By: Kayleen Carter, CA DCSS
On February 2nd, the Riverside County Department of Child Support Services (Riverside County DCSS) and its neighboring child support agencies, San Bernardino County Department of Child Support Services (San Bernardino County DCSS) and the Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department (Los Angeles County CSSD), teamed up for a combined effort at the 2019 Fatherhood Collaboration Child Support Workshop held in Riverside County. The event was geared towards engaging fathers in the child support process and offered information about services, co-parenting, license releases, and payment options.
Heavy rains and winds that Saturday didn’t deter participants from attending the workshop, held at the Mead Valley Community Center in Riverside. The free event lasted from 10 a.m. to noon and offered participants the chance to speak with county representatives about their specific case. The unique collaboration between the counties enabled participants to speak with representatives from all three child support agencies in the region at the same venue on the same day.
The concept for the event was originally suggested by Nicole Windom-Hurd, Assistant Director for Riverside County DCSS. In collaboration with San Bernardino County DCSS, who also helped with on-case assistance, she pitched the idea of an event geared towards fathers across counties. The timing could not have been better, as Riverside County DCSS was actively seeking to engage fathers and promptly reached out to various organizations around the county who could offer additional services such as Department of Public Social Services at Riverside County, Fatherhood Engagement, and the San Bernardino Fatherhood Coalition.
The planners assumed that the event would be small, and Riverside County DCSS wanted to know their limitations – such as if there was enough space in the building and enough laptops to use. To gauge potential public interest in the event, Marquese Howard, Media Productions and Outreach Specialist at Riverside County DCSS, used online event platform Eventbrite to collect registrations. Over 200 people signed up before event promotion even began. It was then that the team reached out to Los Angeles County CSSD to invite their participation as well.
For Howard, the event was an “eye-opener” because it demonstrated to participants how the counties are all partners. Fathers at the event were able to witness several different child support departments working together, which helped positively transform their perspective of child support. There were ten caseworkers available on-site, two family law facilitators, one attorney and a paralegal. Of the 125 people who attended, caseworkers were able to offer specialized assistance to more than 70 participants.
Tina Robinson, Community Engagement Coordinator for Los Angeles County CSSD, felt that the event was impactful for both caseworkers and fathers. If participants had questions, caseworkers didn’t need to tell them “you need to go to another county,” they could simply ask the county representative themselves as they were all in the same room.
Robinson also said many fathers expressed gratitude that they did not need to leave work early to attend the event, saying they “felt like they mattered.”
Howard mentioned that the next workshop at Riverside County DCSS would focus on parenting skills. Riverside County DCSS sent out a survey to caseload participants asking them what kind of events would be helpful to them, results showed that the top interest for parents was child support services, with services regarding parenting skills a close-second. Both Howard and Robinson agreed that the collaborative event was a positive experience and are open to future collaborations with their fellow child support agencies.
“We might even do one with Ventura or Orange!” Robinson said with excitement.
Assistant Director Windom-Hurd added that this would be only the first of many events geared towards more engagement with fathers, feeling that it was a wonderful example of local child support agencies and county partners coming together for the needs of the families they serve.