Problem Defined




A brief report and recommendations for statewide automation of CSE in California

A National Tragedy

Fast Facts:

bullet87% of eligible children in California, get no support (Over 3,000,000 kids)
bullet86% of families needing child support are headed by women
bulletThe stereotype of the deadbeat dad being unemployed or in jail is a myth
bulletLess than 2% of dads are in jail
bulletThe median income for non-custodial fathers is over $30,000 per year
bulletApproximately, 10 billion is owed to children in California alone.
bulletCalifornia is paying 100 million in penalties per year for not having a Statewide child support system.

This is a system that is pleading to get done by IT professionals with proper motivation and skill in the use of 21st Century tools.  Locating anyone (i.e. non-custodial parent) is simple today compared to just a couple of years ago. The application of current IT techniques can make an enormous difference in the effectiveness of the CSE program and still enable the developer to earn a living.   Information-Age tools will greatly improve CSE performance and at the same time reduce costs. This kind of improvement has become fundamental to the "friction free" economy that is powered by Internet and E-Commerce technology.

Background and Perspective

bulletCSE was established in 1975 with an amendment to the Social Security Act.
bulletThe 1988 Family Support Act required statewide systems by 1995, which was extended to 1997.
bulletMore than two billion has been spent in developing these systems to date.
bulletCalifornia and six other states still do not have statewide systems and are paying penalties
bulletThe big players in Information Technology have moved into welfare systems because it is the last of the major government funded areas.  Aircraft/Aerospace and federal programs are winding down; the remaining big government programs involve Human Services.

Potential Risks as the boundaries between public and private services go away

bulletApproximately fifteen states have partially "privatized " Welfare and Child Support
bulletThis is risky in the Health and Human Services area because the "for-profit" motivation can easily put the emphasis in the wrong places; for example, it can be more profitable to close a case than to service the case.

There was a valid reason for the establishment of the Merit/Civil Service system a hundred years ago. There is also a valid reason that it is difficult to discharge a Civil Service employee (except for cause).  The reason is so that they are insulated from and immune to, improper, unethical or political pressures.   Similarly, there is a reason for the elaborate public-sector competitive bidding process.   When properly used, it is free from corruption, favoritism or political pressure.  These issues notwithstanding, there is still enormous opportunity for developers to provide Civil Service staff with E-Government tools and business process innovations to more effectively perform human services functions.  The best model, therefore, is a Public/Private partnership.

A few items about some of the major developers:

bulletMaximus:  Reported to be the largest vendor specializing in welfare systems
bulletLockheed-Martin Information Management Systems (IMS):
bulletBegan developing welfare systems about ten years ago
bulletGovernment Services is the fastest growing Division in IMS
bulletCollects approximately 11% of CSE payments nationwide
bulletAnderson Consulting:
bulletHas an eChild Support front-end that can easily be added to legacy systems
bulletHas CSE systems operating in New Mexico, Tennessee, Wyoming, Maryland, Texas, Arizona, and Guam
bulletElectronic Data Systems (EDS):
bulletEvery function or service starts with an "e"
bulletFeatures the Case Data System originated in California
bulletDeloitte Consulting:
bulletHas a system in Oklahoma called, Statewide, Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS). This is a Federal program intended for all states.
bulletHas a major project in LA County, California, involving Public Assistance
bulletAmerican Management Systems (AMS): in several states
bulletUnisys: in several states and has twenty years of experience

Some of the current system improvements:

bulletMost states have or will soon have, call taking centers.  Responding to calls is the primary drain on Caseworker time.
bulletThirteen states have some form of E-Gov/self service front-end that provides 24/7/365 service. 

Federal CSE Incentives

The Feds pay 66% of CSE costs and incentive payments above that based on State performance. The formula for incentives is being revised this year as follows:

Incentives are awarded based on points earned in five areas:

bulletPaternity establishment percentage (PEP)
bulletSupport orders established
bulletCollections on current orders
bulletCollections on past orders
bulletCost effectiveness

The formulation is very complicated; however, understandable:

bulletA percentage of effectiveness is determined for each of the five categories
bulletThis percentage is multiplied by a weighted factor
bulletThis derived percentage is multiplied by the states potential collection base (also weighted)
bulletAdd the results in all five categories to reach a factor for the state
bulletThe factors for all states are added together to form the national total
bulletThe states' percentage of the national total is multiplied by the incentive pool  (422 million) to determine the states' incentive amount.


A new conceptual system and business process recommendations

A new and federally certifiable; system is well understood and relatively easy to integrate from existing software and E-Government add-ons.  It is the new business processes that must be BOLD and INNOVATIVE.

Several existing systems work fine and only need the E-Government front-end and current tools and techniques for searching disparate databases.

Adding the E-Gov. front-end will put the new economy to work:

bulletImproves performance of limited staff
bulletProvides full service 24/7/365
bulletKeeps parents informed on-line and through email
bulletProvides a window into existing systems
bulletExtends the life of legacy systems
bulletFrees caseworker time for critical tasks
bulletMakes all resources more efficient

The critical systems and business strategy is to maximize incentive income from the Federal Government to the State, County and caseworker. This strategy will maximize Child Support benefits and minimize costs per dollar collected and distributed.

The E-Gov front-end is easy to install today.  This concept involves adding Internet tools to provide comprehensive self-service information and the ability to apply for services and modify personal data on-line without caseworker intervention.

A winning scenario could be as follows:

bulletAdd Internet tools and techniques to the CSE System
bulletEstablish the "Virtual" Call taking office.  Put moms to work as call takers from home or office.  Provide appropriate computing and communications tools.
bulletEstablish daycare centers at offices to increase the possibilities for moms to become caseworkers.   
bulletLet the caseworkers work at night if that is better for them.  Searching, locating and interfacing with a couple thousand databases across the country would probably be more efficient at night.
bulletEstablish a bonus and incentive pay program for caseworkers based on the Federal incentives

This is not as impractical as it may seem:

bulletSan Mateo County California, already outstations caseworkers to improve service and performance
bulletThe State of Utah already has a comprehensive telecommuting policy and allows Human Services staff to work form home with State equipment.
bulletWashington County, Maryland already provides bonuses based on performance measures.

Other recommendations:

bulletIf this is a vendor developed system, my recommendation would be to give the Child Support Enforcement software to states in return for quarterly payments based on incentives similar to the Federal formulation.  
bullet If this is a state developed system, I would recommend giving the software to other states and charge for installation and support.  
bullet I would also recommend giving the District Attorneys a Case Management System in return for payments based on use and reduced payments for priority response on orders for paternity evaluation and support awards. 
bullet I would further recommend giving the Courts a case management system in return for payments based on use and reduced payments for rapid response on Child Support Enforcement. (These systems already exist; developed with Internet Architecture)

In my thirty years of developing systems; I have never seen a system that was more important or more urgently needed than Child Support Enforcement and yet, with current tools and techniques, it is well understood and relatively easy to deploy.

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