Implement Incentives for Child Support Workers

Texas should introduce employee incentives for child support workers to increase child support collections.


Background
Some states have introduced employee incentive programs to encourage child support workers to meet or exceed goals for establishing paternities, establishing support orders, locatin g absent parents and increasing collections.

Georgia has implemented an employee incentive program that has ge nerated $36.5 million more than projected goals in the three years since it was established. Georgia divides staff into teams, and based on performance, team members each receive a bonus of $500 to $1,000. Georgia funds its program from increased federal i ncentives. Pennsylvania, which has a similar program, funds employee incentives from lottery revenues. Georgia also makes non-financial achievement awards to outstanding employees and programs. 1

In the coming biennium, the child support enforcement staff in the Attorney General s office will be forced to respond to the pressure of an ever-increasing caseload and absent parents inability to pay. The program also will conduct an average of 64 hours of training per staff member on a new automated system at a cost of up to $2.7 million. Such an investment in training can quickly be lost through turnover. 2 An incentive program would help to reduce turnover.


Recommendation
The Attorney General should use Texas existing Achievement Bonus Program to provide achievement bonuses to child support field staff.

Annual achievement bonuses should be given to staff members in each child support field office that exceeds its productivity goals. Each field office should develop a set of performance objectives in consultation with the regional director and the state of fice. The Attorney General should develop policies and procedures for the offices to follow in setting their productivity goals, as well as the criteria for awarding achievement bonuses.

The state office should work with field offices to establish realistic goals that reflect the capacity of the office and each region s particular needs. The dollar amount of collections should not be the only criterion for the bonus payment. Collections in a particular case can depend on a number of factors outside of the field workers control. Consequently, if dollars collected were the only criterion, it could demoralize rather than encourage field staff.

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program also should work to develop meaningful, non-financial methods for recognizing outstanding staff members and field offices.


Implications
An employee incentive plan has been effective in other states in improving employee performance. It represents an initial cost to the agency, but a small one that can be financed from federal incentive funds.

Fiscal Impact
Sufficient data are not available to estimate the savings from this program. The CSE program projects about 2,500 child support staff for fiscal 1994. If 20 percent of projected staff received $500 bonus payments, the total cost in bonuses would be $250,000 from a projected budget of $117.7 million for 1994. 3

Georgia attributes $36.5 million in additional collections to its incentive program. These additional collections led to more federal incentive payments for the program.

While it is not possible to predict the exact effect of an employee incentive progr am on child support collections in Texas because the workload for the field staff will be changing substantially during the next two years, additional federal incentive payments should more than cover the cost of the program.



Endnotes
1 Bee Moorhead, State Survey of Innovative Child Support Enforcement Practices (The University of Texas at Austin, September 1992). (Draft).
2 Interview with Gloria Hunt, Director of New System Development, Office of the Attorney General, Texas Child Support Enforcement Division, Austin, Texas, November 4, 1992.
3 Texas Office of the Attorney General, Child Support Division, Strategy Request (Austin, Texas, September 18, 1992).