Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. As the Deputy
Director of the Office of Child Support Enforcement, I am pleased to appear
before you today to talk about the child support enforcement provisions in the
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Child
support is a critical component in ensuring economic security for millions of
single-parent families and I appreciate this Committee's efforts to strengthen
the program by including the child support enforcement measures President
Clinton proposed two years ago in this bill.
As President Clinton said when he signed the welfare reform bill, these
Child Support Enforcement provisions "will help dramatically to reduce welfare,
increase independence, and reinforce parental responsibility." These
comprehensive reforms will ensure that parents are located to support their
children, paternity is established when necessary, and child support orders are
enforced. over the next 10 years, these measures could increase child support
collections by $24 billion and reduce federal welfare costs by $4 billion.
Under the PRWORA,. a case registry and new hire directory will be
established in every State, with a centralized case registry and national new
hire database maintained at the Federal level. States will be given access to
motor vehicle and law enforcement data to locate parents. Child support
agencies will have legal authority to order Paternity testing and State laws
must ensure that the results are admissible as evidence of paternity. Every
State will be able to suspend the drivers, and professional licenses of parents
who do not support their children, and the passports of non-paying parents also
will be withheld.
While we have made great strides over the last several years in improving
child support, it was clear that much more still needed to be done, including
addressing jurisdictional issues with tribal governments and issues involving
interstate and international cases. The efforts of President Clinton and the
Congress in child support have begun to have a positive impact. Collections
have increased 40 percent since President Clinton took office and totaled $11
billion in FY 1995. Paternities established have also increased about 40
percent to a total of 735,000 last year, including voluntary in- hospital
paternity establishments under the requirements of the Omnibus Budget
Reconciliation Act of 1993. The new child support provisions will offer even
I would like to briefly share with you what we are doing to implement our
child support enforcement responsibilities under welfare reform. Then I will
focus my testimony on State Child Support Enforcement (CSE) automated systems
and program' incentive funding, the areas in which I understand the Committee is
OCSE's Welfare Reform Implementation Strategy
First, February 17, 1995, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12953,
which declared that Federal agencies would be model employers and process child
support wage withholding orders according to the same standards that private
employers were held to, laying the foundation for related statutory changes in
PRWORA. A training and outreach effort was directed at our sister agencies to
familiarize them with the Executive Order and prepare them for automated
matching scheduled in the near future.
We welcome the child support provisions of welfare reform and we are
committed to their timely implementation. Since many of the provisions, like
license revocation, new hire reporting, and bank matching, are based on
successful State practices, our job is made easier. In addition, recognizing
the similarity of child support provisions contained in various legislative
proposals, we began to work on numerous initiatives to plan for implementation
of the anticipated requirements.
In the Spring of this year, President Clinton directed that further actions
be taken to lay the groundwork for welfare reform. This included a pilot of a
national new hire program.
The pilot is currently underway and matches have already been made of data
from 17 States against lists of non-paying parents. Over 60,000 cases have been
matched and forwarded to the appropriate State. Over 30,000 of these matches
were AFDC cases. We are very excited by these results, - as well as by the
information we are gaining which will help guide our efforts to develop the
national program required by the statute.
Many Federal-State Welfare Reform workgroups have been formed and have
accomplished much preliminary planning for implementing the new law, such as a
complete review of regulations, new hire reporting system design, helping States
with enactment of needed legislation, and preparing the way for nationwide
implementation of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.
We have also undertaken initiatives that focus on challenging areas such as
enforcing child support against members of the armed forces, and in cases
involving other countries and American Indian tribal jurisdictions. Staff have
been assigned to assist States with interstate, international, military,
criminal non-support, and Indian tribal cases. These areas are now benefitting
from the focused attention and coordinating role of Federal staff. Federal
staff are providing technical assistance and training, and knowledge about
effective practices to States. Implementation of related provisions in the
statute will be smoother as a result of these activities.
In addition, a new State and Local Assistance Division has been formed to
focus Federal staff resources on helping States and local jurisdictions assess
problem areas and identify resources to enhance their efficiency and
effectiveness. Federal-State workgroups on training and technical assistance
have been working in partnership to better match Federal resources with State
needs. This division will provide planning assistance and act as a
clearing-house for best practices and new techniques in child support
State Child Support Enforcement Automated Systems
Automated systems are integral to the efficiency and effectiveness of the
nation's Child Support Enforcement program. Technology allows us to complete
millions of transactions involving tracking, case processing and collection with
speed and accuracy, freeing staff to focus on hard-to-collect cases. Automated
systems are designed to allow the child support program to keep pace with
increasing caseloads and limited government resources.
We have made a sizable investment in the automation of State Child Support
Enforcement programs. Over the last 10 years, the Federal Government has
provided states with $1 billion in enhanced funding for automated systems,
representing 5 percent of total child support expenditures. This investment has
already made a difference. More than 40 jurisdictions have statewide automated
CSE systems that are being used in day-to-day child support operations. While
only 10 of these States' systems have been "certified" as meeting all of the
automation requirements called for in the Family Support Act of 1988, all are
providing critical services to States.
State child support programs have been transformed by automation efforts.
Many States started from ground zero, where caseworkers didn't even have access
to computers or networks to link county programs throughout the State. In
States with county-operated programs, there often was no standardization of
child support program and policies. Prior to automation requirements, case
files were often buried in dusty county courthouse basements and if someone had
to work on a case, he/she had to manually retrieve the case file.
Automation efforts began in earnest from 1981 through 1988, when the Federal
government provided enhanced funding for States to develop systems to improve
the child support enforcement program. The Family Support Act of 1988.mandated
much more complex and comprehensive automated systems. These systems needed to
meet all federal requirement by October 1,1995, including incorporating all IV-D
cases in the state and training all workers to use the system. Many of the
problems encountered were associated with converting paper child support files
to an automated format. This costly and time-consuming conversion process
required file review, research, and data collection; it often involved tracking
down court files and reconciling and updating financial and arrearage data.
Much of the effort was in ensuring consistent and standardized child support
procedures within a State.
The Family Support Act requirements have brought us to the point where child
support workers have computers on their desks and cases have been converted to
an electronic format. These systems provide the foundation for meeting the
reforms of the new law. The additional time congress provided in the recent
extension of the Family Support Act certification deadline to October 1, 1997,
is allowing States to conduct critical testing, piloting, training of staff, and
conversion of cases.
As I indicated, the system enhancements called for in the Personal
Responsibility and work Opportunity Reconciliation Act build on the assumption
that States have already completed the work of creating a computer
infrastructure and the conversion of paper files to an automated database. The
investment of additional enhanced funding is critical to allowing all States to
move to the next level of automation, including centralized child support
collections and disbursement. This will enable States to use technology more
effectively, to monitor cases more efficiently, and to do proactive matching of
entire caseloads for location, establishment, and collection.
In short, the next steps of automation provided in welfare reform are mass
case processing and administrative enforcement remedies -- thus freeing the
caseworker from handling the routine cases and allowing her/him to tackle the
most difficult cases. Computer matches can be run at night against other State
records, such as unemployment compensation, workers, compensation and other
State benefits, as well as financial institution records and new hire data. The
system will generate the matches and automatically print out the attachments or
wage garnishments to be mailed in the morning. As we continue to work with
States to improve their systems, we will also focus on privacy concerns
associated with these types of activities.
Centralized collection and disbursement capabilities mandated in the new law
will also allow States to make use of economies of scale and modern technology
found in many businesses --such as high speed check processing equipment,
automated mail and postal procedures, and automated billing and statement
Finally, with the introduction of a potentially greater tribal role in the
child support enforcement program, we are aware of the special needs of tribes
related to automation. We will work closely with tribes wishing to take
advantage of the new authority in their planning for automated child support
I will now turn to the second issue the Committee has expressed an interest
in discussing: incentive financing.
Program Incentive Funding
The PRWORA seeks to change the current system of incentive funding to States
which is based on maximizing current year child support collections (especially
those for welfare cases), while restraining administrative costs. There is no
disagreement that the current system does not create a significant incentive for
long-term investment necessary for the achievement of program goals and is in
need of improvement.
Under current law, a minimum incentive payment is made to all States,
regardless of whether performance is good or poor. States can run inefficient
programs and still make a profit. An improved results-based incentive system,
like that envisioned in the legislation, would take into account other
measurable program results such as paternity establishment, order establishment,
collections and cost efficiency. A better incentive system might also reward
the States with the best arid most improved performance in these areas.
The PRWORA requires that we work with the States to develop a new incentive
funding structure that rewards results and to submit a report to Congress by
March 1, 1997. This does not allow much time, but I am happy to report on the
success we have had in laying the foundation by reviewing measures that might be
used in changing the incentive payment system.
As you are aware, OCSE was designated as a pilot for the Government
Performance and Results Act of 1993. OCSE is just finishing up the two year
pilot phase of its implementation of GPRA and is reviewing with the Executive
Branch the successes and problems associated with that effort. During the pilot
we have been working with States to look at many issues, including;
- A National Strategic Plan with a mission, vision, goals and objectives.
- Some options for outcome measures for Strategic Plan goals and objectives
so that progress can be tracked.
- 35 States have entered into partnership agreements with ACF Regional
Offices that detail performance goals, technical assistance initiatives, and a
shared commitment to working together.
- OCSE and the association of State child support program directors are, as
I speak, drafting an outline for a partnership agreement that will emphasize
communication, joint planning, and co- responsibility for improving America's
child support enforcement program.
These activities have provided the building blocks to move to a more
results-oriented management of the national child support enforcement program.
A Performance Measures Workgroup was formed with representatives from HHS
central and Regional offices and State and local child support agencies. During
the past 18 months this workgroup has met six times and drafted and redrafted
proposed outcome measures, which are still under review. During drafting, the
workgroup was mindful of pending welfare reform legislation and hoped its work
would be useful in identifying changes to the incentive funding system.
We are now coordinating a group of State and Federal partners to develop a
proposed incentive funding system for the report to Congress. We are already in
agreement that some key indicators from the outcome measures developed for the
Strategic Plan will be reviewed for potential use in a new incentive funding
formula. I am confident that with the progress we have made together, we will
be able to offer to the Congress our vision of a results-oriented incentive
funding system by March 1, 1997, that does not increase incentive payment
outlays, as required by the statute.
We are committed to working with our State and local partners to improve
their programs and to ensure that we will witness the anticipated benefits of
the new legislation.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, let me restate three key points:
- Efforts to implement the child support provisions of PRWORA began long
ago, with State and Federal partners working closely on a number of fronts
including new hire reporting, enactment of State legislation, and regulatory
- The Federal investment in St-ate child support automated systems is paying
off. States, are benefitting greatly and moving towards federal certification
of their systems.
- OCSE and its State partners are working to develop a new incentive funding
system that will move the national child support enforcement program to results
oriented management by rewarding performance.
Again, I want to thank this Committee for giving me the opportunity to
testify today, and look forward to working closely with this Committee in the
future as we implement these critical changes to the child support program. I
would be happy to answer any questions you may have at this time.