Penn State role in state’s child support enforcement program turns 20

The Penn State Justice and Safety Institute’s Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement Training Institute has provided training and career development programs for the state’s child support enforcement workers
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For two decades the Penn State Justice and Safety Institute (JASI) has helped train Pennsylvania’s child support enforcement workers through a unique partnership between Penn State and the state.

Penn State JASI administers the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement Training Institute (PACSETI), which provides training and career development programs, through an agreement with Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services’ Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE), the Domestic Relations Sections (DRS) of the Courts of Common Pleas and the Domestic Relations Association of Pennsylvania (DRAP).

In 2020, PACSETI served 2,342 child support enforcement workers through 309 trainings and 33,116 enrollments. The organization, which in past years conducted most of its training in a face-to-face learning environment, relied heavily on self-paced online training because of the pandemic, says PACSETI program director John Sankey.

“Our web training ensured our learners had the training they needed when they needed it and was the foundation for our learners’ success,” he said. “We remained steadfast in our commitment to delivering on our mission to provide timely and structured learning experiences, operational training and career development programs.”

Enrollments and offerings in PACSETI training increased by 33% and 14%, respectively, compared to 2019, and PACSETI developed 54 new training products and revised 81 trainings through curriculum restructure and development, according to Sankey.

Carla Smith, president of the DRAP and director of Crawford County Domestic Relations Section, says PACSETI’s background and experience enabled them to quickly respond to the unique challenges of the past 17 months, while still delivering vital training.

“PACSETI’s willingness to continue to adapt and grow was imperative to allowing Pennsylvania to remain a national frontrunner in child support enforcement,” she said. “They are a true partner of front-line child support workers in Pennsylvania.”

Jaylene Bowers, division director for the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement, says PACSETI is integral to Pennsylvania being consistently ranked as one of the best child support programs in the nation.

“They provide critical support for BCSE’s mission to ensure that Pennsylvania families are served by professional and knowledgeable child support staff, and the training helps ensure that child support guidelines and enforcement remedies are applied equitably statewide,” she said. “Penn State, JASI and PACSETI staff and faculty have been phenomenal to work with.”

The institute, founded in 2002, has trained more than 6,500 child support enforcement workers, and all new hires are required to take the training program. Instructors, who are vetted through Penn State JASI’s academic partner at the Penn State Harrisburg School of Public Affairs, include former field workers; DRS directors, deputy directors and supervisors; individuals working within child support; and attorneys.

“DRS workers’ dedication to themselves through lifelong learning in support of their clients and the children of Pennsylvania is truly inspiring,” Sankey said. “Their efforts are unmatched and motivates us every day.”

Visit the Penn State JASI website for more information on the Penn State Outreach service.