By Scott Cade, regional vice president, Child Support Solutions Group, Xerox
Child support can be a social and financial hot-button. It sits at the crossroads of some of our nation’s largest debates, like, how to define a family, or even a parent. From a financial perspective, it’s a real heavyweight. According to the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), more than $33 billion in support was due to children and families served by the national child support program in 2011. Of that, though, only 63 percent was collected, leaving many children without much-needed financial support.
Looking back over the last few years, both performance of and investment in child support programs across the U.S. have remained flat. Today, jurisdictions in every corner of the country are hunting for ways to enhance their services to families without increasing overall expenditures.
So how do we go about improving child support? Organization, policy and budget decisions will always make an impact, but the creation and adoption of innovative technologies could really help us turn a corner in delivering real performance improvements. For example, data analytics creates business intelligence that can predict activity and prioritize work for child support agency staff. Document imaging and workflow management tools can provide quick, secure, auditable and defined movement of case documentation. Mobile apps, mobile web sites and text messaging offer a number of customer self-service options.
Further, social research says child outcomes are improved when both parents are actively involved in providing financial and emotional support. Considering family in a holistic way will also help us better understand the kind of support children need and how to deliver it. Most of the discussion in this area is about providing services that will increase the likelihood of financial, medical and emotional support for children – services like visitation, employment or job training for noncustodial parents, mediation, counseling and modification of court-ordered support.
Making a real difference in child support services will require a fundamental re-thinking of how they are delivered. By embracing systemic change, we can simplify, improve and cut costs for these vital programs for children throughout the country.
In addition to his work at Xerox, Scott is also the 2013-14 president of the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NSCEA) – the only national forum for all child support professionals to debate and creatively think of ways to strengthen child support programs.