Working with Low-Income Cases: Lessons for the Child Support Enforcement System from Parents' Fair Share. IV. The Effects on IV-D Agencies of Running PFS with an Enhanced CSE Component

05/01/1998

Ordinarily, CSE staff assign a low priority to working those cases that require great effort and do not promise a big payoff. By participating in PFS, the sites essentially had to work a group of cases that would have otherwise not received much attention, a major commitment by agency staff already burdened with large caseloads. The experience with running this enhanced CSE suggests that simplifying procedures and using PFS program staff to help move cases through the system were critical to the agencies’ capacity to handle increased workloads. Furthermore, the intensive working of the low-income caseload paid dividends in that it enabled staff to identify more quickly than they otherwise might have those NCPs who were employed and those who were inappropriate targets for enforcement. Finally, the PFS program boosted CSE staff morale because it gave a sense of political legitimacy to efforts to enforce the child support obligations of low-income NCPs by offering an alternative to incarceration or ineffectual seek-work orders.

Enhanced CSE, because it brings cases into the system that would otherwise be accorded low priority, does make more work for CSE staff, but the PFS program was able to work with the CSE agencies and the courts to mitigate some of those burdens. This cooperation was probably crucial to the sites’ success in implementing enhanced CSE. For instance, in most sites the courts agreed to block scheduling and group hearings that minimized the delay of processing more cases. In some sites, the courts agreed to less formal notice procedures that allowed hearings to be scheduled more quickly and that did not require the courts to respond with formal sanctions against those who did not respond. And most courts developed standard forms for ordering NCPs into the PFS program to minimize delays associated with paperwork.

In many ways, PFS program staff acted as an extra arm of the court to make the hearing process more efficient — for example, making home visits prior to the hearing date in order to boost show-up rates and conducting orientations for NCPs before the formal hearings so that they were prepared for what would happen, thus allowing judges and hearing officers to spend less time making sure that each NCP understood the process. Also, PFS program staff monitored the NCPs’ compliance with the court orders, so that noncompliant obligors could be selectively followed up by the courts.