Panel Paper: Applied Behavioral Science in the Child Support Program: A Practitioner Perspective

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Tyler - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Alix Haik-Bruno, Sacramento County

State and county child support programs communicate through a variety of means with their clientele, including phone, mail, and in-person meetings. However, more often than not these interactions are impersonal and driven by bureaucratic processes that risk leaving clients confused, distrustful, or disengaged. Lack of engagement, especially at early stages of the order establishment process, can have longstanding implications for a parent’s financial obligations. They also have the potential to put unnecessary strain on agency staff time and resources.

BICS represented an opportunity for Sacramento County to rethink its approach to communicating with parents with new child support cases. Through a detailed behavioral diagnosis process, county staff worked in close collaboration with researchers and behavioral science experts to design and implement a behavioral test to increase parental engagement in the early stages of a child support case’s lifecycle. Moreover, the endeavor represented an opportunity to build the internal capacity necessary to take a fresh look at established processes and procedures, many of which may not have been initially designed taking into account client perspectives.

This presentation will describe, from the practitioner perspective, the experience in designing and implementing a rigorous test of a behaviorally informed intervention. It will involve discussion of what the findings mean for agency policies and procedures as well as how participation in this demonstration project augmented broader agency capacity.