Building Partnerships to Reshape Child Support Services

By: Kristy Hartmann, CA DCSS

Over the last ten years, the Contra Costa County Department of Child Support Services (Contra Costa County DCSS) took big strides in building partnerships across their community to educate people about the services of the child support program. Staff have been working actively with Contra Costa County’s Parole and Community Team (PACT), the local Workforce Development Board, and Rubicon, a local anti-poverty organization, to improve interactions with child support case participants and provide more access to the child support program.

Contra Costa County DCSS partnered with PACT to help recent parolees with their re-entrance into society by answering their questions about license suspensions or child support modifications. The staff participates in the monthly PACT meeting at the Concord Workforce Office that recent parolees are required to attend within the first month of their release. By creating a “we are here to help” perception instead of a “we are here to enforce,” the staff received positive responses from the recent parolees. For example, one man who had a significant amount of owed arrears and a suspended license was hesitant to approach the table, walking by at least four times before he got the courage to talk to a staff member. The staff member explained that he could help get his license released so that he can start working, set up an affordable payment plan, and see if he qualifies for the Compromise of Arrears Program, which reduces the amount of child support owed to the government. Afterward, the man choked up and said, “Thank you for treating me like a man and not a number. I never thought I would thank someone who worked for the government, but you just gave me a reason to trust again.”

In another effort, Contra Costa County DCSS entered into a formal agreement with the California Employment Development Department to partner with local workforce centers supported by the Workforce Development Board to offer unemployed parents who owe child support with job training and career development opportunities. Their partnership with Rubicon, whose mission is relieving poverty in the East Bay and includes educating participants about budgeting and credit repair, offering transitional employment opportunities, and providing wellness programs. Other outreach efforts include educating other social services providers and agencies like CalFresh, the Department of Motor Vehicles, libraries, local homeless shelters, and East Bay employers about the services of the child support program.

Great work, Contra Costa County! These partnerships will greatly enhance the child support experience for the residents of Contra Costa County and the surrounding areas.