Findings, Lessons, and Looking Ahead: Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services
Monday, May 20th, 2019
3:00 PM - 4:15 PM: Breakout
Administrators who design and implement social service programs often expect that clients will understand their many choices and obligations, respond appropriately to notices, recognize the benefits of supportive services, and diligently follow through. When these expectations are not met, the response is often to impose enforcement mechanisms assuming that all clients are consciously choosing not to cooperate. Too often, program designers do not consider the obstacles people must overcome in order to access programs and services. Administrators and service providers also must navigate complex policy and regulatory requirements, finding ways to develop programs that follow applicable rules while still decreasing obstacles that may turn people away. Insights from behavioral science demonstrate that small hassles, in fact, create significant barriers that can prevent those in need of services from receiving them. People tend to be overwhelmed by too much information, have limited attention spans, procrastinate, avoid activities that are viewed as punitive or engender negative feelings, and forget to follow-up through on obligations. Behavioral science sheds light on these basic human behaviors and can help explain why people act the way they do within a given system or program.

This session will share the cross-cutting findings and lessons learned from the 20 tests conducted as part of the Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Service (BICS) project, a five-year demonstration and evaluation of interventions informed by behavioral science. The project, sponsored by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was implemented in seven states (California, Colorado Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia. BICS aims to improve federally funded child support services by increasing program efficiency, developing behaviorally-informed interventions, and building a culture of rapid-cycle evaluation. The project involved a close collaboration with the participating child support programs, researchers, and OCSE. Panelists will review findings, provide practitioners' perspectives on the nuts and bolts of applying behavioral economics in two states (CA and TX), and share their efforts to integrate behavioral economics in their programs beyond BICS.
Yana Kusayeva, Research Associate
Alix Haik-Bruno, Child Support Program Planner
Sacramento County, California Department of Child Support Services
Dee Wallace, Project Director, Texas Start Smart
The Office of the Attorney General of Texas Family Initiatives Division
Gretchen Lehman, Child Support Program Specialist
Office of Child Support Enforcement Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services