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Maureen Pirog

Last modified: Monday, March 3, 2003

SPEA involved in state child support changes

The Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) is a key player in recently announced changes in the state's child support system.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) just announced plans to convert the child support system to an electronic format that will eventually save money by eliminating paper checks and mailing costs.

A federal grant of $327,500 to start the pilot project in the Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Evansville areas was written by state officials; Maureen Pirog, a SPEA professor and director of the IU Institute for Family and Social Responsibility; and Craig Johnson, an associate professor in SPEA.

"This is a unique collaboration that involved university professors working in conjunction with state personnel to secure a grant that would help fund the implementation of the project as well as an accompanying evaluation," Pirog said. She and Johnson will head the evaluation team that will examine the overall satisfaction of child support recipients with the new electronic distribution system, as well as with the changes in banking practices, costs of check cashing, and sense of security in receiving child support electronically rather than by paper checks. The study also will analyze the two new child support distribution methods of direct bank account deposits and the new Hoosier Works debit card for child support.

Pirog, whose expertise includes child support and poverty, said the evaluation will help the state implement the new system in the 89 counties (including Monroe) that are not part of the pilot project in Marion, Allen and Vanderburgh counties.

"This project also will guide child support administrators across the nation who are looking for innovative ways to improve customer services and lower taxpayer expenditures," she said.

The pilot program will begin this summer through direct deposits into personal bank accounts or the Hoosier Works child support debit card. Families will select which electronic method they will use. The goal is for the new system to be statewide by 2005, if not sooner.

"This cutting-edge electronic system is a huge step forward for Indiana families," explained Indiana FSSA Secretary John Hamilton. "Making sure that child support reaches families quickly is another step in providing a better future for our children," he said.

For more information on the SPEA involvement in this program, contact Pirog at 812-856-5926, or Johnson at 812-855-0732, For state FSSA details, contact Mary Beth Davis at 317-233-4695,