Child Support Learning Agenda: A Brief Synthesis of Select Child Support Literature

Child Support Learning Agenda: A Brief Synthesis of Select Child Support Literature

OPRE Report #2023-213
Published: Sep 29, 2023
Publisher: Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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Associated Project

Evidence Capacity Support for the Administration for Children and Families

Time frame: 2020-2025

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation

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Key Findings

OPRE and OCSS identified 65 seminal resources relating to child support. The EvCap team reviewed the resources and sorted them into one of six topics. Select key findings by topic include:

  1. Core child support services: Recently conducted studies find that applying insights from behavioral science to child support interventions such as creating easy-to-understand materials and forms, sending appointment reminders, and adopting simpler processes, can improve a wide range of child support outcomes but may be challenging to implement.
  2. Supportive services: The reviewed resources related to employment supports for child support-involved families finds that services such as job search and placements and skill training can have positive effects on child support payments, employment, and earnings, but they require flexibility, tailoring, and funding for implementation.
  3. Outreach, engagement, and customer service: Recent literature examining the use of digital marketing tools to enhance child support program engagement found that these approaches can increase awareness of child support services and enrollment.
  4. Operations, administration, and program performance: Literature that examined applying procedural-justice principles such as using respect, understanding, voice, neutrality, and helpfulness when working with child support customers found that these approaches require staff training and a change in office culture.
  5. Partnerships to enhance child support programming: Reviewed resources indicate that partnering with child support programs can help partner agencies better engage parents and improve outcomes for participants.
  6. Technology and data: Reviewed resources identify strategies such as predictive analytics for using existing program data to modernize the child support program.

Learning agendas are a set of systematically identified questions that, when answered, can help agencies work more effectively and foster a culture of learning and continuous quality improvement. Knowing what questions have already been answered through existing research studies, demonstration grants, and other knowledge development activities is an important part of the learning agenda process. Through the ACF Evidence Capacity Support (EvCap) project, The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) and the Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF), are working with Mathematica (the EvCap team) to support development of a learning agenda that will guide OCSS and OPRE research planning and execution. As part of the learning agenda development, OPRE and OCSS supported a review of select child support—related research to support development of a child support learning agenda (CSLA). This brief presents a synthesis of the reviewed literature and identifies remaining knowledge gaps.

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