We couldn’t determine how effective or timely the state’s child support services system is due to data limitations, but we saw several signs it’s not working as well as it could. Federal law requires states to assist parents in collecting monthly childcare payments. In Kansas, the Department for Children and Families is the primary state agency responsible for administering the state’s child support program. Kansas court trustees also can provide child support services, but they generally only provide enforcement services. A small number of parents we talked to expressed frustration and a lack of communication, regardless of whether they were served through DCF or court trustees. Kansas’s dual track child support system may create unequal costs for some Kansas parents. It also prevented us from evaluating the state’s child support system as a whole. DCF’s outdated computer system prevented us from determining how timely and effective its services are. We relied on 4 federal performance benchmarks as indicators of DCF’s child support performance. In recent years, DCF performed well on federal requirements to establish child support cases, but not on requirements to enforce those cases. DCF officials told us the difficult nature of their cases and certain administrative hurdles make it difficult to enforce child support payments. DCF and its contractors don’t have the tools to quickly identify and address delinquent payments. DCF’s use of federal performance measures to monitor contractors’ performance is too simplistic to identify poor performance.
Kansas’s low national rankings in child support enforcement may be due to the state’s unique system and outdated technology. Kansas’s child support services through DCF and its contractors performed worse on federal enforcement benchmarks than most other states. Kansas’s trustee option appears to be unique compared to other states, which may skew its national performance metrics. Kansas’s DCF child support services did not have key computer system features and collection tools that some other states had.