Working with Low-Income Cases: Lessons for the Child Support Enforcement System from Parents' Fair Share. B. Special Methods Developed to Identify Cases for Possible PFS Referral

05/01/1998

Exhibit 5 summarizes the methods used in each site to identify potential PFS referrals. In two of the PFS sites (Duval and Hampden counties), local staff reviewed the court dockets set through normal procedures to identify potential referrals. Because the NCPs who are potential PFS referrals are often seen as having little capacity to pay support in the short run, they are often a low priority for CSE workers and relatively few appear on court or other review hearing dockets. Hence, relying solely on existing practice for potential program referrals limits the scale and impact of the program.

Exhibit 5

Process for Identifying Potential Referrals to PFS

Site

Process

Duval County, FL (Jacksonville)

PFS staff reviewed court contempt hearing dockets developed by CSE staff to identify welfare-related cases in which NCPs had orders, had not paid their obligation, and there was no evidence of employment. When NCPs appeared, they completed forms asking if they were working. If not, PFS staff person recommended them for possible referral to PFS. No special outreach or court dockets for likely referrals was instituted.

Hampden County, MA (Springfield)

State emphasis on establishing new paternities and orders meant that approximately 85 percent of cases heard in court were new paternities, so these were major source of potential PFS referrals. CSE staff reviewed court dockets prior to hearing and identified welfare-related cases where NCPs were likely referrals. When NCPs appeared they were asked if they had means to pay child support. If not, they were identified as potential referrals to PFS. Efforts to generate a list of welfare-related cases with existing orders where NCPs were not paying and allocate a portion of court docket to these cases did not produce many referrals.

Kent County, MI (Grand Rapids)

PFS and CSE staff reviewed special lists of potential referrals to program randomly drawn from caseload, identified those employed by checking wage reports and took action to institute wage-withholding, identified others who appeared inappropriate for other reasons (for example, incarcerated or living outside jurisdiction), and notified remaining NCPs that they should appear at Friend of the Court for an appointment about their case status. In addition, staff reviewed status of NCPs attending conciliation meetings and administrative, contempt, and arraignment hearings to identify potential referrals. Also, they attempted to locate potential referrals by tracking births in hospitals where medical expenses were covered by Medicaid.

Los Angeles County, CA (Los Angeles)

CSE staff prepared specially run lists of welfare-related cases in which NCPs were not meeting their support obligations and mailed a notice to these NCPs urging attendance at a group hearing to determine eligibility for PFS. Hearings were set to come shortly before start of a PFS service cycle in one of six different offices around county offering PFS services. NCPs who were called to attend a hearing lived near service center about to begin a cycle. Follow-up letters were sent if NCPs did not appear. CSE staff also screened cases on paternity and order modification hearing dockets for potential PFS eligibility.

Mercer County, NJ (Trenton)

 

Local County Board of Social Services staff reviewed paternity and order establishment hearing dockets for welfare-related cases in which NCPs were potential referrals to PFS. In addition, Probation Department enforcement staff reviewed their caseloads for potential referrals and a specially dedicated PFS enforcement worker supplemented review efforts of normal enforcement staff. When potential referrals to PFS were identified, they were scheduled for a court hearing, called a motion to enforce litigant rights. When they appeared, NCPs were screened for PFS eligibility.

Montgomery County, OH (Dayton)

CSE staff reviewed special lists of potential referrals to program randomly drawn from caseload, identified those employed by checking wage reports and took action to institute wage-withholding, identified others who appeared inappropriate for other reasons, and notified remaining NCPs that they should appear for a review hearing to determine their eligibility for PFS. CSE staff also reviewed monthly lists of NCPs not meeting their obligations to identify potential referrals to program, and these NCPs were also notified that they should attend a review hearing. Prosecuting attorneys also reviewed NCPs appearing in contested paternity, support, or contempt hearings for possible PFS referrals.

Shelby County, TN (Memphis)

CSE staff reviewed special lists of potential referrals to program randomly drawn from caseload, identified those employed by checking wage reports and took action to institute wage-withholding, identified others who appeared inappropriate for other reasons, and notified remaining NCPs that they should appear for a court hearing. Efforts to work this list produced fewer PFS referrals than in Michigan or Ohio, in part because many addresses of NCPs on list were not current and location was difficult. In addition, CSE staff reviewed special lists of welfare-related cases with no recent payments, lists of NCPs about to exhaust unemployment insurance benefits, and lists of new welfare-related CSE cases to identify potential referrals to PFS and schedule them for court hearings. Finally, CSE staff reviewed the contempt hearing dockets (largely made up of cases in which CP filed a complaint) and paternity establishment dockets to identify potential PFS referrals. CSE and PFS staff interviewed those NCPs who appeared at hearing to determine eligibility.

In the remaining five PFS sites, special outreach efforts were made to increase the flow of potential PFS referrals. These efforts included:

  1. Conducting special reviews of cases on the existing caseload to identify NCPs with orders who appear to meet the PFS eligibility rules and scheduling them for individual hearings at which eligibility could be determined. This was done in Mercer and Montgomery counties, for example, where designated staff coordinated the efforts of other frontline staff with caseloads of NCPs and conducted reviews themselves of the entire caseload.
  2. Reviewing other lists in search of potential referrals. Examples included new referrals from the welfare agency to the CSE agency of families receiving public assistance, listings of individuals about to exhaust unemployment insurance benefits, and Medicaid-supported births in local hospitals. One site also retrieved several thousand cases from a special PLS caseload, cases that had an address but no information on employment and had been sent to the PLS to determine if any current job could be found. These tactics were used most extensively in Kent, Montgomery, and Shelby counties.
  3. Developing hearing procedures to review the status of large numbers of NCPs on the caseload. Mass hearings of cases for NCPs who appeared to be potential referrals proved to be the most effective and efficient way to identify large numbers of parents in need of program services. This was done in two ways. In Kent, Montgomery, and Shelby counties, MDRC worked with the sites to produce randomly drawn lists of NCPs with orders who appeared to fit PFS eligibility rules; and local CSE and PFS staff worked to determine if they were really potential referrals to PFS and to get appropriate NCPs to a hearing where their eligibility for the program could be determined. In Kent and Montgomery counties this approach produced a substantial portion of the sample. In Los Angeles, local CSE staff on their own developed similar lists of NCPs who were sent letters telling them to appear at a specially scheduled mass hearing for possible referral to the program. The hearings produced the vast majority of NCP referrals. In the course of conducting these large-scale reviews, substantial smokeout of previously unreported employment also occurred, as discussed more fully in a later section of this report.