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

A National Tragedy

Fast Facts:

87% of the eligible children in California, get nothing (Over 3,000,000 kids)
86% of the families needing child support are headed by women
The stereotype of the deadbeat dad being unemployed or in jail is a myth
Less than 2% of the dads are in jail
The median income for non-custodial fathers is over $30,000 per year
Approximately, 10 billion is owed to children in California alone.
California 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 provide substantial income for the developer.   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

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

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

Approximately fifteen states have at least partially "privatized " Welfare and Child Support
This is risky in the Health and Human Services area because the "for-profit" motivation can easily put the emphasis in the wrong places i.e., it is 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 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 form corruption, favoritism or political pressure.  These issues notwithstanding, there is still enormous opportunity for developers to provide Civil Service staff with E-Government tolls 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:

Maximus:  Reported to be the largest vendor specializing in welfare systems
Lockheed-Martin Information Management Systems (IMS):
Began developing welfare systems about ten years ago
Government Services is the fastest growing Division in IMS
Collects 11% of CSE payments nationwide
Anderson Consulting:
Has an eChild Support front-end that can easily be added to legacy systems
Has CSE systems operating in New Mexico, Tennessee, Wyoming, Maryland, Texas, Arizona, and Guam
Electronic Data Systems (EDS):
Every function or service starts with an "e"
Features the Case Data system originated in California
Deloitte Consulting:
Has a system in Oklahoma called, Statewide, Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS). This seems to be a Federal program intended for all states.
Has a major project in LA County, California, involving Public Assistance
American Management Systems (AMS): in several states
Unisys: in several states and has twenty years of experience

Some of the current system improvements:

Most states have or will soon have, call taking centers.  Responding to calls is the primary drain on Caseworker time.
Thirteen 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:

Paternity establishment percentage (PEP)
Support orders established
Collections on current orders
Collections on past orders
Cost effectiveness

The formulation is very complicated; however, understandable:

A percentage of effectiveness is determined for each of the five categories
This percentage is multiplied by a weighted factor
This derived percentage is multiplied by the states potential collection base (also weighted)
Add the results in all five categories to reach a factor for the state
The factors for all states are added together to form the national total
The 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:

Improves performance of limited staff
Provides full service 24/7/365
Keeps parents informed on-line and through email
Provides a window into existing systems
Extends the life of legacy systems
Frees caseworker time for critical tasks
Makes 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 and techniques 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:

(Upon first reading, this scenario will seem unlikely; however, it will become plausible by the end of the document)

Add Internet tools and techniques to the CSE System
Establish the "Virtual" Call taking office. Put the moms to work as call takers from home or or office.  Provide appropriate computing and communications tools.
Establish daycare centers at offices so moms can become caseworkers.  They are highly motivated to make the system work and their kids will be nearby and safe.
Let 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.
Establish a bonus and incentive pay program for caseworkers based on the Federal incentives

This is not as impractical as it may seem:

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

My recommendation would be to give the Child Support Enforcement software to the states in return for quarterly payments based on incentives similar to the Federal formulation.  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. 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.

See System Proposal