San Diego County Department of Child Support Services Staff Take a Moment to Walk “In Their Shoes”

By: Bryanna Fornerod, San Diego County DCSS

Good government is built on understanding the people it serves. “In Their Shoes” is a training provided to San Diego County DCSS staff to shed light on what customers experience when San Diego County DCSS becomes involved in their lives.

San Diego County DCSS recognizes the various difficulties many of its customers face in engaging them with the child support process. We have shifted our focus from an enforcement-based paradigm to a family-centered services approach. During the “In Their Shoes” workshop staff are asked to forget their job title, experience, and child support knowledge. A crucial component of this training is that it is an interactive exercise.

Staff are provided copies of a typical Summons and Complaint to simulate the service process that customers experience. Every Summons and Complaint received by our staff have different issues that need to be resolved. There may be cases due to foster care, dependents that the noncustodial parent has never heard of, or a case that the parent may already be paying support. The intent for the different types of Summons and Complaints is that it should trigger confusion and the feeling of being overwhelmed.

To gauge their experience, staff must write down the emotions and questions they have and afterward the workshop they share their initial feelings and how their resources would be impacted. This experience provides insight for what customers go through on a daily basis.

Once customers receive this notice they are impacted by different emotions and have a substantial amount of questions that they want answered. This exercise should help staff realize that child support participants may only have a general phone number to call when they receive this initial packet. This training inspires and drives the department’s diverse and thriving workforce to be fully engaged in supporting a community that is healthy, safe, and flourishing.

The ultimate goal for this workshop is to develop a sense of understanding and empathy for families served by San Diego County DCSS by “walking in their shoes.”