The Five Key Elements of Procedural Justice

By: Chad Reed, CA DCSS

In 2016, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) awarded more than $12 million dollars to fund the Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC) demonstration project, intended to increase parents’ compliance with child support orders by increasing trust and confidence in the child support agency and its processes.

The California Department of Child Support Services (CA DCSS), in partnership with San Bernardino County Department of Child Support Services (San Bernardino County DCSS) and Riverside County Department of Child Support Services (Riverside County DCSS), submitted a proposal to OCSE and were selected to participate in the innovative project. Grant objectives for all sites focus on increasing operational efficiencies, participant employability, overall family well-being and the integration of a wrap-around service model for families eligible for child support, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other family assistance and work programs.

As the five-year grant nears its third year, PJAC grantees have identified Five Key Elements of Procedural Justice as being instrumental in engaging with parents who are non-compliant with their child support obligations or have avoided engagement with the Child Support Program. These principles, listed in the graphic on the left, are respect, understanding, voice, helpfulness, and neutrality. By incorporating these principles into child support enforcement efforts, local agencies can reframe their work with families as a respectful, problem-solving endeavor and increase the likelihood that children receive financial and emotional support.

“The team has found the PJAC principles to be very effective strategies in the Child Support Program that could result in parents paying child support reliably when they feel that the outcome is arrived at fairly,” said California PJAC Program Manager, Will Williamson.

“The tenets of procedural justice enhance the public’s understanding of fairness and the transparency of the child support process,” said Riverside County DCSS Director Kimberly Britt, who is pleased with the grant’s innovative approach. “It is a concept that, when embraced, promotes positive organizational change and bolsters better relationships within the community that we serve.”

Marie Girulat, Director of San Bernardino County DCSS is also satisfied with the grant’s progress. “Our PJAC case managers have been given a great opportunity to assess the PJAC cases holistically, looking at everything from unemployment and mental health issues to simply the parties not getting along. This helps to assist remove the barriers to get to consistent payment of support.”

To learn more about the PJAC demonstration project and the major findings thus far, visit https://www.mdrc.org/publication/new-response-child-support-noncompliance.