San Diego County Child Support Program Awarded by National Association of Counties

By: Kayleen Carter, CA DCSS

The San Diego Department of Child Support Services (San Diego County DCSS) received two awards during the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) 2018 Achievement Awards. One award was in recognition of their commitment to Human Services for the creation of the Military and Veteran Liaison role and the other award was in recognition of Outreach, Personnel Management, Employment and Training, for their “In Their Shoes” workshop training for all staff.

Although both programs are deeply rooted in customer service, both addressed separate issues. San Diego County DCSS’s Interactive Workshop, titled “In Their Shoes,” was created to address the central issues of empathizing, understanding and assisting customers with the child support process.

Bryanna Fornerod, Supervising Child Support Officer at San Diego County DCSS, said that caseworkers had to do their jobs in assisting customers, but that to try and “understand how and why customers receive things the way that they do” was the focus of the simulation workshop.

There were 400 staff members in attendance who congregated into small groups and talked about how DCSS would impact their lives if they were customers and not caseworkers. Fornerod said that the idea was to “feel what the customer feels.”

San Diego County DCSS also reached out to its customers who were transitioning from active military duty service to civilian status with its Military Outreach Program, which had been in development since 2014. The program acknowledged that there was a large military population that had specific and unique needs that were not being addressed as part of its outreach strategy.

San Diego County DCSS recognized that they could advise military clientele on options for reviewing and adjusting child support orders as well as educating them on available resources as they go through their transition back to civilian life.

San Diego County DCSS also created three Military and Veteran Liaisons within the county to work with community partners such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Village of San Diego and San Diego Veteran Coalition to assist veterans and military personnel.

In reflecting upon the success of the two programs, Fornerod said that the department had embraced a paradigm shift to “really look at the customer as a whole individual” and that this has humbled staff enough to get them thinking about how they were explaining things.

This helped staff tailor their responses in a way that customers would understand and make customers want to actively engage with the department.

San Diego County DCSS will be formerly presented with its two Achievement Awards at the NACo annual conference in July.