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December 06, 2012

Predictive Data Shows Child Support Success



State child support enforcement agencies recover financial support from non-custodial parents to help cover the costs of raising children. Payment amounts are established via court order, owed to the parent with primary physical custody of the child.

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According to Federal guidelines, states should secure at least 80 percent of child support owed by non-custodial parents, and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Child Support Enforcement should meet these terms.

Pennsylvania is the only state meeting or exceeding all federal guidelines, stated Dan Richard, bureau director, in an interview with Government Technology. Officials say there was room for further improvement.

"Families need a reliable, consistent source of income, particularly when it comes to child support," Richard added. "You want to know that the payments will be steady, so that you can use them to meet the ongoing daily needs of the child."

The Bureau sought variables to consider to help determine how likely the non-custodial parent is to pay, and what things it can do to help overcome various barriers to making reliable, consistent payments.

The organization also developed a payment score calculator with data on the non-custodial parent, and arrives at a "score" about the person to satisfy their child support obligations. The algorithm has factors like the parent's age, employment status and history, residential stability and number of current child support cases. 

"Once the basic information about a case is put on the computer, you can press a button and it will automatically calculate a score that projects the likelihood of payment," Richard continued. "From a policy point of view, and a programmatic point of view, it was a major initiative. But from a technological point of view, it was not a major leap, and it was implemented at a modest cost."

The state was able to use existing technical resources to bring the system online; and the data sets, a robust data warehouse with data mining capabilities, were available as well. Other states, as well as private companies, have contacted Richard's office to inquire about these back-end requirements for putting predictive analytics to work for them.

This lets the bureau adopt a hands-on, proactive stance for collections. Instead of waiting until a non-custodial parent fails to make payments and with past due amounts, a lower score then requires earlier intervention. 

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Edited by Braden Becker
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