Machines In, Cash Out at the Local Child Support Agencies

By: Kayleen Carter, CA DCSS

In January 2017, the California Department of Child Support Services (CA DCSS) introduced automated payment kiosks at local child support offices statewide with the final kiosk installed in June 2017. Many counties have seen such great success in customer adoption that they have been able to phase out over-the-counter cash payments entirely.

Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department (LA County CSSD) installed its first five or six kiosks in February of 2017. By March of 2018, LA County CSSD processed more than $1,193,324 in kiosk collections in a single month.

The process of getting the customers used to paying at the kiosks involved an investment in real customer service. LA County CSSD stationed a staff member next to the kiosk for a month to show customers how to operate the kiosk in case they needed assistance. Additionally, the kiosks were all located right next to a customer service window, so once the first month was up if customers had a problem with the kiosk they had access to help nearby.

Dean De Gruccio, Chief Deputy Director of LA County CSSD, said that their offices didn’t want to close cash operations right away, keeping over-the-counter collections open for 12 months just in case the kiosks were not functional. Once cash operations officially ended, De Gruccio said that most of the staff were glad to no longer handle cash.

“One of the problems with cash was all the security issues,” said De Gruccio. “There are lots of county procedures, and it was difficult to find clerical staff who wanted to deal with cash payments because of the tedium.”

Now, support staff who formerly worked with cash payments are free to complete other tasks, raising workforce efficiency.

De Gruccio said he was originally concerned that LA CSSD would have a drop in the amount of total payments collected due to the new technology, but, the accumulated totals for the kiosk payments equal the amount the county would formerly have collected in cash.

“This is where we’d hoped to be,” he said. “However long ago it’s been since implementation, it feels like this is what we’ve always been doing.”

In May 2018, LA CSSD collected $1,327,188 in kiosk collections.

Madera County Department of Child Support Services (Madera County DCSS) received their kiosk in March 2017 and discontinued over-the-counter-payments right away. Like LA County CSSD, Madera County DCSS placed a specialist in the lobby of the office to inform customers about the kiosk process.

Because Madera County DCSS is smaller with 6,500 cases and 30 employees, kiosk payments were more convenient than cash payments for customers as well as staff.

Sarah Honeycutt, Director of Madera County DCSS, said there is only one receptionist and customers often had long wait lines at the office when trying to make their payments. Now that Madera County DCSS doesn’t accept cash, the receptionist can swiftly greet and assist customers, as well as take on other tasks around the office. With the kiosks in place, customers just “do their thing,” Honeycutt said.

In May 2018, Madera CountyDCSS collected $37,003 in kiosk payments.

Honeycutt mentioned that the elimination of over-the-counter payments did reduce opportunities for confirming phone numbers and updating contact information, but the overall efficiencies, improved security and positive customer response has well outweighed those concerns.

As of May 2018, the total monthly kiosk collections statewide was an astounding $5,122,387.23.