Executive Summary

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Child Support Enforcement

A conceptual alternative for California

Executive Summary


This document provides a conceptual alternative for a Statewide Child Support Enforcement System (CSE) in California.  The situation in California is desperate: the federal government is charging penalties of 100 million per year, 3,000,000 kids are unsupported, caseloads are heavy and outdated systems are slow and ineffective.  All counties are converting to one of four existing systems in the state in an attempt to reduce Federal penalties.  However, the federal government has refused to certify this approach or to eliminate penalties.  A new statewide system is badly needed and it must be installed and certified quickly to mitigate the problems of  under supported children and 100 million dollars per year in federal penalties.

The recommendations in this document may  appear unlikely at first; however,  the benefits are worth the changes required.  For example, the Internet Architecture will dominate systems design for the foreseeable future.  This is the architecture that has made possible the Information Economy and indeed, the Information Age.  Therefore, it seems prudent that any new statewide systems development should use the Internet Architecture and it is so recommended in this document.

There is no need to develop a new system; there are several systems across the country that function at an acceptable level.  In California, for example, the Los Angeles (LA) County system performs well and already  supports 20% of the statewide caseload.  It is therefore, clearly possible that the LA  system could be used as a base for the California system.  However, this system should be modified to run in the Internet Architecture which essentially means that an "Internet front-end" would be added to the system.  Open for consideration is that the systems modifications could be performed by the state and that the system could be run statewide from one Internet Service Provider (ISP) which could be one of the current State Data Centers.  Under this alternative all county caseworkers would work through web server sessions and Virtual Private Networks (VPN) between county facilities and the state Data Center.  This architecture would be similar to AOL or MSN with the addition of information security techniques.

It is recommended that a Statewide Disbursement Unit (SDU) be created within a State agency that currently performs such functions.  The state already has facilities and considerable experience in receiving and disbursing payments.  The Child Support requirements are demanding; however, there is no clear justification for creating a new agency to perform these functions.  

Under this alternative, no application or data base hardware or software would be installed in the counties.  Existing state and county hardware, software, networks and other facilities would be used to the greatest extent possible.  One of the many advantages of the Internet Architecture is that powerful statewide applications are executed from a single service provider and inexpensive workstations.

The LA system, for example, could be enhanced with Internet technology, installed at a Data Center, and implemented in all 58 California counties in approximately two years at a cost of 50 million dollars.  The on-going cost for maintenance and support would be 15 million dollars per year.   This design and strategy will cost a fraction of the anticipated cost of several hundred million dollars for a statewide certifiable system.  Further, this alternative would cost about half of the current 100 million dollars in annual penalties paid by the state. 

Other possible innovations defined in this document include the following:

bulletCreation of "The Information Technology Corporation of California".  This would be outside of the merit, civil-service system; but, dedicated to the State of California.  This would provide flexibility in hiring and compensation.
bulletCreation of incentive payments to state and county staff for performance
bulletInclusion of District Attorneys and Courts in the total automation strategy.
bulletAdoption of a comprehensive teleworking policy and implementation of the virtual office

We can no longer think in old models.  The time and cost for Information Age systems is about 25% of the cost of a decade ago, in spite of the fact that staff costs are escalating rapidly.  We have the power and capacity of a "mainframe" sitting on a desk for a few thousand dollars.   The powerful development tools of today make it possible for skilled staff to increase productivity ten fold.  We need to be bold and innovative and apply new strategies because the old ones have not served  the needs of Child Support..

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