Penn State program impacts children owed child support

Statewide training for Pennsylvania's child support workers makes a difference in the lives of children in the Commonwealth

University Park, Pa. — More than $107 billion is owed nationwide to 17.1 million children of single-parent families who have been awarded child support, according to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. But in Pennsylvania, these families are faring better. Pennsylvania was the highest-performing state in the nation in 2007 in collection of current support (78 percent) and arrears (76 percent), exceeding the national average of 61 percent on both these measures, thanks to an education partnership between Penn State and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Bureau of Child Support Enforcement that provides training to county and State Child Support Enforcement workers.

"Training conducted by the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement Training Institute (PACSETI) positively impacts Child Support Enforcement workers' job performance," said Jennifer Mastrofski, who directs evaluation for PACSETI and is a faculty member of Penn State's Justice and Safety Institute, which operates PACSETI. "There is a positive correlation between counties that send more people to training and improved job performance."

Since 2002, more than 3,000 Child Support Enforcement workers have participated in training, representing more than 10,000 enrollments. PACSETI is a collaborative partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Bureau of Child Support Enforcement, the county Domestic Relations Sections and Penn State. The bureau administers Pennsylvania's Child Support Enforcement Program in all 67 counties.

"The Bureau of Child Support Enforcement partnership with The Pennsylvania State University effectively enhances our role in providing financial and social services to children and families," said Tom Sheaffer, director of the bureau's Division of Program Development and Evaluation. "Through Penn State, we have designed, developed and sustained a training program for child support workers statewide that significantly enhances the effectiveness of Pennsylvania's Child Support Enforcement Program and outcomes for children."

Sheaffer added, "Pennsylvania exceeds federal child support enforcement performance measures in three categories, has led the nation for three consecutive years in two of the categories relating to collections, and has received the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement's High Performing State Award twice in the last three years."

All new Child Support Enforcement workers attend New Hire training, which provides them with the foundation of the Title IV-D Child Support Enforcement Program in Pennsylvania. They also have opportunities to attend other training modules on specific child support enforcement functions. As PACSETI project manager Roy McCullagh noted, "Instructors are constantly modifying, revising and developing new curricula based on changes in federal and state laws."

"During the past six years, PACSETI has become the most comprehensive institute of its kind in the nation," Mastrofski said. "Staff and faculty from our institute have been invited to present both our training model and the impact of our training at several regional and national conferences."

Penn State's Justice and Safety Institute (JASI) helps thousands of law enforcement and justice system professionals improve their work skills — something it has been doing for more than 35 years. JASI serves a broad clientele and its services extend to courts, child support enforcement and domestic relations issues, such as training for federal, state and international clients, including the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. JASI is the sole provider of mandated basic training to Pennsylvania's deputy sheriffs and has developed and administers the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement Training Institute. It also has conducted child support enforcement services for New Jersey and Delaware. For more information, visit http://www.jasi.outreach.psu.edu/ online. JASI is part of Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education. Penn State Outreach serves more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 80 countries worldwide.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009