Panel Paper: Using Multiple Methods to Improve Paternity Establishment in Iowa

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 1:45 PM
DuPont Ballroom G (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Cynthia Fletcher1, Janet Melby1, Carla Forcier2, Cheng Peng1, Dong Zhang1 and Josh Obrecht1, (1)Iowa State University, (2)Iowa Child Support Recovery Unit
An increasing proportion of the cases that come to the attention of state child support enforcement programs need paternity establishment before child support can be ordered. The developmental, social, and economic benefits of paternity establishment for children and families are extensive.  There are also strong fiscal incentives for states to be committed to establishing paternity. States that fail to achieve an annual paternity establishment standard incur a financial penalty to their TANF program if improvements are not made during a one-year period of corrective action. In FFY 2009, nine states failed to meet the required performance standard. Given dwindling resources, agencies need to find effective and efficient methods for improving paternity establishment.

The proposed paper will describe a project undertaken by the Iowa Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU) in collaboration with Iowa State University and funded by a University Partnership grant awarded by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers, trainers and CSRU staff are working together to improve paternity establishment methods statewide—with goals of all field offices meeting performance targets and increased numbers of paternity affidavits and administrative paternity orders filed.  The project involves three phases:  baseline assessments; design, implementation and monitoring of innovative methods for both paternity establishment procedures and community outreach; and evaluation.

First, historical data on paternity establishment methods reported by Iowa hospitals and regional CSRU offices and statewide demographics were mapped using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology. Baseline surveys of CSRU field staff and hospital staff who are involved in paternity establishment were conducted.  Maps and quantitative survey results will illustrate how these methods can be used to identify areas for improvement in current processes.

Second, the research team used regression modeling techniques to analyze historical IV-D case characteristics and to develop a target-setting model predicting the probability of paternity establishment for each current case. The predictive model was used to identify a more viable pool of cases with children that need paternity establishment, to set targets more equitably among field offices, and to identify geographic areas with hospitals that need additional staff training and/or expanded community outreach. The paper will describe the statistical modeling approach and present findings that illustrate how both the viable paternity establishment pool and regional offices’ targets have changed. Also, strategies for hospital staff training and community outreach, informed by baseline survey findings, will be described.

The paper will conclude with a description of plans for evaluation of the effectiveness of the target-setting model and enhanced outreach, and the potential for transference of the approach to all states, as well as implications for future partnerships between universities and public agencies serving at-risk families.