Shifting the Focus of State Child Case Workers to High Value Activities
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Enforcement and collections are critical activities within any child support program. In Texas, local child support case workers focus more of their time and attention on activities that benefit from their expertise. The state accomplished this by creating a centralized operation for more time-consuming administrative functions, including:
- Mail and electronic file processing
- New hire reporting
- Technical support and customer service for employers
The scale of the administrative burden shifted away from local case workers is considerable. Each quarter, Texas processes more than 475,000 child support forms and letters, processes more than 1.3 million new hire reports, and handles more than 4,700 employer e-mails and calls. Centralization clearly has paid off – for children, their families and the state. It has increased operational and cost efficiencies, improved customer service and accuracy, and most importantly, helped children and families maintain financial stability. As a result, Texas has been the number one state nationwide for collections and cost effectiveness. Strong collections and performance also have enabled Texas to maximize its federal performance incentive payments, bringing Texas valuable funding for its child support program.
Benefits of Centralization
As demonstrated by Texas, integrating key administrative child support functions into one service center creates many benefits for state child support programs, including:
- Improved operational efficiencies, accuracy and customer service
- Significant cost savings and economies of scale
- Increased employer compliance
- Enhanced performance and support for children and families
Considerations for Centralization
Centralization can help states of any size achieve greater efficiencies and performance results for their child support programs. Factors to consider in determining whether centralization is right for your state include:
- Structure. How is your child support program structured? Are there redundant administrative services that each child support office provides – such as processing letters, researching incomplete forms and responding to e-mails and calls – that could be centralized into one location? How much time do your case workers spend on those administrative tasks?
- Technology. Is your state planning to upgrade its statewide child support system? If so, are there ways to automate and streamline processes, reduce the amount of paper used, and improve the collection and management of data?
- Performance. Does your child support program struggle to meet performance standards? If so, why? How does this affect your state's overall performance results and incentive payments? How much is collected for each dollar spent?
- Employers. What are the processes employers need to take to comply with the various federal reporting requirements (e.g., income withholding orders, employment and income verification, and National Medical Support Notices)? Do they find their child support reporting obligations burdensome and time-consuming? Are there ways to make this reporting simpler and less costly for them?
Centralization requires planning, but if designed properly, it can enable states to obtain additional federal funding and deliver more robust services much more cost effectively with much better results. In the end, it helps more children and families get the financial support they need.