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Child Support Training Partnership

Allison Lasley wanted to share this email she received that might be helpful to Tribes. 




Child Support Training Partnership 




The Signs of Spring

While many parts of the country are still experiencing the effects of winter with major flooding and cool temperatures, spring has officially sprung in the northern hemisphere! Despite T.S. Eliot’s warning that “April is the cruelest month,” I am bursting with excitement at the thought of sunny skies, blooming flowers, and cracking bats (Go Cubs!). Spring is a time of renewal and hope. As a trainer, I find myself ready to explore emerging best practices and network with my fellow trainers at various spring-time events. Coming up soon is the Eastern Regional Interstate Child Support Association (ERICSA) 2019 Annual Training Conference & Exposition, which takes place May 19-23 in Niagara Falls, NY. If you’re attending, look me up. I’d love meet you! My supervisor, Kate Goudy, and I will be presenting on the partnership between Iowa State University and the Iowa Department of Human Services to provide training for Iowa’s 400+ child support workers. We’re excited to present with representatives from Penn State University, which has a similar partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. I’ll also be part of a panel discussion on best practices in e-learning. See you at the Falls!

–Paula Burns, Instructional Development Coordinator, Iowa State University/Iowa Child Support Recovery





CSTP Members Learn about Behavioral Interventions

The last CSTP conference call was held on Thursday, February 14, 2019. Presenting on the call were Veronica Riley (Assistant Director) and Mayra Canela (BICS Project Lead), both of San Joaquin County Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) in California, and Alix Haik-Bruno, Child Support Program Planner, Sacramento County DCSS. They shared insight on training child support staff to use behavioral interventions to achieve desired organizational outcomes. Approximately 35 people, representing 20 state, tribal, and national organizations, participated in the call. To watch a video recording of the February call, visit the CSTP page on the Iowa State University Child Welfare Research and Training Project website. It will be available shortly. The next conference call is scheduled for Thursday, May 16, 1:00 p.m. Central time.* Topics of discussion will include succession planning and text messaging. Check your email for meeting details.

*Note the change in start time–we’re experimenting with an afternoon call to accommodate more West coast members.





Idaho CSS Migrates Off the Mainframe

Idaho’s Child Support Services (CSS) recently migrated off a mainframe platform onto a web-based platform. The mainframe system was difficult to maintain and prevented CSS from modernizing and innovating its systems. The migration was the first phase of a three-year project and was completed in late 2017. The project is scheduled through June 2019, and the ongoing focus now lies in modernizing the user interface. In early 2018, CSS released the first piece of the modernized user interface known as Nexi. Nexi is far more intuitive than a mainframe system and better supports staff in serving Idaho families more accurately and efficiently.   

In addition to the automation work, CSS has implemented significant organizational and process changes. CSS removed a vendor-operated call center, making caseworkers the customer’s first point of contact. We also transitioned from a workforce consisting of numerous specialized units to a more universal workforce consisting primarily of generalists trained to provide service on most customer issues. All of this, and many more things, presented interesting challenges for the program. The dependencies between automation, process, training, and operation units meant delays or problems in one area created a chain effect on all other areas. That’s nothing new to any program, but the volume, pace, and scope of the changes required as much effort from all areas as this program has seen in many years.

Despite the challenges, I’m happy to say we have begun to realize our goals, and the effort will pay off for the benefit of our customers.

–Rob Rinard, Bureau Chief, Idaho Child Support Programs





Recap: 2019 NCSEA Policy Forum

This 2019 National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) Policy Forum “Lifting Families Out of Poverty” was held February 7-9 in Washington, D.C. This year’s forum focused on the various ways child support programs impact families living in poverty, policies that help the program reach more families, and national trends for better supporting families and lifting children out of poverty more effectively. A few common themes throughout the forum were the need to use technology to communicate and interact with customers and utilizing a case management or navigator approach with child support customers by building relationships with customers, community organizations, schools, child welfare agencies, and employers to guide customers to specific services.

According to Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) Commissioner Scott Lekan, as technology advances and millennials become involved with child support programs, the need to utilize technology such as electronic communication and text messaging to communicate with customers is increasing. Forum participants were encouraged to think creatively to develop policies and procedures designed to reach customers in the mobile world. Iowa CSRU is currently researching several initiatives related to customer communication including email and text messaging alerts, so stay tuned for more information.

–Stephanie Reynolds, Policy Unit Manager, Iowa Department of Human Services, Child Support Recovery Unit




The Impact of New Tax Law on Child Support

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017, has spawned changes that impact child support. The following areas are among those impacted:

  • Offsets. Recent reports indicate there is a double-digit decrease in both the amount and percentage of filers receiving federal tax refunds for the tax year ending December 31, 2018. If these statistics continue to hold true, the use of offsets to collect delinquent child support obligations may be negatively impacted.
  • Spousal support. Effective January 1, 2019, a spousal support obligor can no longer deduct spousal support paid, and a spousal support recipient is not required to report spousal support received as income. Depending on the state, this may impact the relative incomes of both the obligor and obligee for child support calculations. Spousal support orders entered before January 1, 2019, are “grandfathered” in so the payor may continue to deduct spousal support payments and the recipient should report these payments as income.
  • Exemptions. In past dissolution cases, the parties often “split” or “alternated” exemptions for the children; in some cases, the obligor claimed all of the exemptions.The TCJA has eliminated these exemptions and thus may impact the parties’ respective incomes and child support calculations.

The changes stemming from this tax law directly impact both child support customers and child support workers—the people we train. Under the TCJA, staff can expect an increase in calls about tax offsets from both obligors and obligees. For example, obligees may discover the annual lump-sum payment toward their arrears balance has significantly decreased or they may no longer receive it. Conversely, obligors expecting a larger tax refund to “pay down” their arrears may find they owe significantly more to child support. Either way, it’s important to prepare staff to handle the influx of calls and questions.

The first step is to train staff on the tax law changes and their potential impact on customers. Second, arm your staff with customer service tools to guide customers through these challenges. Below you’ll find some customer service suggestions that might decrease the odds of customers becoming upset or confused and might minimize call-backs and escalations.

  1. Listen: Train staff to always listen to the customer first. If possible, staff should do this before locating the customer in their system. That way, their sole focus can be on the reason for the call—rather than on distracting information they find in the system.
  2. Acknowledge: After listening to the customer, staff should acknowledge the reason for the call or the reason the customer was upset. Often customers escalate a situation if they feel they’re not being heard or the reason for the call is not acknowledged.
  3. Avoid jargon: It can be easy when talking about tax offsets to use phrases such as injured spouse or affidavit and waiver. Staff should keep in mind, however, that customers don’t always understand this language and are more likely to call back if they don’t comprehend what staff have told them. Train staff to use clear language when discussing how changes to the TCJA may impact customers directly and listen for acknowledgements of understanding from customers.
  4. Prepare: Train staff to set customer expectations about what will happen next. If the customer needs to take action to proceed, staff should be clear on that. If the customer does not need to take any action, staff need to be clear on that as well, but they should also inform customers about what to expect next. If customers are not sure when their tax offset will apply or when their tax offset funds will be released, they will unquestionably call back within a week to discuss the same thing.

Changes to the tax law will undoubtedly impact child support services—whether those effects result from reduced tax offsets, high arrears balances, or efforts to create child support orders that use the most accurate income information possible. Training staff to focus on positive customer service can help your agency steer clear of providing professional tax advice while preparing your customers for what will happen next.

–Jalynn Almond, Legal Consultant, Iowa State University/Iowa Child Support Recovery Unit
Charley Barlow, Welfare Training Specialist, Bureau of Operations Design, Idaho Department of Health & Welfare










Training Evaluation

In Michigan, our program has been putting a lot of focus on making more data-driven decisions. I’ve been thinking a lot about how that relates to our work as trainers. One way is to support the front-line child support workers by giving them the right tools (such as reports) and giving them the support they need to use those tools effectively. Workers need to be able to interpret the information and take appropriate action on what the data is telling them. Another way is to “walk the walk” and work with data for our own decision making, too.


To that end, I’ve been working on increasing our level of training evaluation to get more data to see how effective our training is at changing behaviors. The idea to evaluate isn’t new, but I’m sure many of us struggle to put in the time to do a full evaluation.


We recently re-trained all of our Case Intake staff due to feedback about inconsistency. Now we’re kicking off a project to do some deeper analysis of that refresher training to see how effective we were as trainers. We have the support of that unit’s management to let us dive in. If you aren’t already familiar, here’s a quick crash course in the Kirkpatrick model of training evaluation:


Level 1: Reaction – essentially, how did they feel about the training? Did they like the room, the instructors, the donuts?
Level 2: Learning – did they learn what they were supposed to? This is usually evaluated with a test or demonstration of a skill.
Level 3: Behavior – did they transfer what they learned to a behavior change back at their job? This is usually evaluated by observation, 3-6 months after the training.
Level 4: Results – the impact the training had on the business (more of a group roll-up, rather than at an individual level); this may be evaluated through performance data, audit results, etc.
We’ve been doing only Level 1 evaluations on all our classes for many years now. Hopefully, my crash course has shown you that doesn’t really tell us if people *learned* something. Because we know that the Case Intake staff have their own performance data they’ve been using, we have a great opportunity with the refresher training to try out some evaluation techniques to verify the staff learned what they were supposed to and have adopted what they learned back on the job and to see how their performance changes (hopefully better!!) after the training. We’re going to use a few different techniques to get the data:
Level 1: We’ll continue to collect reaction surveys in our LMS – we collected these in the refresher training.
Level 2: Normally, this would be done in class with some quizzes; however, we’re going to send out some post-class quizzes to test them and give them a chance to practice recalling the information. 
Level 3: We plan to survey the class participants and the supervisors in the unit about changes they adopted. We’re also querying the child support system to look for specific changes in how the Case Intake team is using the system.
Level 4: We will compare before and after performance data trends.
Once we have the data, we can look at our training techniques and see what did/didn’t work. We will use this information to make decisions on how to design and deliver training in the future. We’re excited to get some data to help us improve our effectiveness!

–Kirsten Thompson, Training Manager, Michigan Office of Child Support





Creating and Hosting Training Videos

Video is one of the most popular ways to deliver and consume content online. Thanks to social media, staff are already used to watching and sharing short, informal videos. That means trainers, instructional designers, and anyone else tasked with training staff should be using videos as part of their e-learning toolkit. How does your organization build and host training videos, especially given firewall limitations and other technological roadblocks? We’d love to hear more! Feel free to comment in the CSTP online forum. Or, even better, let us know if you’d like to present on this topic during an upcoming conference call or write about it for the newsletter. If interested, please contact Jalynn Almond.




CSTP is looking for volunteers to present on upcoming conference calls or to contribute to our new quarterly newsletter. If you’re interested in either of these opportunities or would like to get involved with CSTP in other ways, please contact Jalynn Almond










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Jalynn Almond and Paula Burns

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