Semistructured interviews involve an interviewer asking some prespecified, open-ended questions, with follow-up questions based on what the interviewee has to say. This Reflections on Methodology post describes a semistructured interview protocol recently used to explore how children who experience poverty perceive their situations, their economic status, and public benefit programs.
Amid keen interest in helping students, young adults, and low-wage workers build the skills necessary to succeed in a technologically advanced economy, MDRC is studying a range of programs that feature employer involvement, such as career pathways from high school into college and the workforce, work-based learning, apprenticeships, and sectoral training.
The Breaking Barriers program, based in San Diego, provided employment services to lower-income individuals with disabilities. MDRC carried out a random assignment evaluation of the program. As part of the Building Evidence on Employment Strategies for Low-income Families project, MDRC is collecting additional administrative records to extend the original evaluation.
The Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC) project integrates procedural justice principles (the idea of fairness in processes) into enforcement at six child support agencies. This brief, intended for child support practitioners and administrators, describes the outreach and engagement strategies employed in PJAC with both noncustodial and custodial parents.
The Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services demonstration used insights from behavioral science to develop interventions that could improve child support services. This report summarizes findings from 22 interventions that tested a range of design principles from behavioral science — for example, simplification, personalization, and reminders.
The Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services (BICS) Project
This intervention tested with the Vermont Office of Child Support changed outreach materials and the structure of conferences with parents in order to increase parent participation in the child support process and increase the percentage of cases where both parents reached agreement outside of court. It did improve both outcomes.
Testing Approaches to Increase Child Support Payments in Colorado
Much child support is collected through income withholding, but it takes time to establish automatic deductions from parents’ paychecks. In the interim, parents must make payments manually, and often do not. This brief describes an intervention in Colorado that increased payment amounts during these first months after order establishment.
Implementing Individual Placement and Support in a Workforce Setting
Breaking Barriers was a San Diego-based program that provided employment services to low-income individuals with a range of disabilities or other health conditions. Preliminary analyses based on a survey found that the program did not have an impact on the primary outcomes measured — employment, length of employment, and total earnings — during a 15-month follow-up period.
Testing Early Parent Engagement in Washington’s Child Support Program
The state of Washington tested an intervention meant to foster a better relationship with parents early in the child support process. The intervention included specialized caseworkers, phone calls, and redesigned documents. There was limited evidence that the intervention increased parent engagement, and it did not improve payment outcomes.
Training Approaches Applied in the Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC) Demonstration
The Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC) project integrates procedural justice principles (the idea of fairness in processes) into enforcement at six child support agencies. This brief, intended for child support practitioners and administrators, describes the specialized training provided to staff members at the six participating agencies.