and parenting time are two separate legal issues, and
that agencies cannot use federal child support funds to address parenting
time, is insufficient to counter parents' distrust of this policy. Child support
The Center for Court Innovation (2016); Battered Women Justice Project (2021).
In some states where the child support agency has developed processes to incorporate a parenting
time order into the initial child support order, policies and procedures have been implemented to address
the critical safety issues posed by the high prevalence of domestic violence. These states screen for
domestic violence, provide education to parents about safety modified parenting time options, collaborate
with domestic violence service and legal assistance providers, and in some instances provide evidence
for courts to use when establishing safety modified/restricted parenting time orders.
agencies must account for how parents perceive the separation of support
and parenting time, and for the ways in which the policy could contribute to
actual unfairness or lack of access for some parents. Services for parents
going through the child support process should be streamlined and should
facilitate access to parenting time where it is safe to do so. OCSE has
helped states identify ways to use the federal Access and Visitation Grant
funding to provide this kind of assistance to parents. 13
Child support programs should be a port of entry for helpful services to
combat poverty and ensure that parents can meet their support obligations
and nurture their children. Too often, parents experience the system as
punitive and unhelpful, and lack trust in the legitimacy of the process. By
instituting family-centered practices using principles of procedural justice,
programs can transform participants’ experiences and create a more fair
and respectful process. As a result, parents will be more likely to engage
with the process, view it as a resource, and be willing and able to
consistently support and interact with their children.
Kate Wurmfeld, Esq. is the Director of Family Court Programs at the Center for Court
Innovation (Center). In this role, Kate oversees the Center’s Family Court operating
projects and provides national technical assistance and strategic planning advice to
courts wishing to improve their response to domestic violence. Kate has extensive
experience providing direct legal services on cases involving domestic violence, most
recently as a supervising attorney for Matrimonial and Family Law at New York Legal
Assistance Group, where she handled divorce, custody, orders of protection and
support matters in Supreme and Family Court throughout New York City. Kate
graduated from Seton Hall Law School and Oberlin College.
Examples of AV grant-funded innovations include free access to mediation and waived filing fees for
parenting time orders established at the same time as a child support order, online parenting time order
legal forms generation platforms that provide parents with a ready-to-file parenting time order, and
statewide legal assistance hotlines to help parents resolve parenting time conflicts and access legal
services when needed.
Electronic Document Exchange: Image Delivery
in a Heartbeat
by Beth Dittus, North Dakota DHS/CSE
Susan Smith, Indiana Child Support Bureau
Christopher Breen, Massachusetts DOR/CSED
Electronic Document Exchange (EDE) is an application within the federal
Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) Portal that is used by 40
jurisdictions to securely exchange intergovernmental forms, and other
forms, online. While EDE has always been a valuable tool for state and
county IV-D programs, EDE took on added importance during the COVID-
19 pandemic. With COVID-19, most jurisdictions saw a significant shift
toward telework and a nationwide closure of child support offices that
forced all states to grapple with logistical concerns, such as how to access
documents received by mail, how to ensure those documents were
processed within mandatory federal timeframes, and how to convert those
documents into images that would remain accessible to staff for case
consult and audit purposes.
The IV-D programs in Indiana and North Dakota both use EDE extensively,
though leverage its functionality in different manners. Susan Smith,
Indiana’s IV-D Intergovernmental Liaison, and Beth Dittus with North
Dakota’s IV-D program, took some time to share their EDE success stories.
Indiana began using EDE in early 2014. While Indiana was not the first to
embrace EDE, the extent to which Indiana began utilizing EDE and
continues to utilize EDE far exceeds the initial scope proposed to the
Indiana has a state-run, county-administered structure. There are 92
counties with 91 enforcement offices that have cooperative agreements
with the state to enforce child support cases. As the county offices are not
on the state computer network, and Indiana does not have an encrypted e-
mail system, the state mails its child support documents to the county
offices. Indiana is not fully paperless; rather, it uses a legacy system that
does not support document storage capabilities. Given these restrictions,
EDE has been invaluable to Indiana. And for those states that are already
paperless, EDE is a seamless tool all around.
When EDE was first implemented in Indiana,
fewer states were using it and most other
states were not significant trading partners. It
was determined that Indiana’s Central
Registry would send all intergovernmental
documents to the local county offices via EDE
to give everyone some hands-on experience
with the tool. Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) petitions
received are now scanned on a multi-purpose device. A cover letter and
acknowledgment are completed and attached to the scanned documents
and these documents are subsequently sent to the counties via EDE for
enforcement. Since the images are available in real-time, enforcement
actions can commence immediately without any delay. Gone are the days
of UIFSA petitions being ”lost in the mail.” In addition, Indiana immediately
saw savings in postage costs.
Soft copies of the UIFSA petitions are kept in a secure folder on the state
server where their images remain available for future reference. EDE has
greatly improved the ability of the Indiana Central Registry to provide more
robust customer service to other states.
Indiana’s local offices are now quite proficient at sending and receiving
documents via EDE, and since EDE allows jurisdictions to relay images
securely, including Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Federal Tax
Information (FTI), Indiana decided to look for even more ways to leverage
it. As a result of this reexamination, Indiana started using EDE as a twoway
communication tool for many situations involving its local offices and
offices at the state level. Indiana has also been using EDE to send its
Intergovernmental Case Reconciliation Error reports as well as documents
for hearings and bankruptcies. Another area where Indiana uses EDE is its
online application for IV-D services. These applications are processed at
the state level and their associated documents are sent to the local offices
with EDE. Lastly, Indiana plans to utilize EDE to exchange case files for
data reliability and self-assessment audits for the first time this year.
Indiana is in the process of implementing a new computer system for its IV-
D program, named INvest, and is excited that staff will be able to upload
documents to it. This will be a game-changer as it will allow documents
from EDE to be downloaded and then directly uploaded to INvest, without
the need for printing. Also, documents will be stored with respective cases
in one place, instead of in
North Dakota’s IV-D program
is state-administered and
organized by functional unit.
Despite differences in
organizational structure from
EDE also allows states to limit access to
certain portal users and produce reports
summarizing requests, responses, and
documents sent and received.
Indiana, North Dakota likewise gained invaluable efficiency through EDE.
North Dakota’s EDE implementation effort began during the planning phase
of a federal grant project focused on improving intergovernmental
casework. In 2019, OCSE awarded the Intergovernmental Case
Processing Innovation Demonstration grant to North Dakota. In part, North
Dakota’s project focused on improving communication with other states
and decreasing processing timeframes in incoming and outgoing
intergovernmental cases. EDE proved to be an asset in accomplishing
During implementation, the agency took advantage of the EDE test
environment to explore how to best use EDE to complement the statewide
systems already in place. Through testing, it was discovered that it was
very easy to move documents from EDE to the next appropriate workflow
or electronic filing system. EDE turned out to be a much more convenient
way to receive documents than regular mail because there was no
scanning required. The documents could be kept in electronic form when
moved from EDE to the next system.
EDE also allows states to limit access to certain portal users and produce
reports summarizing requests, responses, and documents sent and
received. Capitalizing on these features, the agency was able to designate
specific users that would be responsible for receiving documents and
responding to requests. These users were then able to forward documents,
as needed, through the workflow system already in place. This approach
was designed to ensure that all requests were responded to in a timely and
consistent manner and that all documents were forwarded to the
appropriate case manager. The report feature offers an extra safety net to
assist in identifying outstanding requests and documents pending
download, so all cases are accounted for and properly serviced.
North Dakota implemented EDE in October 2020. The agency found that
staff were excited to use EDE and “hit the ground running.” Due to the
pandemic, most staff were telecommuting when the agency went live. Staff
in other jurisdictions were also telecommuting and limited work capabilities
associated with the pandemic meant that some states were able to receive
documents and respond to requests only through electronic means during
certain periods. Thus, the ability to send and receive documents
electronically in intergovernmental cases became more important than
The agency immediately realized the efficiency achieved by electronically
exchanging documents. There was no wait time associated with mailing
intergovernmental packets or limited service requests for documents; it
could be simply and quickly accomplished through EDE. Even workers who
were initially intimidated to learn a new application found that it was userfriendly
and enjoyed having a history of actions temporarily recorded for
both jurisdictions to reference. In addition, mailing costs for lengthy
intergovernmental packets and requests were avoided. On average, North
Dakota sends about 75 intergovernmental packets to responding
jurisdictions each month, while over
100 requests for limited services are
made each month to EDE states
alone. Gaining efficiency while saving
costs was a great success.
North Dakota uses all EDE functions,
including document requests.
Intergovernmental workers have
found EDE’s request feature
particularly beneficial because it
allows a request for common documents, such as certified orders and
payment records, to be made without the completion of a Transmittal #3
and Confidential Information Form. Additionally, electronic versions of the
documents sent and received are retained in EDE for a temporary period.
Outgoing intergovernmental workers have found this retention feature
particularly beneficial when a responding jurisdiction requests a specific
document that was already provided in an initial intergovernmental packet.
Communication is one of the biggest challenges faced in intergovernmental
casework. During the pandemic, agencies have learned to communicate
with each other in new and inventive ways, maximizing the use of
technology to the greatest extent possible. North Dakota is currently in the
process of implementing the Communication Center and is excited about
the new features it offers. North Dakota looks forward to continuing its work
with its partners via EDE and invites states considering utilizing the portal
to communicate and exchange documents to reach out to learn more about
North Dakota’s experience.
The Indiana and North Dakota IV-D programs clearly illustrate the value of
EDE, and the ability to use EDE for both internal and external image
transfer. Whether your jurisdiction currently utilizes EDE or not, there is a
quarterly EDE Consortium meeting, and all interested in EDE are welcome
to attend. This group consists of states with significant EDE experience,
states new to EDE, and states considering the use of EDE. Many state
proposals come from these meetings, and OCSE has been receptive to
If your jurisdiction has a question regarding EDE or would like to enroll in
the EDE program, please contact the Office of Child Support Enforcement
FPLS Support Team at FPLSSupport@acf.hhs.gov.
For more information on how North Dakota and Indiana leverage EDE,
please contact Beth Dittus at email@example.com or Susan Smith at
Beth Dittus has been with the North Dakota Child Support Division since 2013, serving in a
dual role within the legal and policy units. As an attorney, she assists with various legal matters,
including the statewide management of complex cases and appeals and provides support with
legislative issues. In her policy role, she focuses her time on policy development and
implementation in numerous areas, including specializing in intergovernmental child support
Susan Smith is the supervisor of the Intergovernmental Central Registry Unit for the Indiana
Child Support Bureau. Susan has been with the Indiana State Child Support Bureau since
January 1990, acting as the supervisor of the Intergovernmental Central Registry Unit (ICRU)
since June 2007. She has served as the main point of contact for all things intergovernmental in
Indiana, including Electronic Document Exchange (EDE), Query Interstate Cases for Kids
(QUICK), and the Intergovernmental Reference Guide (IRG) as well as how they all work
together. Susan currently serves as a member of the ERICSA Policy and Legislation
Christopher Breen is in his 30 th year of child support enforcement, his 19 th in a managerial
capacity. Chris currently serves on multiple NCSEA committees. He is the Deputy Director for
the Northern Region of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s Child Support
Enforcement Division. Chris has also acted as project manager for several significant
implementations, including Massachusetts’ recent Virtual Counter implementation that
leverages Zoom breakout rooms to provide online customer service. He possesses a B.A. from
Providence College with a focus in English, and an M.A. from the University of Massachusetts in
English. He is currently pursuing an MBA degree.
in Hiring: We’re Looking for the Best!
by Tamara L. Thomas, Stanislaus County, California
Long gone are the days when you could simply ask a few “Customer Service,”
“Dealing with Conflict,” or “What is your management style?” questions to hire
a good employee for your team or office. If you are in a position like most
public and private agencies where attracting the right candidate for
employment is centric to having success in your service delivery, you’ve
probably gathered that employers are facing a post-pandemic labor market
where employees hold a great deal of options deciding where they will elect to
be employed. Despite these circumstances, employers still need to ensure that
their hiring practices bring the right behaviors and competencies into their
organizations by asking potential employees the appropriate legal and valuedriven
questions. So, how do organizations make sure the best and the
brightest are at the interview table?
Here are three ways organizations, hiring panels, supervisors, and managers
can use the brief interview time they have to best assess candidates.
1. Prepare to Conduct an Effective Job Interview
Candidates have more options in deciding what agency and job they may
apply for, so make sure before running a recruitment that you can make the job
attractive to potential job seekers. Review your job descriptions and flyers to
ensure the classifications and job titles are as up-to-date as needed to enable
you to construct relevant questions that will pique an applicant’s interest. Make
sure job titles and typical tasks reflect today’s labor market expectations for
similar positions. Do the duties and responsibilities listed reflect the actual
current duties performed by incumbents or are they outdated? Many child
support agencies have updated job titles to reflect an emphasis on customer
service instead of enforcement. Agencies are moving away from titles that
include “officer” to titles such as Child Support Specialists, Child Support
Consultants, and Child Support Associates. Any changes to title and job tasks
may require an agency to meet and confer with the appropriate labor union. As
this takes time, make sure that you and your Human Resource (HR) Team
review the job classification requirements and titles prior to opening the
recruitment. An updated job task analysis will help your agency form interview
questions that paint a picture of the actual work being performed for the
position for which you are hiring.
Most job interviews tend to be nerve-racking. Prepare in
advance to make the job interview enjoyable and
comfortable for your applicants. It’s difficult for potential
employees to put forward their best effort when their cortisol
levels are soaring. Don’t try to intentionally make it a
miserable experience. Give applicants an idea prior to arrival
of what topics will be discussed. While you certainly wouldn’t
disclose the actual questions for the interview, it’s perfectly
acceptable to advise applicants of the topics or categories
that are likely to be brought up. Purposefully trying to stump candidates does
nothing but increase anxiety and limit your ability to accurately assess their
skills. You never want interviews to be adversarial. Set a positive tone and
remember applicants are also interviewing you.
Try to make a connection even if your time with the applicant is brief. Be warm,
friendly, and professional. To put candidates at ease, take some time to
introduce your agency and explain the interview process. Emphasizing your
humanity helps the candidates feel welcome, enabling you to see them in a
more relaxed state to proceed with interview questions. One best practice is to
provide applicants with a letter about the department, including its budget, its
values, behavior, and quality expectations for employees in the workplace, and
what they can expect from leadership if they choose to join the team. This
letter should be provided in advance of any conditional offer or final interview
so the applicant knows the department is interested in them.
2. Identify Job-Related Behavioral Competencies and Create
Behaviorally Anchored Interview Questions
Creating appropriate interview questions is key to determining how well-suited
an applicant is for the position. The best type of interview question allows a
candidate to demonstrate a past ability to perform work in a specific situation.
How well a person describes their experience will give you a much better
understanding of the candidate. For example, almost anyone can answer the
question, “What’s your biggest accomplishment?” Not everyone, however, can
answer questions like, “Can you share with me a major strategic decision you
made in a previous role and how you went about making this decision? What
did you feel most proud of about the decision? What did you learn from the
experience?” To answer behavioral-based questions, candidates need to set
up the situation, describe the tasks needing to be completed, explain what
actions were completed, and talk in detail about the results. The quality of the
outcomes they convey, and how well candidates demonstrate their skills and
abilities, provide a much better understanding of candidates. Behavioral-based
questions also provide insight into candidates’ ability to conduct themselves
professionally, competently, and with confidence.
So how do you determine what competencies upon which to base your
interview questions? Any competency that is a key requirement of the job gives
an opportunity to showcase quality and quantity efforts and serve your mission.
In Stanislaus County, all leadership positions are tasked with 11 core
leadership competencies that the county believes are essential to executives,
managers, and mid-level supervisors. Each competency has a matrix that
defines how well a person might
demonstrate that competency. A few of
those core leadership competencies
include building effective teams,
communication, conflict management,
customer orientation, and effective
Here is an example of how behavioral
competencies can be used during the
interview process. If your recruitment relies on the competency of effective
decision making, choose behavioral questions to ask applicants, such as:
• Looking over your experience and career, what was one of the hardest
decisions you had to make as a manager? What made this a difficult
• Provide an example of an important decision you made that did not turn
out to be the right decision and describe how you dealt with the resulting
The following chart shows the layers of increasing skill demonstration to
assess a candidate’s answer. Going across the columns from right to left, you
will notice that a good answer builds upon a better answer, and the final left
column builds on skill demonstrated at the highest level of that competency.
Higher level and benchmarkable competencies generally manifest by an
outcome or solution that has an impact on an entire agency, team, or process.
• Makes timely
creative range of
options and a
levels of data
analysis to make
• Supports and
• Encourages new
• Is valued by
others for advice
• Makes timely
best course of
• Supports and
made by firstline
• Promotes new
• Makes timely
based on the
and selects the
• Is open to new
The more you conduct behavioral interviews focused on competencies tied to
your organization, the more easily you will recognize higher levels of
competency-based answers. The key to being a good evaluator is to ask
yourself before using your recruitment rating system, “How well did the
candidate demonstrate and answer the competency question by identifying the
result of their prior performance and behavior?”
So, what makes a bad interview question bad? It’s always safest to ask only
questions that solicit information from job candidates that directly apply to the
skills, knowledge, and abilities to perform the job duties. Interview questions
that discriminate against a candidate should never be used. Always avoid any
question that raises information about a candidate’s age, race, religion,
gender, disability status, or any other questions that refer to a protected class.
Asking illegal questions could expose an organization to a discrimination claim
and lawsuit. Employers should ensure that interviewers and anyone performing
hiring responsibilities are well-versed in what qualifies as illegal interview
questions. Here are some comparisons between illegal and legal questions:
Work/Visa Status and Citizenship
• Illegal: Are you a U.S. citizen? You sound like you have an accent,
where are you from? Where were your parents born? What is your
• Legal: Are you authorized to work in the U.S.? What languages do
you speak (only if relevant to the position)?
• Illegal: Are you married? Do you have children? If so, what do you
do for childcare? Are you planning to have children soon? Have you
ever been divorced?
• Legal: Are you willing and able to put in the amount of overtime
and/or travel if the position requires it? Are you willing to relocate?
• Illegal: How old are you? When were you born? How long have you
• Legal: Do you have any concerns about handling the long hours
and extensive travel that this job entails? Are you at least 18 years
of age (provided the job requires it)?
• Illegal: Do you have any disabilities or medical conditions? How is
your health? Do you take any prescription drugs? Have you ever
been in rehab?
• Legal: Are you able to perform this job with or without reasonable
accommodation? Do you have any conditions that would keep you
from performing this job?
• Illegal: What is your religion? Are you practicing?
• Legal: Can you work on weekends (only if the work requires it)?
3. Consider Adding the Competencies of Creativity and Innovation to
Your Organizational Profile
The most important result of a behavioral-based interview is successfully
predicting the chosen candidate’s future job performance. Consider using
competencies like “creativity” and “innovation” to allow interviewees to freely
express how they have developed new insights, questioned conventional
approaches, encouraged innovations, and designed or implemented cuttingedge
programs and workflows. Hiring for imagination and originality will attract
people from all kinds of backgrounds, leading to an employee profile important
to the larger success of the business. Hiring boards can help agencies by
pointing out where an applicant has provided examples demonstrating
creativity and innovation.
Workplaces are at critical staffing junctures in addressing considerable
vacancies and a lack of applicants. Hiring philosophies are changing rapidly,
driven in part by the understanding that successful outcomes during the
pandemic were largely rooted in the ability of employees and employers to be
flexible and innovative. A creative workplace nurtures employees’ ability to
create unique solutions to staffing and hiring challenges, even if employees
haven’t fully learned or perfected the job’s technical skills. Employees hired
with these types of competency traits will help develop and find new
opportunities in the workplace while instilling a growth mindset.
Talent management is no longer only an HR professional’s industry and
responsibility, but the work of the collective organization. Inviting excellent
talent to take their place in your organization starts with their opportunity to
have interviews where they can showcase their competencies. Is the job well
defined and accurate? Is the applicant connecting with your organization
during the hiring experience? Do they have the opportunity to demonstrate
their passion and interest to come and work for you? If you want the best and
the brightest to accept employment with your agency, now is the time to
reassess your recruiting practices to improve your ability to discover great
candidates and turn them into your employees!
Tamara Thomas is the Human Relations Director for the Stanislaus County Chief Executive
Office in California and was previously the Stanislaus County California Department of Child
Support Services Director. She has 33 years of county government experience, 27 of which
were spent as a child support professional. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in
Organizational Behavior from the University of San Francisco. Ms. Thomas has been a
frequent presenter and trainer for the California Child Support Directors Association (CSDA)
and was President of the Western Intergovernmental Child Support Engagement Council
(WICSEC) from 2016 to 2017. She was the first recipient of the National Child Support
Enforcement Association’s (NCSEA) Outstanding Leadership Award in 2015. Most recently,
she received the 2018 Stanislaus County Equal Rights Commission Award for exemplary
service in Equal Employment Opportunity matters and leadership in promoting equal rights.
She believes strongly in delivering excellent customer service and making a positive
difference in the lives of both employees and the families served by public employees.
NCSEA 2022 Leadership Symposium:
Take Your Skills to the Next Level!
by Phyllis Nance, Linda Rhyne-McKinley, and Carla West
NCSEA 2022 Leadership Symposium Co-Chairs
The child support program needs dynamic, visionary leaders now more
than ever. Shifting demographics, falling caseloads, and the Great
Resignation instigated in part by the COVID-19 pandemic have created
both significant challenges and opportunities. Are you ready to take your
leadership skills to the next level to bring child support into the future?
NCSEA’s Leadership Symposium is the premiere event for child support
professionals to gain a national perspective on the IV-D program and hone
leadership skills. The Symposium brings together top leaders and rising
stars from across the nation to share ideas, explore new perspectives, and
discover new ways to promote and deliver child support services. This
year’s event will be held at The Westin Charlotte in historic downtown
Charlotte, North Carolina, from August 7 to August 10. The location offers
access to great food and the famous NASCAR Hall of Fame. The
conference theme this year is “Level-Up: Transforming Tomorrow’s
Leaders.” The Leadership Symposium Committee has worked diligently to
create a next-level conference experience. We invite you to join us as we
explore this theme through plenaries, workshops, and learning labs.
“Team Synergy” kicks off the conference on Sunday. We’ve levelled up our
Symposium Fair into a new experience aimed at amping up networking,
brainstorming, and collaboration. Engage in Speed Networking and
connect with new colleagues who can help you on your leadership journey
beyond the conference. Participate in an Idea Exchange to kickstart
thinking about the possibilities for the child support program. Tag our
Graffiti Board with thoughts, ideas, and images that express your
experience throughout the event.
We have six plenaries that focus on different facets of next-level leadership
in the child support program. These are our “boss level” sessions—we’ve
brought together leading experts and thought leaders to give us big-picture
discussions about leadership, the future of the IV-D program, and the “why”
behind our work.
Our workshops offer an opportunity for leaders to take a deeper dive into
promising practices, innovative programs and partnerships, and leadership
trends. Over 30 workshops run the gamut from recruitment and retention to
child support modernization, creating training rockstars, and beyond.
We’re also excited to offer four learning labs this year. Our learning labs
are designed to put your new skills into practice. Each of these highly
interactive sessions will take you to the next level, whether it’s leading,
talking about race, empowering parents to pay, or defeating domestic
For more details on the Symposium and to register,
See y’all in Charlotte!
Phyllis Nance has 38 years of public service including 30 years in the child support
program. She is currently the Director for the Alameda County Department of Child
Support Services. She came to Alameda County in 2016 with 24 years of experience in
the Kern County Department of Child Support Services, 8 of which she served as the
Director. Phyllis has an extensive knowledge of the child support program and broad
leadership experience having served in multiple leadership roles. Phyllis has a
fundamental belief that child support creates a better life for children. She has a strong
commitment to the child support program and currently serves on the boards of NCSEA
and the California Child Support Directors Association (CSDA) as well as numerous
committees advancing the value of child support. Phyllis has a Bachelor of Science in
Organizational Management from the University of LaVerne and a Master’s Degree in
Administration from Cal State Bakersfield.
Linda Rhyne-McKinley has over 22 years in child support and is currently the Q&T
Supervisor for Mecklenburg County Child Support Services, responsible for the training
and professional development of 130+ staff members. Prior to her present role, she held
several positions in the child support profession from front line child support agent to
supervisory and managerial positions. Linda is currently on the NCSEA Board of
Directors and has served as NCSEA U Co-chair as well as several other NCSEA
committees. She is an NCSEA U alum. She is a graduate of University of North
Carla West is Senior Director for Human Services and IV-D Director for the North
Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. She is charged with integrating
and improving access to person-centered services, helping individuals and families in
North Carolina achieve self-sufficiency and improved well-being. Carla serves on the
board of the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA), a member of
the Policy Forum and CSQ committees, and is co-chair of NCSEA’s 2022 Leadership
Symposium. A past president of the Eastern Regional Interstate Child Support
Association (ERICSA), Carla is a member of ERICSA’s Honorary Board. She is an exofficio
board member of the North Carolina Child Support Council and is on the board of
the North Carolina Council for Developmental Disabilities. Carla has an M.B.A. and B.S.
in Business Management from Bellevue University. She is a firm believer in trying things
without fear of failure and strives to live a life of purpose.