Impact of 12 years of JASI child support enforcement training courses evaluated

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa -- When a child’s parents don’t live together, child support enforcement professionals work to ensure they receive support from both parents.

The Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement Training Institute (PACSETI) trains more than 1,000 enforcement professionals each year. But how effective are the training programs?

Graduate assistant Amanda Drescher is looking at 12 years of data to evaluate the impact of courses offered by PACSETI, which is operated by Penn State’s Justice and Safety Institute.

PACSETI is a collaborative partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Bureau of Child Support Enforcement, county Courts of Common Pleas’ Domestic Relations Sections, and Penn State. The Bureau of Child Support Enforcement administers

Pennsylvania's Child Support Enforcement Program is in all 67 counties.

PACSETI classes, which drew 1,600 participants last year, range from courses for new hires to management training to advanced courses on specific issues such as establishing paternity. Trainees include secretaries, lawyers and everyone in between.

Drescher, a third-year doctoral student in Penn State’s industrial organizational psychology program, is sorting through 12 years of data to evaluate the impact the training has had on participants when they return to the workforce.

“What we’d hope to see is that it has a positive impact and their performance improves,” Drescher said.

The data includes pre- and post-course knowledge tests and evaluations asking participants their opinion of the classes and instructors. Drescher also will look at questionnaires given to participants and their supervisors 60 days after the trainings. The questionnaires ask participants how they used the knowledge gained in their training, and ask supervisors whether participants’ performance improved after the training.

Drescher is also looking at county data on child support orders and paternity resolution cases, and will try to determine whether counties in which more workers complete training have different results than those with less training. Her report will be provided to the state Bureau of Child Support Enforcement .

Drescher, who hopes to work for a business or nonprofit in the future, said evaluating whether a program is contributing to the workplace is an important part of her studies. “The training is important, but you are not utilizing training to its highest potential if you don’t incorporate evaluation,” she said. “When you’re investing a lot of money in something, you want to know that it’s having an effect.”

The assistantship will allow her to present her findings to a sponsor in a professional setting, something she hasn’t done before now, Drescher said. “PACSETI has given me an opportunity to communicate to a completely different audience.” A sponsor “doesn’t necessarily care about the 20 references,” she added. “They want to know, ‘What are you planning on doing, and why is it important? Why is it meaningful?’”

Drescher hopes to use the feedback from the courses to determine which areas of training are most effective and which should be modified. She will also look at the impact of online training versus face-to-face training. PACSETI began offering online courses in 2011. By the end of next year a majority of its training programs will be delivered online.

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Last Updated January 09, 2014