Working with Low-Income Cases: Lessons for the Child Support Enforcement System from Parents' Fair Share. B. Redefining the Pool of Potential PFS Referrals

05/01/1998

Before the PFS Demonstration, when local staff identified an NCP on the default list with a residential address but no address for employment or other evidence of income they referred the case to the Parent Locator service (PLS), which served as the primary enforcement response for these cases. Staff would scan various databases to locate a more recent residential address or information on employment. Further, credit bureaus would be informed that the NCP had an outstanding debt. The line enforcement staff would wait for the PLS to provide further information on the case before taking any additional action.

With PFS, there was a new programmatic option for these cases. As staff sought to understand why there was such a dramatic shortfall in NCPs referred to PFS, they realized that referrals to the PLS accounted for the gap between the initial estimate of the pool of NCPs (6,000) and the 2,000 identified as potential referrals at the beginning of the demonstration. Starting approximately four months into sample intake, local staff returned to the normal CSE caseload approximately 4,800 NCPs whose cases had previously been assigned to the PLS because they lacked information on employment. As enforcement staff worked these cases to determine whether they were appropriate for PFS, many proved to have usable residential addresses and substantial numbers provided previously unreported information on employment or were referred to the PFS program.

Other refinements made in the eligibility rules did shrink the pool of potential referrals somewhat. Originally, nonpayment of support was defined as not having paid the full amount owed during the last six weeks. Soon after sample intake began, this was changed to not having paid at least 75 percent of what was owed on at least one case, and further changed over time to not having paid at least 75 percent on all cases. These restrictions on eligibility were made to avoid including NCPs with multiple cases who were meeting their obligations on some of their cases and falling behind on some. In these circumstances, local site staff thought PFS was not the best enforcement response.