Indiana Child Support Bureau chooses Thomson Reuters CLEAR
While many non-custodial parents (NCPs) maintain an active role in the lives of their children, the sad truth is that plenty do not. Beyond simply being uninvolved, an absent or missing NCP can create severe burdens for the families that depend on their support. Finding these parents is often critically important to the health and welfare of children and families facing utility bills, education costs, or healthcare needs.
In practice, finding NCPs often proves to be as challenging as it is important. While Indiana may not be among the country's physically largest states, its 6.76 million residents make it the 17th most populous state in the union. Quite simply, Indiana has a lot of people to serve and no shortage of opportunities to hide among the crowd.
Faced with that challenge, the Indiana Child Support Bureau (CSB) takes a “no stone unturned" approach to locating NCPs. The department has always turned to whatever information it could legally use to locate and contact those parents who have failed to support their children as required by law. But the results aren't always easy to get, and the path to success is frequently a maze of dead ends and frustration.
“We want better overall data"
In early 2020, CSB faced an additional challenge: a tool the department relied on for searching arrests and incarcerations data was being discontinued. Facing the loss of that data source—and internal concerns about the quality of their other information—the department began looking for a new solution.
Early in their discussions with Thomson Reuters, CSB stated they wanted to have faith in the data which would allow them to exercise good judgment about where and how to deploy resources. Considering what is at stake for the children CSB serves, the importance of reliable data is obvious.
This isn't a revolutionary idea. Trustworthy data is top of mind for any government agency tasked with locating people. These days, the digital paper trail on any individual can be vast and confusing. In order to be useful, all that data must be valid, up to date, and decipherable. In a word, trustworthy.
A CLEAR difference
The decision to switch vendors for a statewide organization isn't always easy—even if a product discontinuation is forcing that change. When Indiana CSB went looking for a replacement to their public records toolkit, Thomson Reuters CLEAR found a seat at the table. Of course, there were the requisite needs around trustworthy data, but there were also considerations of usability, training, and deployment to consider. Remember, time spent learning a new system was time not serving the children relying on CSB for their support.
To address the trust issue, Thomson Reuters led with transparency. When information needs to be accurate, understanding its source makes all the difference. CLEAR users are able to have faith in individual elements like addresses because the results included the recency and source of the information. That background knowledge—the data behind the data—empowered CSB team members to make their next move: keep looking elsewhere, dig deeper into this record, or move ahead with confidence.
Fewer steps and greater confidence
Clean data is one component of trust, but another element is reducing confusion. Prior to implementing CLEAR, CSB and county prosecutor users often had to switch from one application to another in an attempt to view the whole story on an individual. That action is more than a hassle, it's a flaw in the process. Consider the possibility that an address record in one system uses different data from an arrest record in another system. The risk of losing the thread on your subject increases with each new application or data stream.
In contrast, CLEAR places more of the information CSB and county prosecutors need within a single user experience. The inclusion of real-time arrest records, for example, spared child support team members from having to switch sources and re-verify that they were viewing the same individual in both systems. Once again, the data was trustworthy and the simple friction of too many tools was reduced.
A user-focused experience
When locating people who may not want to be found, volume of data is only as good as its usability. This, again, was an opportunity for CLEAR to shine. Far from an overwhelming data dump, the tool's reports use an organized, easy-to-read format. These simple things—like placing the person's address at the top of the page by default—go a long way towards the efficacy of the tool and the efficiency of the user.
In order to live up to that promise, Thomson Reuters provided CSB and county prosecutor staff with a host of onboarding trainings. In the first month, the CLEAR team delivered 26 trainings to DCS staff with the focus on real-world application of the tool. Staff learned how to perform a reverse address search, how to leverage live data from within CLEAR for greater confidence, and even how to use social media to locate NCPs who might otherwise claim to be out of contact or unable to support their families.
CLEAR's newest users even learned how to customize their own report templates to prioritize the information they find most useful and eliminate the “needle in a haystack" work of previous public records tools. These training sessions are just the beginning. Ongoing support from Thomson Reuters and an attitude that is more partner than vendor means the team at the Indiana Child Support Bureau, and the children who rely on them, are in good hands.
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