llCHAEL P ST ARKOWSKI

Commissioner
July 7, 2010
STATE OF CONNECTICUT
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL
OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER
Myles Schlank, Chief
Program Development Branch
Division of State, Tribal and Local Assistance
Office of Child Support Enforcement
Administration of Children and Families
370 L'Enfant Promenade, S.W.
4th Floor West
Washington, D.C. 20447
Dear Mr. Schlank,
TELEPHONE
(860) 424-5053
TOOmy
1-800-842-4524
FAX
(860) 424-5057
EMAlL
COlnmi s. dss(ii\cl. e.ov
I am pleased to submit Connecticut's renewal application for available federal funds to
administer programs that support and facilitate non-custodial parents' access and
visitation with their children. As in past years, the State of Connecticut-Judicial Branch
will be providing an $11,111 cash match to cover the required 10%. In addition, a Court
Support Services Division (CSSD) Family Services staff person continues to be assigned
to the Family Support Magistrate Court in Hartford for the purpose of conducting
mediation, as well as casework services and this staff person' s work will be considered
an indirect   A Family Relations Counselor will spend a minimum of 12 hours
conducting grant related work each week. A Family Relations Counselor earns a
minimum of $29.14 per hour and the total is $18,183, an amount that exceeds the
required state match of $11,111. The job duties of a Family Relations Counselor within
the Magistrate Court originated as a result of the Access and Visitation Grant. Without
continued funding, the services provided would no longer be available.
Historically, the Department of Social Services (DSS), as the lead agency, has continued
to implement programs and legislation which furthers the formal Fatherhood Initiative
project. DSS has brought together many state agencies and community-based
organizations to discuss and make recommendations on ways to improve services to non-
custodial parents and families. Through workgroups and executive council meetings,
DSS continues to gather information necessary to develop plans for process and system
improvements. The issue of access and visitation has been one of the main areas to
surface in these workgroups; however, adequate funding remains the primary barrier to
expansion of the existing program.
All funds as part of the State's Access and Visitation (A V) Grant award, will be
used for services that increase and facilitate non-custodial parents' access and visitation
with their children. The Access and Visitation Grant will provide Connecticut with the
opportunity to continue and expand the program that has been in place for over ten years.
25 SIGOURNEY STREET . HARTFORD CONNECTICUT 06 106-5033
An Equal Opportunity I Affirmative Action Employer
Printed on Recycled or Recovered Paper
www.ct.gov/dss
Connecticut Access and Visitation Application - Page 2 of 8
Since the inception of this program, it remains clear that there is a great need for
mediation and education regarding the expectations and responsibilities of parenting,
including emotional and financial support. Through this project, we will continue to
educate parents and assist families in removing access and visitation as a barrier to
communication between family members, and enhance the healthy involvement of non-
custodial parents in the lives of their children. Our Access and Visitation services
(Supervised Visitation and Transitions in Parenting) will be available in three major
regions of Connecticut. The Access and Visitation Program will significantly increase the
amount of parenting time available to children and their non-custodial parents. The
Access and Visitation Program is moni tored on a regular basis by the State Access and
Visitation Coordinator in collaboration with a Program Manager from the Judicial
Branch. As with previous years, the "State Child Access Program Survey" will be
completed and returned by the due date in December. Please refer to the attached state
plan that details the initiatives within Connecticut, including the A V program strategy
and funding priorities.
This project continues to offer our state additional opportunities to integrate and improve
linkages between the Department of Social Services, the Judicial Branch (including the
Family Support Magistrates and the Court Support Services Division), and community
organizations.
Thank you for your consideration of this proposal.
--
Commissioner
C: Claudette J. Beaulieu, Deputy Commissioner
David A. Mulligan, IV-D Director
Edgar C. Young, Public Assistant Consultant
Stephen R. Grant, Director, CSSD
Joseph J. DiTunno, CSSD
Connecticut Access and Visitation Application Page 3 of 8
State Application Narrative
State Program Strategy and Funding Priorities
Direct Activities:
The State of Connecticut has participated in the Access and Visitation Grant Program
since 1997. The Department of Social Services, through a collaborative interagency
contract with the Judicial Branch, administers this project. The Court Support Services
Division of the Judicial Branch implements the services associated with the project. The
intervention strategies have evolved over the course often years to meet the needs of the
participants. The following narrative briefly describes the current format:
All of the grant funds will be used for direct services to increase and facilitate access
between non-custodial parents and their children. The direct services being offered at this
time include a court-based negotiation and mediation component that is provided by
Family Relations Counselors, employees of the Court Support Services Division in the
Hartford Judicial District, and two contracted services, including supervised visitation
and a clinical track, which target families in transition. Participation in the services under
the grant is voluntary; however, the court can order families to participate in the
contracted services.
The contracted services (Supervised Visitation and Transitions in Parenting) will be
offered in three large areas of Connecticut to both child support and non-child support
clients. The first region is the North Central, which includes the city of Hartford; the
second region is the Northwest, which includes the city of Waterbury; and the third
region is the Eastern, which includes the city of New London. All of these regions have a
diverse socio-economic and cultural population. The three regions will share the
$100,000 grant award somewhat equally, with adjustments made based on the level of
referrals to the contracted services. In terms of individual cost estimates for the services
funded through the grant, $109,l11 will go to direct contracted services (Supervised
Visitation and Transitions in Parenting). Approximately $40,000 will be allocated for the
North Central Region, $35,000 for the Eastern Region, and $34,111 for the Northwest
Region. The court-based negotiations and mediation will be provided by the State of
Connecticut, Judicial Branch (in-kind) at a cost of$18,183, well above the required 10%
match. The remainder of the funds (approximately $2,000) will be used for
Travel/Training for the mandatory A V conference.
During the 10 years of the grant, the services offered have been fully utilized.
Refinement of the program is ongoing, and quarterly meetings are held with the providers
to discuss the referral process and identify how the services are addressing the needs of
the clients. The primary goal is to augment and enhance parent/child relationships
through greater access of the non-custodial parent, with a focus on the never-married
population. The court-based program of NegotiationlMediation in Hartford, and
contracted services in the North Central, Northwest and Eastern regions of Connecticut
will continue as federal funding allows. The following describes the direct activities in
detail:
Connecticut Access and Visitation Application Page 4 of 8
State Application Narrative
o Court Negotiations - This is a process in which a Family Relations Counselor meets
with the non-custodial parent at the time of the Court or Magistrate hearing in
Hartford. The sole function of the Family Relations Counselor in this setting is to
discuss access and visitation issues as well as other concerns regarding the
development of a parenting plan. The purpose of this first meeting is to screen and
ascertain the viability of mediation services, gain the non-custodial parent's
perspective about the issues surrounding visitation and to complete an intake. If the
custodial parent is available at that time, they are included in the process and the issue
of visitation is explored in more depth. If possible, the matter can be resolved in
court that day and an agreement will be entered into the court record. In most
instances the custodial parent is not available and follow-up meetings are necessary.
o Mediation - This is an intervention intended to resolve access and visitation disputes
and manage the conflict of the parents by facilitating the identification and
exploration of issues in the decision-making process. Mediation is conducted by
experienced Family Relations Counselors, either individually or utilizing a
male/female co-mediation model. Mediation can be done with the two parents in the
same room or, if this is not possible, mediation can be performed via the telephone or
by having the mediator shuttle between the two parents who remain in separate
rooms. Visitation or parenting plan agreements reached by the parents are drafted
into enforceable court orders.
o Casework Services - If the custodial parent refuses to participate in mediation, or
cannot be contacted, the Family Relations Counselor will provide follow-up services
to the requesting parent. The purpose is to help that non-custodial parent explore
access and visitation options and to provide information and support in navigating the
formal court process to bring the access issue before Family Matters Court.
o Supervised Visitation - This is a program run by subcontracted agencies: Klingberg
Family Center (North Central), Access Agency (Eastern), and Litchfield Visitation
Service (Northwest) in Connecticut. These agencies offer programming in which
children can have access to parents in a safe environment. The visitation occurs in the
presence of a professional, and the setting is comfortable for both the parents and the
child. Families are referred for three-month blocks and visits can occur for up to two
hours per week, with either one or two sessions per week. The family's continued
participation for additional three-month blocks is possible and is evaluated based on
individual needs and circumstances.
o Transitions In Parenting - This is a clinical intervention offered by the same agencies
and in the same regions as Supervised Visitation. This service targets non-custodial
parents who have either never developed a relationship with their child, or have had
their relationship severed and are looking to re-establish themselves in the child's life.
These families are generally entrenched in conflict, and the goal is to identify and
treat the underlying impasses that interfere with the non-custodial parent's access
with the child. The Transitions in Parenting addresses the issue of reconnecting a
non-custodial parent with his or her children. This service is vital as many non-
Connecticut Access and Visitation Application Page 5 of 8
State Application Narrative
custodial parents (especially the never married parents involved with child support
issues that are seeking access to their children) are seeking to establish a relationship
with their child or children that they have not had a relationship with for many years.
The Transitions in Parenting intervention allows the child or children to gain an
impoltant level of comfort with the re-introduced parent. In addition to counseling
sessions around the related issues, families can also be referred to other, non-grant
funded services such as parent education, substance abuse evaluation, treatment, and
testing, if these issues are having an impact on the ability of the non-custodial parent
to follow through with the grant funded intervention. These related issues are
discussed with the parties, and the reasons why they are current barriers to
establishing a relationship are explored to reach a possible resolution.
The number of sessions varies based on the numerous factors for each family. The
program is not intended to serve as a long term service for the families. Most
families utilize three or four sessions over the course of one or two months. One of
the main benefits is that the child and non-custodial parent can have sessions together
to set the stage for unsupervised visits. This practice also assists the custodial parent
to find a comfort level with the non-custodial parents being involved again in the
lives of their child or children. Although not a goal or general practice of the
program, there are times when the non-custodial parent becomes re-connected with
the child in Transitions in Parenting but still requires Supervised Visitation to ensure
the child's safety. The vast majority of cases move quickly to unsupervised access
once the bond is re-established. In addition to the contracted service, each family is
also assigned to a Judicial Branch, Court Support Services Division-Family Relations
Counselor who acts as the liaison between the contracted service provider and the
court. The Family Relations Counselor meets with the parents prior to participation
in the counseling component to briefly assess their needs.
The Family Relations Counselor will complete a report for the court and the clients at
the conclusion of their grant activity for both Supervised Visitation and Transitions in
Parenting programs. The Family Relations Counselor serves as a gatekeeper in the
process and is prepared to provide recommendations to the COUtt and the clients if
further orders are needed to effectuate the goal of restoring the parent-child
relationship.
Indirect Services/Activities:
There are no indirect services to clients as part of Connecticut's application.
Other Services/Activities:
Another major program within the Department of Social Services is the John S. Martinez
Fatherhood Initiative of Connecticut. The goal of the program is to promote positive
involvement and interaction of fathers with their children. This program oversees six
state-certified fatherhood programs across Connecticut and is funded by state funding and
the Promoting Responsible Fatherhood federal grant. The grant, administered by the U.S.
Connecticut Access and Visitation Application Page 6 of 8
State Application Narrative
Depal1ment of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children & Families,
Office of Family Assistance, offers services related to three authorized activities:
Responsible Parenting, Healthy Marriage, and Economic Stability. The intent of the
grant is to fully engage participants and provide access to the resources that are equitable,
timely, affordable, and appropriate. All of the interventions funded by the grant are
culturally, linguistically, and developmentally relevant and serve all persons, regardless
of their race, gender, age, disability, or religion. The six certified fatherhood programs
target primarily low-income fathers, new fathers, fathers-to-be, and young fathers who
may be single, unmarried, non-custodial, or cohabitating couples. In addition, couples
who identify themselves as engaged, in a committed relationship, or interested in
marriage are also provided with services. Each site offers curriculum based sessions and
individualized case management services related to the three authorized activity areas
(Responsible Parenting, Healthy MaiTiage, and Economic Stability), including, but not
limited to assistance with navigating systems for custody, access and visitation, child
support, anger management, housing, employment training, job search/retention,
education, counseling, mental health, domestic violence, substance abuse treatment, etc.
The grant serves five hundred individuals and fOl1y couples across the six sites annually.
Effective/Innovative Practices:
The historical format and intervention strategies offered by the State of Connecticut have
been highly effective in meeting the needs of the participants through Supervised
Visitation and Transitions in Parenting Program. Over half of the non-custodial clients
served during the state's 2009 fiscal year had increased parenting time with their
children, with the majority obtaining a valid court order as a result of the process.
Estimated Expenditures by Activity:
$109, III will be used for direct contracted services (Supervised Visitation and
Transitions in Parenting) to increase and facilitate access between non-custodial parents
and their children.
Grant A ward Process
A Request for Proposal (RFP) process was completed and contracts were awarded to the
agencies that will be providing the services with an end date of June 30, 2011. A RFP
process for July 1, 201 I-June 30, 2016 will commence in the spring of2011 for services
covering the majority of the current application.
State Coordinators Training Meeting:
Each year, the State of Connecticut sets aside at least $2,000 to allow the State Access
and Visitation Coordinator, or an appointed designee, to attend the training meeting. The
State of Connecticut has not missed an annual meeting and values the opportunity to
share information with other states regarding the Access and Visitation Program. In
Connecticut Access and Visitation Application Page 7 of 8
State Application Narrative
addition, the training and technical assistance provided allows for the continual
improvement of the services offered to non-custodial parents and their children.
Program Assurances
Monitoring of Service Providers and Any Other Sub-Grantees/Contractors:
The State Access and Visitation Coordinator (a Department of Social Services Public
Assistant Consultant working closely with a Court Support Services Division Program
Manager) will take the lead role in monitoring program activities. The Program Manager
will conduct quarterly meetings with the contracted service providers to discuss referral
rates and other issues impacting the Access and Visitation Grant. The Judicial Branch-
Court Support Services Division Grants and Contracts Unit handle billing and other fiscal
issues in collaboration with the A V coordinator. A quarterly report will be prepared and
sent to the State Access and Visitation Coordinator for review. In addition, periodic in-
person observation of the services provided win be completed at various times during the
state and federal fiscal year.
Terms and Conditions:
The State of Connecticut, Department of Social Services agrees to comply with the terms
and conditions detailed in the application for funding.
Personal Safeguards:
Potential clients for the Supervised Visitation and Transition in Parenting programs are
assigned to a Family Relations Counselor (a Judicial Branch-Court Support Service
Division employee) so issues regarding safety can be explored both before and during a
service referral. All referrals to the contracted service providers are screened for
domestic violence, utilizing guidelines developed by the Judicial Branch-Court Support
Services Division in consultation with the Department of Social Services, and any active
protective or restraining orders are reported to the agency. The safety of all involved,
especially children, is of paramount importance to the contracted service provider. Upon
receiving the referral, the agencies then complete additional safety screening with the
clients in accordance with their protocol. One of the requirements articulated in the most
recent Request for Proposal was for the organizations to follow the standards and
guidelines for supervised visitation practices, as outlined by the Supervised Visitation
Network (SVN). The protocol utilized by all current direct service providers is a
staggered arrival and departure procedure to ensure the safety of the participants. If
requested by the custodial parent, third parties can be utilized for the drop-off and pick-
up of the child to the agency. In addition, the agencies have telephones in each room
where the services occur, in case of an emergency, they are able to contact help. Further,
one of the agencies utilizes panic buttons on their staff that would alert the local police
department if an incident occurs.
Connecticut Access and Visitation Application Page 8 of 8
State Application Narrative
Data Collection Requirements:
The State Access and Visitation Coordinator, along with the Court Support Services
Division Program Manager, will ensure the collection and accurate reporting of data by
both the state and local grantees. As with previous years, the "State Child Access
Program Survey" will be completed and returned by the due date in December. This
requirement was included in the completed Request for Proposal process and is part of
the contract that the service providers sign prior to program implementation. The Court
Support Services Division Program Manager will provide training on a yearly basis
regarding how to accurately complete the survey. In addition, a quarterly statistical
report is required from all service providers that detail the grant activities, including the
number of clients served over a three-month period. The Court Support Services
Division Program Manager will also be responsible for contacting the appropriate office
supervisors in the various courts to discuss the services being delivered, and if there are
any issues with the quality of the supervised visitation andlor Transitions in Parenting.
This information and any issues arising from the numerous discussions will be shared
with the State Access and Visitation Coordinator.
Financial Reporting Requirements
The State of Connecticut- Depaltment of Social Services agrees to comply with the
Financial Reporting Requirements as outlined in the application.
Employer Identification and Contact Information:
The Federal Employee Identification Number for the State of Connecticut Department of
Social Services is # 1 066000798E4.
State Point-of-Contact:
The complete mailing address where the grant award letter should be sent is as follows :
Michael P. Starkowski, Commissioner
Department of Social Services
25 Sigourney Street
Haltford, CT 06106-5033
-




Judicial Branch
Family Support Magistrate
Division

Problem Solving Initiative
Report

June 30, 2010


2

Table of Contents

Introduction _________________________________________________________________ 3

Judicial Branch Implementation Activities ________________________________________ 4
Problem Solving in Family Matters Committee_________________________________________ 4
New Haven Pilot Implementation Team_______________________________________________ 4

Pilot Design _________________________________________________________________ 5
Eligibility Phase___________________________________________________________________ 5
Assessment Phase _________________________________________________________________ 6
Problem Solving Hearing Phase _____________________________________________________ 6
Non-Hearing Case Management Activities_____________________________________________ 8
Personnel Requirements____________________________________________________________ 8

Outcome Measures____________________________________________________________ 9
Data ___________________________________________________________________________ 10
Volume of cases at the New Haven Pilot Program______________________________________ 10
Demographics ___________________________________________________________________ 11
Performance ____________________________________________________________________ 12
Parent Satisfaction _______________________________________________________________ 12
Problem Solving Oriented Activities Not Associated with the Pilot________________________ 13

Conclusion _________________________________________________________________ 14

3

Introduction

~A Parent’s Story~

The obligated noncustodial parent entered the court system because of
her failure to make child support payments. She is a 34-year-old
Caucasian with a 13-year-old child. From birth to three years old, she
was living with her child and the child’s father as an intact family. She
gave up custody of her child when the child was three years old and
has not had a relationship with the child for the past ten years. She
reports a history of unstable housing and stays mainly with her
mother. She has not earned her high school diploma or completed her
GED. Her longest period of employment was a four-month part-time
job. She has never had a driver’s license because she does not trust
herself driving, thus she relies primarily on public transportation. She
reports being diagnosed with both bipolar and mood disorders and has
received treatment at an inpatient treatment facility. Presently, she is
not complying with her mental health treatment plan. During her
initial contempt hearing she reported being a “raging” alcoholic.

Since the passage of AAC Responsible Fatherhood and Strong Families
1
, the Judicial
Branch, with the assistance and support of community partners, has been actively
working to design and implement a viable problem solving court model for Title IV-
D child support matters heard in the Family Support Magistrate Division of Superior
Court. The Family Support Magistrate Division (FSMD) is the statutory court that
hears child support cases for the Title IV-D Child Support Program.

The Judicial Branch Problem Solving Initiative (Initiative) collaborated with
community service providers and state agency partners, to develop and design a
judicial process using multidisciplinary, court-based problem solving techniques to
address the underlying issues of the parents appearing in family support court. The
goals of the Initiative include, but are not limited to: 1) increasing a parent’s
employment skills; 2) increasing a parent’s ability to pay child support; 3)
determining appropriate child support orders; 4) assisting parents in accessing the
services that will help better their lives; and 5) assisting parents in strengthening
their relationship with their children.

Presently, the Initiative has resulted in the creation of a Problem Solving Pilot
Program (Pilot) in the Judicial District of New Haven, at New Haven. The Pilot
began on January 27, 2010. Cases are heard on Wednesday of each week. As of
May 5, 2010, there have been fourteen (14) court dates and sixty-one (61) cases
have been referred to the Pilot for problem solving activities and monitoring.

1
Public Act 09-175, codified at CGS Sec. 46b-232a

4


Judicial Branch Implementation Activities

During 2009, the Judicial Branch and a number of State and community partners
met to explore the feasibility and to ultimately design a pilot problem solving court
model in the Family Support Magistrate Division. The two key groups working on
this issue were the Problem Solving in Family Matters Committee and the Problem
Solving in Family Support Magistrate Court New Haven Pilot Implementation Team.

Problem Solving in Family Matters Committee

In January 2009, the Judicial Branch convened the Problem Solving in Family
Matters Committee
2
. Chaired by Judge Lynda Munro, Chief Administrative Judge,
Family Division, the committee was charged with exploring the feasibility of
creating a problem solving justice model to assist parents with cases in the FSMD
by linking them to community services that would help them achieve the personal
and economic stability needed to meet their support obligations. In June 2009, the
committee produced a report that contained a variety of recommendations,
including implementation of a pilot problem solving court session in either the
Judicial District of New Haven or Waterbury. The report also recommended that the
pilot program partner with community agencies to provide key services in areas
such as, housing, employment, education, fathering/parenting, and mental health
and addiction services.

New Haven Pilot Implementation Team

In November 2009, the Branch convened the Problem Solving in Family Support
Magistrate Court New Haven Pilot Implementation Team
3
to design and establish
the recommended Problem Solving Pilot Program in New Haven. The
implementation team was chaired by Chief Family Support Magistrate Sandra
Sosnoff Baird. The team had Branch membership from the Family Support
Magistrate Division, Support Enforcement Services (Child Support), Superior Court
Operations (Court Clerk’s Office), Court Support Services Division (Adult Probation
and Family Services) and New Haven Family Alliance, Male Involvement Network
(community input). The Team also consulted with a number of other organizations
such as the Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy (Central Connecticut State
University) and the City of New Haven Mayor’s Office. Through these collaborative
efforts within the Branch and with the greater New Haven community, the inaugural
problem solving court session launched on January 27, 2010.


2
See http://www.jud.ct.gov/Committees/pst/problemsolving/default.htm for the record of
committee activities.
3
See http://www.jud.ct.gov/Committees/pst/problemsolving/NH_pilot/default.htm for the
record of team activities.

5
Pilot Design

The Pilot heavily relies on a “collaborative justice” design using a team model. This
design focuses on a non-adversarial team approach between the judicial authority,
through the Family Support Magistrates; Support Enforcement Services, through a
case manager; community resources and treatment providers; and the parties or
litigants and their attorneys. A key element is a strong judicial role. This is
accomplished through frequent status hearings before a dedicated Magistrate
having direct interaction with the litigants. Sanctions and rewards, which replace
the traditional coercive order of incarceration, are clearly defined and implemented.
Active involvement by a Support Enforcement case manager provides additional
follow through and links the participants to appropriate community-based programs
and resources to address the parent’s identified barriers. The Pilot is designed to
provide parents with increased resources and intensive monitoring in a supportive
environment that provides sufficient time to address the personal challenges
interfering with their ability to provide regular and reliable financial support for their
children.

The Pilot activities fall into four phases: eligibility, assessment, problem solving
hearing and non-hearing case management activities.

Eligibility Phase

In situations where an obligated noncustodial parent has failed to make child
support payments, an obligated parent may be summoned to court to show cause
as to why he or she should not be found in contempt. During a pre-hearing
discussion with the obligated noncustodial parent, the Support Enforcement Officer
asks a series of questions to determine if any of the following criteria are present:

• The parent reports having a criminal record.
• The parent reports an inconsistent record of employment or earnings.
• The parent reports a lack of secondary school education and/or skills
necessary to meet basic employer requirements.
• The parent reports the existence of one or more personal factors (e.g. limited
English proficiency, lack of housing, mental health needs, drug and/or alcohol
abuse) that may be impeding his/her ability to fulfill the duty to support.

The existence of two or more of the above factors, plus the parent’s willingness to
participate, makes a case potentially eligible for referral to the Pilot. The existence
of the criteria is reported to the Family Support Magistrate presiding over the
contempt docket. The Family Support Magistrate canvasses the obligated
noncustodial parent and reviews the reported criteria. In addition, the Magistrate
will determine if the custodial parent objects to transferring the case to the Pilot. If
the Magistrate is satisfied that there is a substantial likelihood that the claimed
barriers exist, the case is referred to the Pilot and an order is entered for the parent
to meet with the SES problem solving case manager for a full assessment.


6

Assessment Phase

The SES case manager uses a formal, but streamlined intake procedure that moves
potential participants rapidly through screening and assessment to formalized
participant status. During this phase, the case manager meets with the obligated
noncustodial parent and conducts a detailed assessment, using a variety of formal
tools
4
. The assessment offers the Family Support Magistrate presiding in the
problem solving court a detailed portrait of the obligated noncustodial parent’s
personal history and current needs. The assessment covers items such as
educational and employment background, criminal history, housing and
transportation needs, receipt of government benefits (e.g. SAGA, SNAP, SSI,
SSDI), and whether the parent has government-issued identification documents
such as a social security card or driver’s license. The case manager also uses two
screening tools to help determine whether the obligated noncustodial parent needs
either substance abuse or mental health counseling or care. The Judicial Branch
Protective Order Registry is also reviewed to determine if there are any active
protective or restraining orders between the parents. Finally, if the custodial parent
chooses to be an active participant in the process, the case manager will interview
him/her to ensure that his/her concerns, opinions and needs are adequately
addressed in the process.

Problem Solving Hearing Phase

Problem solving hearings are regularly held by a Family Support Magistrate who is
dedicated to the Pilot. The court engages in direct conversation with the
participants about progressive conduct and setbacks. The Family Support
Magistrate, case manager, and community-based service providers, work
collaboratively with the parents (and at times, their attorneys) to promote activities
that are designed to provide personal and financial stability for the parents. Issues
addressed by problem solving may include sobriety, lack of housing, the need for
vocational and rehabilitation services or lack of education.

Rewards and sanctions are core elements of the hearing process. Frequent court
monitoring provides judicial oversight that is intended to increase incentives for
participant success. This includes positive feedback from the Magistrate, which
focuses the parent’s successes as barriers are addressed. This approach is
designed to foster a relationship between the parents and the Magistrate which
focuses on the common goal of successful completion of court ordered community-
based programming.

Common behavioral modification techniques are used in the hearing phase. For
example, general supportive comments from the Magistrate and other team
members are designed to motivate and demonstrate support for the changed
behavior. In addition, tangible rewards, or “tokens,” such as journals and writing
implements are used to assist participant performance.

4
The screening and assessment tools were collaboratively developed by the New Haven Pilot
Implementation Team.

7

Failure to comply with the court orders will result in the imposition of sanctions.
Ultimately, noncompliance with problem solving orders will result in the obligated
noncustodial parent being removed from the Pilot and being referred for an
immediate contempt hearing before a second Magistrate. At the contempt hearing,
the obligated noncustodial parent faces potential incarceration until a purge, or a
set monetary amount, is paid. The sanction for noncompliance is clearly and
frequently articulated to the obligated noncustodial parent to increase the parent’s
understanding of the process and serve as an incentive for successful participation
and compliance with the orders.

The Magistrate may impose graduated sanctions prior to removing a parent from
the Pilot. These sanctions include, but are not limited to, more frequent court
monitoring, increased participation in programming or more strenuous
documentation of participation in court ordered programming.

In addition to the increased frequency of hearings, the Pilot hearing itself is unique
in that each hearing is individually scheduled for a specific time and is allotted a
half hour. This element of the Pilot uses scheduling as an additional reward or
sanction for the participant’s compliance with the court’s orders. Because of the
nature of some of the barriers presented, the Magistrate ensures that the
participants are provided a meaningful opportunity to complete the programs and
make measurable progress towards personal goals. The frequency of hearings or
the period of time over which they are conducted is measured by behavior and
progress towards the participant’s goals. This type of judicial monitoring will
continue until the obligated noncustodial parent is in a position to manage the
personal challenges that have historically interfered with their ability to provide
regular and reliable financial support for their children.


~A Parent’s Story Continued~

She was ordered by the court to immediately arrange for mental
health and alcohol treatment and her case was continued one week to
check on her progress. Knowing she needed to be in treatment to
avoid a contempt hearing for non-payment of child support, she
applied pursuant to the problem solving court order for SAGA medical
insurance and contacted a dual diagnosis treatment program.

At her continuance date, she reported back to court with SAGA medical
insurance and an intake appointment scheduled for a dual diagnosis
program. Ultimately she was admitted into an inpatient program for
the time period of four to six months based on the findings from the
intake. Arrangements were made for the court to monitor her
progress throughout treatment.


8

Non-Hearing Case Management Activities

During the time between the hearing dates, the case manager will follow up with
the obligated noncustodial parent to offer support and additional assistance if
necessary. When appropriate, the case manager will contact community service
providers to verify compliance.

The case manager is also available to speak with the custodial parent to ensure that
the goals of the process meet the needs of the entire family. Finally, both parties
will be reminded by telephone of the upcoming hearing. This extensive case
management provides the obligated noncustodial parent with encouragement and
support as he or she attempts to comply with the court orders. Activities, such as a
telephone call to remind a parent of an upcoming court date, produces greater
court attendance rates and better overall outcomes.

Information gathered during this phase of the process may be conveyed to the
Magistrate at future problem solving hearings as it is directly related to the court’s
prior orders.

Personnel Requirements

The list below represents the Judicial Branch personnel assigned to the Pilot:
• One Family Support Magistrate
• One Support Enforcement Officer/case manager
• One Court Monitor
• One Temporary Assistant Clerk
• Access to Judicial Marshal as needed
• Access to a Family Services Officer as needed

The list below represents other Judicial Branch personnel associated with the
management of the Pilot:
• Chief Family Support Magistrate
• Support Enforcement Services management staff
• Clerk’s Office management staff

In addition to the Judicial Branch personnel, the following partners make staff
available for the problem solving docket:
• Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State
University
• New Haven Family Alliance, Male Involvement Network

It is important to note that neither the Judicial Branch nor the partners received
state funding for this Pilot. In order for it to be successful and possibly replicated in
other locations, it is absolutely critical to have the necessary programs in place to
assist the parents with their barriers. Without these programs, the problem solving
pilot will not succeed. In addition to the programs, the Judicial Branch would
require additional resources to replicate this labor intensive Pilot.

9
Outcome Measures


To ensure that the Pilot is fully evaluated for overall effectiveness, a number of
outcome measures have been developed to correspond with specific pilot goals.
These measures will assist the Pilot management team and the Judicial Branch to
objectively assess the program’s success.

Measurement categories (with goal) include:

• Current support collection rate
o Goal: increase the number of cases with improved collection rate

• Total dollars collected
o Goal: increase the number of cases with improved total dollars
collected

• Frequency of child support payments
o Goal: increase the number of cases with more frequent child support
payments

• Court attendance rate
o Goal: improve court attendance for problem solving participants

• Program participation (participation in appropriate community-based social
service oriented programming)
o Goal: increase program application rate
o Goal: increase program eligibility rate
o Goal: increase program attendance rate
o Goal: increase program completion rate

• Order appropriateness
o Goal: increase the percentage of cases with an order based upon
actual earnings as determined by the Connecticut Child Support and
Arrearage Guidelines

• Employment rate
o Goal: increase the percentage of obligated noncustodial parents who
obtain full-time employment (non-temporary)

• Access and visitation
o Goal: increase the parent’s ability to resolve access and visitation
issues

• Overall Program Success
o Goal: 50% of parents have underlying contempt action concluded (no
finding of contempt) within 6 months from entry into pilot
o Goal: 85% of parents have underlying contempt action concluded (no
finding of contempt) within 12 months from entry into pilot


10
Data

Support Enforcement Services, in cooperation with the Family Support Magistrate
Division, developed a comprehensive data collection tool to record demographic
information as well as process and outcomes needed for assessing the success of
the problem solving pilot. In addition, a data collection tool has been developed to
assist the entire Family Support Magistrate Division in capturing the statewide
referrals to community resources that provide job training, skill-building, work
programs, educational services, and rehabilitation services.

~A Parent’s Story Continued~

In the time that she has been in treatment for her mental health and
substance abuse issues, she has become more verbal and is able to
express herself in a manner that she could not at the beginning.
According to her treatment providers, she has been making steady
progress and is learning how to make and sustain healthy relationships
with her peers. She is alcohol-free and is participating in intensive
individual and group therapy. She has been prescribed medications
needed for her mental health issues and has made steady progress.

Her presentation in court has changed dramatically since her first
appearance in the problem solving pilot. She is now better able to
communicate and make eye contact with the Family Support
Magistrate. She is smiling and speaking on her own behalf about the
progress she has made. She has thanked the custodial parent for his
patience throughout the process. The custodial parent in the case is
also impressed by the progress made. An exchange of phone numbers
occurred so that she and the father could make arrangements for her
to contact her child by phone if the child was willing to talk. Both
parents left the courtroom with a sense of accomplishment and a
willingness to try to repair years of hurt.

Volume of cases at the New Haven Pilot Program

As of May 5, 2010, there have been fourteen (14) problem solving court dates.
Sixty-one (61) cases have been referred from the regular contempt docket for
problem solving review and forty-seven (47) cases remain active. Fourteen (14)
cases have been concluded for reasons such as: obligor’s unwillingness to
participate; securing full-time employment; or the Magistrate found the need for a
full contempt hearing due to a failure to cooperate/comply with the problem solving
consent order. It is important to note that the data that follows represents
approximately only three months of Pilot activities, thus it is too early to draw any
definitive conclusions from such data.


11

Demographics

As of May 5, 2010, forty-five (45) obligated non-custodial parents comprising sixty-
one (61) cases have been referred to the Pilot.

The basic demographic information of the Pilot population is as follows:

Gender
• 86% are male
• 14% are female

Race
• 55% identify as Black
• 25% identify as White
• 20% identify as Hispanic

Age
• The average age of the parents is 36 years old

Education
• 41% of the parents have not graduated high school or received a GED

Past Due Support
• The average amount of past due support owed: $16,600

The list below is a summary of issues facing the 45 obligated non-custodial parents
(note that each parent has multiple issues):

• 77% are currently receiving some form of government assistance (e.g. medical,
food stamps, SAGA, etc.)
• 73% have a criminal history (convictions)
• 60% do not have a valid driver’s license
• 52% have substance abuse issues
• 48% do not have a reliable form of transportation
• 45% have mental health issues




12
The following is a summary of orders made by the Family Support Magistrate based on
the preceding issues:

• 47% of obligors were referred to New Haven Family Alliance, Male Involvement
Network for services such as: job readiness, parenting skills, personal finance
skills
• 29% of obligors were ordered to apply for substance abuse treatment services
• 24% of obligors were ordered to apply for mental health services
• 16% of obligors were ordered to apply for social security benefits
• 9% of obligors were ordered to reentry services
• 9% of obligors were ordered to apply for SAGA benefits

Performance

Although the Pilot has only been in operation for a quarter of the year, some of the
early payment related data is encouraging. The data below reflects the average
payment pattern of the obligated noncustodial parents involved in the problem
solving pilot.

6 months preceding entering the Pilot 3 months after entering the Pilot
5
Average # of payments/month: 1.5 Average # of payments/month: 3
Average payment amount: $50.58 Average payment amount: $66.37
Average monthly payments: $75.87 Average monthly payments: $199.11

The early data indicates that, on average, parents in the Pilot have increased both
the frequency and the amount of their support payments.

These increases have resulted in a 162 percent increase in child support payments.
In addition, 42% of the parents have filed motions to have their support orders
modified to an amount that more accurately reflects their current income.

Parent Satisfaction

As part of the overall assessment of the effectiveness of the problem solving model,
the Judicial Branch partnered with the Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy at
Central Connecticut State University. The Institute offered to conduct a survey to
explore whether the parties were satisfied with their problem solving justice
experience. The preliminary results are encouraging.


5
Note that the “after” data is based upon 15 weeks of information, and that no single case has
exceeded 15 weeks in the Pilot.

13

“All respondents believed that they were treated fairly by both the Magistrate and
Child Support Officer (100%). In addition, the majority of respondents reported
their case was handled fairly by the court (96%) and the overall outcome and
referrals matched their needs and current circumstances (93%).

Overall, both the obligated and custodial respondents (18 in total) appeared
satisfied with the problem solving court model. Across all eighteen (18) satisfaction
questions, the majority of survey respondents indicated a positive satisfaction
rating; not one respondent strongly disagreed with any question.

The Child Support Officer seemed to establish a positive rapport with all
respondents as 93% reported the Child Support Officer seemed interested in
helping them, 96% felt the Child Support Officer treated them with respect and
96% reported they were provided with clear answers throughout the process.

Respondents also felt they were listened to by the court, as both the Magistrate and
Child Support Officer took the time to understand the respondent’s individual case.
According to 93% of respondents, the hearing afforded time to adequately explain
and discuss their circumstances with the court. To that end, 96% felt the court
understood their particular needs. When it came time for the court to make a
decision, the majority of respondents (93%) felt the court carefully considered what
the respondent said.

Prior to the initial hearing, the majority of respondents (86%) felt the court was
provided with all necessary information regarding their case. Once the hearing was
over, 89% of respondents left feeling they had a good understanding as to what
was happening with their case. Overall, instructions given by the court (Magistrate
and Child Support Officer) were understandable according to 93% of respondents.”
6

Problem Solving Oriented Activities Not Associated with the Pilot

In addition to the comprehensive problem solving pilot in New Haven, Family
Support Magistrates have been applying problem solving techniques and practices
throughout the state, outside of the specialized court setting, pursuant to Public Act
09-175 to assist parents throughout the State. Since October 1, 2009, Family
Support Magistrates have made over 925 referrals to community resources and
state agencies. Parents have been referred to programs which provide job training,
skill-building, work programs, educational services, and rehabilitation. The purpose
of these referrals is to significantly increase the obligated noncustodial parent's
ability to fulfill his or her duty of support within a reasonable period of time.



6
Ruffolo, L. and Payne, L., CCSU Preliminary Survey Results – Family Support Magistrate Court
(Problem Solving Session) January 2010 to April 2010, Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy
(CCSU)

14
Conclusion

At this time, early indicators support the preliminary conclusions that there is
strong community support for the Pilot, that the participating litigants are satisfied
with the Pilot, and that the Pilot is producing positive financial results for children.
The Judicial Branch will continue to closely monitor and record all aspects of the
performance outcomes previously outlined to provide a full, objective evaluation of
the Pilot in July 2011. If the Pilot program proves to be successful, strong
consideration must be given to the additional resources that would be required for
the Judicial Branch to replicate this Pilot in other Judicial Districts.

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