Deloitte this month released a report, “Next Gen Child Support,” outlining new approaches to improving services within child support enforcement.  In particular, states are focusing on modernizing legacy IT systems to better leverage data and bring operational improvements.

The customary model of child support enforcement is no longer effective with the decline of traditional family structure, increasing incarceration rates, and continued economic hardships.  New technologies are needed to tap into data within state and local agencies–maximizing enforcement strategies.

“When Federal legislation came down and required all state systems to be on a centralized system, many states…moved to a single child support system.  All of them are in legacy technology,” said John White, the lead for National Child Support Practice at Deloitte, in an interview. “These systems have aged quite a bit…and are very inflexible to meet what states need to do.”

To move forward with getting money to families quickly and more consistently, states are looking to replace their child support systems–with 85 percent to 90 percent of states needing to do so in the next 5-8 years, at a cost of $50 million to more than $100 million.

But, this legacy modernization is necessary to support modern data analytics and take the shift from pure enforcement to providing child support services that integrate with other government programs–such as improving access to labor markets.

Margot Bean, former commissioner of the Office of Child Support Enforcement at the Department of Health and Human Services, highlighted in a recent interview, “Customer service has become a focus for child support agencies….They realize they need to meet the customer where they are and provide what they actually need.”

Under “child support 2.0,” there are five ways to use data and data analytics to improve customer service and deliver greater outcomes:

  • Predictive analytics–caseworkers receive suggested actions based on the specific needs of each case.
  • Case segmentation–agencies group cases based on key criteria and apply different remedies based on obvious variables and underlying factors.
  • Data-driven enforcement–agencies select an enforcement strategy based on what action has the greatest chance of success.
  • Smart case assignment–matching cases with caseworkers who are best-equipped to handle them based on current workload, case characteristics, and experience level.
  • Nudging for better outcomes–increasing the amount of small, inexpensive “nudges” in the form of communications to potentially avoid using more aggressive enforcement tools.

Bean outlines how Pennsylvania is using the last way, nudging for better outcomes, to vastly improve their child support outcomes. “There’s a lot of focus on text messaging in a proactive way–using analytics to predict what might happen with a case and then proactively sending a text message to nudge them to make a payment.”

Pennsylvania alone has seen a $1 million-a-month increase in child support collection using this text message “nudging” system.

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