California Joins Other States in Washington D.C. to Share Development of New Behavioral Change Strategies in Child Support

By: Janissa Boesch, CA DCSS Regional Administrator

In early February 2019, representatives from the States of California, Colorado, Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Washington D.C., along with the Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services (BICS) Grant Technical Assistance and Evaluation Team, attended a two-day grantee meeting in Washington D.C., hosted by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) BICS Project Support Team.

BICS is a demonstration program exploring how to better understand individuals’ behavior and decision-making ability when it comes to child support. Known as behavioral economics, this approach uses insights from psychology and related fields to explain why and how people act and to use different strategies to guide people toward a specific action. BICS is testing how behavioral economic strategies affect child support results by focusing on different areas, including early engagement of both parents and right-sizing child support orders so the needs of both parents and child are met. In California, Sacramento County Department of Child Support Services (Sacramento County DCSS) and San Joaquin County Department of Child Support Services (San Joaquin County DCSS) received BICS grant awards in fall of 2014.

On day one of the meeting, BICS grantees reported on the behavioral intervention strategies they applied to the way child support services were being delivered during phase two of the grant (years 3-4), as well as plans currently underway for incorporating some of these practices over the final year. Several states reported the use of the “explainer sheet,” introduced by San Joaquin and Sacramento counties during phase one (years 1-2). So far, the feedback from using a simple, plain-language “explainer sheet” to guide people through the Summons and Complaint process has been invaluable. California is currently reviewing some of the BICS strategies for potential statewide application.