Working with Low-Income Cases: Lessons for the Child Support Enforcement System from Parents' Fair Share. C. Other Features of the Intake Process


Some features of the intake process that initially were expected to be important had little effect in the final analysis, at least compared with the more systemic or macro features already discussed. Most important, efforts to fine-tune the message in the notice of the review (for example, "toughening" it by emphasizing obligations and potential sanctions and downplaying services and the opportunity afforded by PFS) appear to have made little difference in the appearance rate. For example, in Los Angeles County CSE staff began program outreach using a letter that told NCPs they had "been selected as a potential candidate" for PFS, an "exciting new program developed to assist you in becoming gainfully employed so you will be able to contribute to the support of your children." Although the final section of the letter stated clearly that this was a "mandated program" and failure to attend "may result in court action," the tone of the letter was one of opportunity and encouragement. During this early period, the appearance rate hovered just below 5 percent. With this experience, local staff decided to toughen up the letter, emphasizing the seriousness of the child support obligation and making more explicit the threat of court action (mentioning the possibility of instituting criminal contempt proceedings). Following this shift, the appearance rate moved up to between 8 and 10 percent.