CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT DIVISION
Department of Revenue

 

FY 98 Annual Report

 

Tony Knowles, Governor

Wilson Condon                                                                  Barbara Miklos
Commissioner                                                                    Director

 

 

State of Alaska
Department of Revenue
Child Support Enforcement Division

 

January 27, 1999

Dear Governor Knowles, Legislators and all Alaskans:

I am pleased to present the Alaska Child Support Enforcement Division’s Annual Report for Fiscal

Year 98. This past year has been a busy one for our division, with numerous problems to overcome but also numerous accomplishments.

First, we went on-line with a new case management computer system in March 1998. Though we had problems with the conversion, we did the job for less money and in less time than other states. While there have been trials and tribulations with the new system, we are all proud of what we have accomplished.

The federal government required child support agencies to install computer systems that could communicate with each other and national databases. The intent is to strengthen the nation’s child support collection effort. I am happy to report that CSED met the deadline for requesting a federal certification visit for the new system. Failure to meet the deadline could have resulted in the loss of millions of dollars a year in federal funding for child support services.

However, our year was not just about computers. We received three federal grants totaling $ 356,469 to help us better serve Alaskans. The grants involve: head start collaboration, automatic modification of orders and access and visitation. We have worked hard to improve customer service and rural outreach programs by reducing the hold time for callers and by sending a caseworker to rural communities at least once a month. Another important project is a joint effort with the court system to design forms so parents can file their own motions for modification of child support orders. This will allow parents to avoid the expense of a private attorney and the often time-consuming process of working through the child support division.

This report describes our accomplishments in FY98 and future milestones. We look forward to working with you as we improve our operations to help Alaska’s children.

Sincerely,

 

Barbara Miklos

Director

 

Table of Contents

Mission Statement

Introduction and Overview

Featured Projects

Customer Service

Statewide Law Enforcement Seizure Program

Grant for Access & Visitation

NSTAR

Grant for Head Start Collaboration

Rural Outreach

Grant for Review & Adjustment

Federal Case Registry

Seattle Seahawks Fatherhood Campaign

Regulations

Caseload and Cost Effectiveness

Welfare Reform

Look to the Future

Conclusion

Area Offices and Addresses

 

 

Mission Statement _________________________

The Alaska Child Support Division is committed to helping children by establishing, modifying and enforcing financial support obligations in a fair and equitable manner. We are dedicated to helping people use our services. We promote the responsibility of parents in supporting their children.

 

 

Introduction and Overview __________________

Congress established the Child Support Enforcement Program in 1975. Lawmakers realized that far too many children were suffering because their mother or father failed to make regular support payments. The new law, adopted as an amendment to the Social Security Act, required states to set up their own enforcement and collection programs. Alaska created its Child Support Enforcement Agency in 1976.

The Alaska program has grown over the years as new federal and state laws were adopted to ensure that more children receive financial support from both parents.

Pie chart showing estimated 9, 314 children served as of June 30, 1998

Number of CSED Open Cases

 

Case Type

Beginning of FY98

End of FY98

Average for FY98

Public Assistance

20,170

12,474

16,322

Non-Public Assistance

26,573

34,747

30,660

Total

46,743

47,221

46,982

 

The Alaska Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) consists of 221 employees charged with collecting parental support for tens of thousands of children. A large percent of the monies collected are paid directly to families. The rest of the collections reimburse state and federal governments for public assistance paid to custodial parents.

Child support work has changed dramatically in the past few years. Federal and state welfare reform legislation has placed new responsibilities on the division and also provided new tools for collecting child support payments. However, an unintended consequence of welfare reform has been a dramatic drop in federal funding for child support services. Federal incentive money, which is used as a match for other federal funds to run the child support division, is based on the amount of child support payments collected on public assistance cases. As the number of public assistance cases falls, so do the child support collections on those cases. This unexpected drop in federal money has hit Alaska and many other states using the incentive payments and matching funds to pay for child support services. CSED covered this shortfall in Fiscal Year 1998 by a drastic reduction in expenditures, especially personal services, and a supplemental appropriation. More budget cuts are planned and a larger supplemental appropriation is needed in Fiscal Year 1999.

Congress realized that reductions in welfare cases would create this problem for child support agencies, so they changed the incentive system. However, the changes will not be fully realized until State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2003. At that time, CSED expects to receive incentive payments at the same level as Fiscal Year 1997 (FY97), which was the highest year to date.

The problem is more than just money – it’s about providing adequate service to the public. Welfare reform legislation requires CSED to increase its collection efforts and speed up its services. These new initiatives and ever-increasing caseloads have created problems with customer service and made it difficult to adhere to federal timelines. The division is working to clear its backlog of several thousand cases in need of adjustments, credits, audits or other fixes, but the funding shortage is making it difficult to provide the service the public deserves. If the division cannot meet federal timelines for handling cases, the federal government could impose large financial penalties on its funding for Alaska’s child support services and public assistance program.

 

 

Featured Projects__________________________

Customer Service

A continuing challenge has been the wait time for callers to CSED. It’s one of the most frequent complaints by the public – and the division went looking for answers. Our efforts have been successful.

In March of 1998 the average time waiting on hold was more than 30 minutes. We have now been able to reduce the wait time substantially. Recently, the average time for callers waiting on hold was less than 10 minutes.

CSED took various steps to reduce the wait times. One strategy was to change the approach to handling calls. The phone bank now focuses on responding to those calls that can be resolved quickly. The more complicated and time-consuming calls are forwarded to caseworkers. This approach allows a greater number of callers to reach the agency. It has also reduced CSED’s phone bill by avoiding long hold times for callers to the 800 number.

Statewide Law Enforcement Seizure Program

In 1997, the Alaska Child Support Enforcement Division Investigations Unit initiated a program with the Anchorage Police Department to collect child support debt from property and funds seized from criminal suspects by Anchorage police. CSED investigators coordinated with police property section personnel to determine if property or funds held by APD belonged to parents who were delinquent in their child support payments. If the parent owed child support, CSED investigators would serve an Order to Withhold Property for Child Support on APD in accordance with Alaska Statute 25.27.250.

Due to the program’s success, other law enforcement agencies are coordinating with CSED investigators. Since the program’s inception, CSED has received 297 inquires from law enforcement agencies statewide and has found that 67 of the parents owed child support. As of early January, the program had collected more than $181,000 in child support.

No additional CSED or state money was required for the program. The program is managed as an additional duty by one CSED investigator.

Grant for Access & Visitation

CSED has transferred this grant to the Alaska Court system which has developed a pilot project called the Anchorage Custody and Visitation Mediation Program. Available since September 1998, this program provides mediation in contested family matters, including divorce and post-decree actions. It targets lower income parties with minor children particularly those not represented by an attorney. Mediation is voluntary unless there is a current domestic violence order. According to state law, mediation cannot occur when a domestic violence order exists. The program has contracted with four experienced mediators, trained in domestic violence issues, who are accepting cases. Depending on the response and success of using the program in Anchorage’s courts, preliminary plans are to expand services to the Mat-Su region.

NSTAR

The Alaska Child Support Enforcement Division started using its new computer system -- NSTAR – in March 1998. The software was designed to meet federal requirements for faster payments and increased automation of case management. The federal government is pushing states to standardize their systems to help increase child support collections among interstate cases.

The system will provide the public with:

Although CSED had problems converting to its new computer system, most of the system is working as designed and CSED is accepting electronic fund transfers from other states and sending payments electronically to the state of Washington. Direct deposits will soon be made to private accounts.

Grant for Head Start Collaboration

A three-year grant was awarded to CSED to work with state and local child-care and Head Start programs to promote and facilitate access to child support services and help develop a broader understanding of the child support and parenting issues within the different programs. The project began in April 1998 after Legislative approval.

The project goal is to increase child support collections and stimulate noncustodial parents’ involvement in the welfare of their children. Initial efforts have focused on soliciting information from Head Start programs, childcare resource and referral agencies, and nonprofit family service agencies to identify specific social and cultural impediments to seeking child support or establishing paternity.

During the coming year the program plans to:

Rural Outreach

CSED workers visit rural communities to assist residents with their child support cases as part of the division's ongoing efforts to improve public access to its services. The division’s goal is to send a staff member to at least one rural community each month. Since

March 1998, workers have visited Barrow, Noatak, Bethel, Dillingham, Kotzebue, Nome, Tok, Glennallen, Valdez, Kodiak and Fort Yukon.

By visiting villages and other rural communities, child support workers can provide better services and help parents understand their child support cases. CSED recognizes that child support cases are emotional and often complex, and personal meetings can be much more effective than long-distance phone calls or sending letters back and forth.

The division has operated a rural outreach program since 1995 but reorganized its effort this year to include several new components, including:

While the child support division increases its rural outreach effort, it continues to assist parents who are under burdensome default orders for their child support payments. CSED staff works with parents when they ask for a new child support order based on their actual earnings. The process includes canceling the old order that may have been set too high because the parent failed to provide income information at the time. CSED can also reduce child support arrears based upon the parent’s actual ability to pay.

This program was set up two years ago to establish realistic child support orders in the hundreds of cases with default orders that were not based on a parent's actual ability to pay. Since its start in fiscal year 1996, CSED has adjusted more than 194 cases and reduced arrears by over $7.9 million.

Grant for Review and Adjustment

CSED received a three-year grant to develop a computer program to automatically review child support orders for possible modifications. The overall goal of the project is to increase the efficiency and accuracy of reviews and adjustments of child support orders.

CSED currently uses information from databases and other sources to help determine the income and location of noncustodial parents. This information is not accessed until a review is initiated. This project proposes a major departure from this traditional method of accessing information by using a computer program to trigger a review as information is matched with case files on a monthly basis.

The Electronic Modifications project will automatically match new income information from numerous sources available to CSED. It will then trigger a case review and modification for any case in which the noncustodial parent’s income increased or decreased more than 15% and has not been reviewed in the past 12 months.

CSED staff began working on the project in April 1998 after the Legislature approved the state’s matching funds. An analyst/programmer was hired through the state’s Information Technology Group to develop the computer program’s general design specifications. The analyst/programmer is currently preparing the detail design document.

Federal Case Registry

The Federal Case Registry Data Exchange program registers child support cases and helps locate absent parents nationwide. Welfare reform requires all states to provide data to the registry on noncustodial parents, custodial parents and their children. The data then is made available to child support agencies in every state.

There are strict security and safety provisions governing use of the registry's information. States must identify cases where the custodial parent may be a victim of domestic violence or have a protective order against the other parent, indicating that disclosure of information could be harmful to the parent or child.

A computer programmer was hired to write the code for sending data from Alaska’s child support case system to the Federal Case Registry. When fully under way, CSED’s new computer system will allow for automated transmission and reception of data to and from the federal registry. The programming for sending data is completed and is undergoing testing.

Seattle Seahawks fatherhood campaign

Alaskans have been watching and listening to child support public service announcements with Seattle Seahawks’ defensive end Michael Sinclair and quarterback Jon Kitna and their children. Both players agreed to volunteer their time to support the TV and radio campaign that promotes responsible fatherhood.

This campaign is part of a nationwide joint venture by the states in the Pacific Northwest, the National Football League and the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. CSED distributed copies of the public service announcements – with CSED’s name and phone number -- to radio and TV stations throughout Alaska. Posters also are available to promote the campaign.

Regulations

CSED adopted revised and expanded regulations in October 1998 to clarify how the agency makes its decisions. The majority of the new regulations are found in Title 15, Chapter 125 of the Alaska Administrative Code. Some of the areas covered in the regulations are:

 

Caseload and Cost Effectiveness_____________

 

Alaska’s Child Support Enforcement Division had 47,221 cases as of June 30, 1998. There were support orders for 78% of the cases – the rest were being worked to establish paternity or obtain sufficient information to establish an order.

Table showing cases with orders as a percent of total case SFY 93 thru 98

 

Total collections in SFY 98 were $82.6 million. Collections per employee in SFY 98 were $373,000, an increase from $356,000 in FY97. Family collections are those made on behalf of those families who do not receive public assistance. Government collections represent child support made for families receiving public assistance or for children in state custody.

 Table showing family and government collections SFT 90 thru 98

 

FY98 CASELOAD DETAILS

Caseloads

Beginning of FY98

End of FY98

Average for FY98

Open cases

46,743

47,221

46,982

All Caseworkers

191

191

191

Cases per Caseworker

245

247

246

Time Available per Case*

7.5

Collections per CW

432,461

Primary Caseworkers**

128

128

128

Cases per Primary

365

369

367

Time Available per Case*

4.9

Collections per Primary

645,312

* Staff hours available, per year, to work on each case. Based on 1750 hours available per employee.
** This represents the staff who have primary responsibility for a specific caseload and work on cases: team supervisors/managers and case auditing, case accounting investigations and locate staff.

About $61 million of the collections in Fiscal Year 1998 went directly to custodial parents and their children, while CSED disbursed over $21.7 million in child support collections to the federal government, State of Alaska and other states as reimbursement for public assistance benefits paid to custodial parents and costs of children in state custody.

Table showing State Cost/Benefit - FY 93 to 99

 

 

Welfare Reform_________________________________

When Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act of 1996, it understood that children need the support of both parents as public assistance changes to meet the conditions of welfare reform. The federal law includes several requirements for states to improve their child support collections, and also provides new tools for stepping up collections. Child support payments allow many to leave public assistance and become self-sufficient.

 

Child Support Impact on Moving ATAP Recipients

off State Rolls

Federal Fiscal Year

Families Removed from ATAP due to Child Support Collections

Increase Over Prior Year

Amount of ATAP Collections Distributed

Change Over Prior Year

1991

1,322

$ 9,896,971

1992

1,422

7.6%

$ 11,115,564

12.3%

1993

1,675

17.8%

$ 11,685,877

5.1%

1994

1,894

13.1%

$ 13,592,515

16.3%

1995

2,365

24.9%

$ 16,089,782

18.4%

1996

2,448

3.5%

$ 18,363,375

14.1%

1997

2,857

16.7%

$ 20,520,560

11.7%

1998

2,470

(13.6)

$ 17,562,533

(14.4)%

Table showing Division Collections v Operating Expenditures SFY 90 to SFY 98

 

Look to the Future _________________________

Customer Service

A design team has been selected to define and develop customer service operations. The design team represents a cross section of agency staff. This team will define what "good customer service" should be for the various customers of CSED, and will develop and recommend specific ways to improve customer service in all CSED operations.

CSED staff is also continuing to revise our forms and letters to reduce customer confusion by making the material we send out easier to understand.

Accounting

A concerted effort is being made to clear up the backlog in all sections of CSED, particularly accounting. As other areas of the division become more efficient, they produce additional cases that require adjustments or audits by the accounting section. CSED has begun to analyze the accounting process to determine the best ways to accomplish tasks.

Licensing

The Child Support Enforcement Division will soon send notices to delinquent parents that they could lose their driver’s license if they do not pay their bills or work out payment plans. The program operated for a few months in 1997 but was on hold due to a court challenge. In September of 1998 the Alaska Supreme Court upheld the law in the case of State of Alaska v. Paul Beans.

Internet Web Site

The division’s web site on the Internet includes a new feature allowing the public to download child support forms to their fax machine. CSED is working on remodeling the web site. We plan to put additional information on the web site including e-mail addresses and phone numbers. We will also organize the site to make it easier to use.

Year 2000

The Child Support Enforcement Division, along with other state agencies, is working to prevent any computer problems associated with the year 2000. The contractor for the new computer system is making changes to make the system year 2000 compliant.

Pro Se Modification Packet

CSED is working with the Alaska Court System to develop a pro se packet for parents who want to file their own child support order modification requests in court. The packet will contain forms to assist the public in filing their own modification requests without necessarily employing an attorney. As part of the pro se project, a committee was formed to review practices of other states and provide recommendations.

 

New Hire

The federal welfare reform act of 1996 requires all employers to report information on their newly hired and rehired employees to designated state agencies to assist in locating parents who owe child support.

Alaska’s child support division receives reports from Alaska employers by magnetic tape, diskette, mail, telephone or fax. Employers may send a copy of their employees’ completed W-4 form to CSED. If an employer has employees in more than one state, the company can report all of its employee information to one state, which will then share the information through the federal network. Using the new-hire reports, CSED matches the information against its records to locate missing parents, establish orders or enforce existing orders.

The program is not fully under way in Alaska. During the coming year, CSED plans to increase the number of employers participating in the program and automate many of the reporting and matching functions. To help meet this objective, CSED plans to conduct a media campaign to inform Alaska employers of the requirement to submit lists of new hires to CSED. We anticipate printing and distributing brochures to employers. Meetings will be held with various groups to present the new-hire information and answer questions.

Distribution

Welfare reform altered how child support is to be distributed in public assistance cases. Some of the factors that affect distribution are whether the family is receiving public assistance and the date any child support arrears were assigned to the state. Before

October 1, 1997, a custodial parent’s assignment of child support payments to the state was considered permanent. The assignment was intended to help repay the state and federal government for public assistance benefits. After October 1, 1997, the assignments are only temporary while the parent received public assistance. Other factors will come into consideration on October 1, 2000. Distribution is becoming much more complicated and CSED must contract for the design and development of a computer system to automate this process.

Financial Data Match

A provision of the federal welfare reform law requires all states to enter into agreements with financial institutions conducting business within their state to conduct a quarterly data match to identify accounts belonging to parents delinquent in their child support obligation. When a match is identified, state child support programs may issue liens or levies on the accounts of the delinquent parent to collect past-due child support.

CSED has been meeting with various Alaska financial institutions to determine how to begin the quarterly matches. CSED will continue its efforts to implement this requirement of welfare reform.

 

 

Conclusion________________________________

The primary issue facing CSED in the coming year is to reduce the backlogs in all sections so Alaskans can receive services in a timely manner. Another issue facing CSED in the coming year is the need to comply with federal requirements imposed by welfare reform legislation and other federal legislative and regulatory mandates. These compliance requirements include changes to the new computer system, implementation of additional programs, and improvements to operations to decrease the amount of time it takes to set up cases and conduct activities needed to collect child support. If Alaska is not compliant with the requirements in federal welfare reform legislation, it could result in financial penalties to CSED and the public assistance program

It will be difficult to address these issues with the current staffing levels. However, CSED staff is working on ways to automate more functions. Since there are many legal and fiscal requirements, case actions are often complex. CSED is also looking towards ways to streamline workflow and avoid duplication of efforts.

 

 

 

Area Offices and Addresses_________________

Anchorage

Main Office
550 W. Seventh Ave., Suite 310
Anchorage, AK 99501-6699
(907) 269-6900 in the Anchorage calling area
(800) 478-3300 toll free in Alaska
(907) 269-6894 TTY
(800) 370-6894 TTY toll free in Alaska
(907) 269-6813 FAX

 

Fairbanks

675 Seventh Ave., Station J2
Fairbanks, AK 99701
(907) 451-2830
(907) 451-2959 FAX

 

Juneau

410 Willoughby Ave., Suite 107
Juneau, AK 99801
(907) 465-5887
(907) 465-5190 FAX

 

Kenai / Soldotna

11312 Kenai Spur Highway, Suite 2
Kenai, AK 99611
(907) 283-2900
(907) 283-2978 FAX

 

Wasilla

845 W. Commercial Drive
Wasilla, AK 99654
(907) 357-3550
(907) 357-3552 FAX