Published September 18, 2012
Volume 20, Number 9

Interactive Case Management Model Produces Gains for Child Support Services
A Sense of Teamwork Towards Positive Goals Increases Motivation, Effectiveness 

Hacienda’s DCSS staff recently participated in the
American Cancer Society Relay for Life.  (Photo courtesy of DCSS.)

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

The 215 employees who work at the Alameda County Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) in Hacienda have forged a strong sense of teamwork “that is creating wins both in and out of the office,” according to Director Matthew Brega. 

In spite of economic challenges, the DCSS is on track to increase its collection in support of children year-over-year. Other metrics are up as well. So far this year the office has collected on 71 percent of cases where money is owed, ranking it second, behind only San Luis Obispo County, in the entire state.

The DCSS establishes paternity and child support orders, collects child, medical, and spousal support payments, modifies orders, and provides medical enforcement services. “People typically don’t come to us when they are happy,” Brega observes.

Two years ago the office switched to a more interactive case management model that enables caseworkers to reach out and build relationships with case participants. The new proactive approach places a strong emphasis on treating clients with dignity and respect and acknowledging the challenges of their personal circumstances.

If there is a problem making support payments, those concerned can all work on a solution together. “If it’s job loss, perhaps we can help obtain a modification of the support order. We need to know what’s going on to do what’s best to support the child,” Brega points out. “We aim to get things right so people do not feel forced in a different direction.”

A collegial workplace helps to offset the stressful situations DCSS employees try to resolve every day. “Everyone on staff is here because they’re trying to have a positive impact on the families we are serving,” he notes. “That flows over into all aspects of the things they are doing.”

Brega is careful to “make sure that the seriousness of our work does not overwhelm the team and impact their ability to perform at a high level every day for our clients.” Whether fulfilling their daily mission to support families, fundraising for the American Cancer Society, or hosting a blood drive, the DCSS staff members come together in many different ways to do good. “It is important we support other activities to provide balance,” he comments. 

For example, over a recent July weekend, some 21 employees and numerous family members came together in Team DCSS –Determination Can Save Someone—to participate in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life fundraiser for the third straight year. Participants spent 24 hours walking or running on a track, relay style, earning money from sponsors for every lap. Team DCSS raised more than $7,000, coming in third out of 41 teams for fundraising. Local businesses that lent their support included Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and American Licorice Co.

“It was a typical hot East Bay night, and I was proud of the team for hanging in there for the entire 24-hour period,” Brega says. Summing up, he comments, “Behind our performance numbers and the teamwork, DCSS achieves what is in the best interest of the child and, ultimately, the community.”


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