1998 Finalist
US Department of Health and Human Services and Social Security Administration
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

In the late 1990s, the US Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) faced the challenge of ensuring that parents who owe child support do indeed pay. Many single parents receiving child support were left without recourse when paying parents changed jobs or states to avoid payment. State agencies held "new hire" files, but reporting was voluntary. If the paying parent moved out of state, an inquiry into that state's files could take nine to twelve months.

Through the coordination of the OCSE, the Social Security Agency (SSA), the State Child Support Agencies, and the Department of Labor, the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) was created. All employers must report new hire data to state agencies within twenty days. From there, state and federal agencies forward new hire, quarterly wage and unemployment insurance payment data to the NDNH. With access to this wealth of information, caseworkers can now locate missing parents, establish paternity, enforce support orders, get health insurance coverage for families, and speed-up adoptions.

Most recently, 51 states and territories have been reporting new hire data, 46 are reporting quarterly wage data, and 49 are reporting unemployment insurance claim data. Additionally, 96 percent of the federal workforce is reporting quarterly wage information. Approximately eight percent of NHDH's database has contributed to the location of non-paying obliged parents. This has led to a significant increase in collected child-support revenue.

The NDNH represents not only a fluid state-federal collaboration, but also collaborations of agencies at the same levels. In the process of creating NDNH, state agencies showed impressive support and responsiveness in reporting new hire data. The majority of interagency collaboration took place in a partnership between the OCSE and the SSA. These two agencies freely shared resources and technological information to assemble NDNH quickly at a much lower cost than if one of the agencies had tried to produce the needed infrastructure that the other could readily supply.