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