Nudges to Increase Customer Engagement (NICE) in Child Support Programs is an effort to use behavioral insights to increase noncustodial parents’ engagement in an administrative process for establishing their child support orders and to improve ongoing communication between the child support program and its clients. The New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) has contracted with MDRC, one of the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity’s evaluation partners, to provide technical assistance for NICE initiatives from 2015-2016.
HRA offers an alternative to court-based child support order establishment for noncustodial parents whose children receive cash assistance. Parents are invited to participate in a meeting at a local office with a child support customer service staff person. The meetings aim to engage noncustodial parents in the child support process, establish orders faster, and provide an opportunity for parents to ask questions and leave with an understanding of the program’s services. MDRC is collaborating with HRA to determine if behavioral techniques can boost attendance at these meetings — and ultimately improve successful order establishment, reduce the time it takes orders to be established, and improve initial payment behavior. MDRC is not conducting a formal evaluation of this project but expects to advise HRA staff on the design, implementation, and assessment of two new, behaviorally-informed outreach campaigns. In addition, MDRC will develop a two-part training that builds on the child support program’s continuous improvement of its print communications. The goal of the training will be to teach staff responsible for writing letters and procedures how to infuse behavioral principles into written communication through the use of graphical elements and timelines, simplified language, reminders, and action-oriented lists.