Date of this Version
In June, 1999, the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center (PPC) was asked by the Executive Board of the Nebraska Legislature to undertake a study of child support issues. Specifically, the PPC was asked to recommend how Nebraska can preserve existing strengths and reduce or eliminate weakness in its child support customer service system as the state complies with a federal mandate and develops a centralized State Disbursement Unit (SDU) for the receipting and disbursement of child support payments.
In order to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the present customer service system in Nebraska, as well as learn what other states are doing to service child support customers, the PPC spent most of its efforts consulting with Nebraska stakeholders (custodial and non-custodial parents; employers; child support enforcement workers, staff and officials; district court clerks; attorneys; policymakers and legislative and gubernatorial staff; judicial personnel; and other interested persons), state and federal child support enforcement staff and other officials from around the nation, leaders and staff from private companies working in child support around the country, and with other national experts. The PPC worked closely with an inter-governmental Work Group, consisting of representatives from the Unicameral, the Nebraska Child Support Enforcement/)IV-D agency, the Governor’s Office, the State Court Administrator’s Office, and the District Court Clerk’s Association.
The results of these efforts lead the PPC to offer 10 recommendations that we believe will help preserve existing customer service strengths and reduce or eliminate weaknesses:
• Establish an on-going, intergovernmental and key stakeholder team(s) to monitor and participate in the selection, implementation, and on-going evaluation of the customer service system in Nebraska.
• Make extensive use of a toll-free, Voice Response Unit (VRU)/automated telephone system with customer service representatives as the primary means of obtaining customer service.
• If possible, provide access to a person with whom customers can speak face-to-face for service.
• Provide customer services specifically for employers.
• Include all child support cases in the new SDU and customer service systems.
• Ensure adequate staffing and a sufficient infrastructure to allow customer service providers to succeed, and also slowly implement changes to the current child support system.
• Specify performance indicators and conduct customer satisfaction studies.
• Make use of new technologies to expand access to information and to allow innovative means for interactions between customers and customer service providers.
• Use the upcoming change as an opportunity to develop and expand innovative social programs designed to further the goals of the child support system.
• Be patient as the new systems are implemented and be proactive in informing stakeholders of upcoming changes.
Along with these 10 recommendations (and an elaboration of the rationales for the recommendations), seven policy decision points are identified and discussed. Five challenges to successful implementation of the SDU-linked customer service system are presented. Finally, we encourage all those involved in the child support system to work together, to move on from past disagreements, and engage in an effective decisionmaking process that will result in positive outcomes for Nebraska’s children and families.