Working with Low-Income Cases: Lessons for the Child Support Enforcement System from Parents' Fair Share. II. Screening Through Other Means for NCPs Appropriate for PFS


All seven PFS sites identified NCPs who were appropriate for PFS by screening NCPs who appeared for various types of CSE reviews. The mechanisms by which hearing dockets were set varied from site to site. In some sites, special support enforcement hearing dockets were established just for NCPs that local CSE staff identified as potential referrals to PFS: that is, the CP was receiving or had received AFDC, and the NCP was not making required payments on a child support order. In others, local staff routinely screened the regular paternity establishment, order setting, and support enforcement hearing dockets for NCPs appropriate for the program. Once again, the details of how this was done vary and are explained later in this report.

To assess the overall picture of NCP identification, review, and referral, staff in six sites tracked what happened to NCPs whom they initially identified as potential PFS referrals as the hearing process unfolded. Over the period in which this tracking was in place (which varied from one to six months among the sites) the basic experience was as follows:

  • Appearance rate. The rate of appearance at hearings varied widely, reflecting differences in the nature of the enforcement hearings, the accuracy of the addresses in the CSE database, the notice sent to NCPs, and local enforcement practices. Across the sites, 5 to 70 percent of NCPs initially identified by local staff as potential PFS referrals actually appeared as scheduled for the hearing. The factors influencing the appearance rate will be discussed in more detail later in this report.
  • Smokeout of previously unreported employment. Across all sites studied, about one-third of all those NCPs tracked who appeared for a hearing reported employment previously unknown to CSE staff. The rates ranged from 8 to 55 percent. CSE staff were then in a position to institute a wage-withholding order. As before, this smokeout represents an effect of the added enforcement efforts connected with PFS intake.
  • Appropriateness rate. The percentage of those NCPs appearing at the hearing who were judged appropriate by local staff for PFS ranged from 10–15 percent in two sites to over 70 percent in another. As a general rule, as sites were able to draw PFS referrals from dockets specially assembled to produce referrals to PFS, this percentage rose sharply.

This summary of the PFS intake process illustrates that the sites were able to improve their knowledge of the status of cases once they stepped out of their usual enforcement paradigm and developed methods to more effectively sort CSE cases based on NCPs’ circumstances. The next chapter presents more detail on how the sites accomplished this.