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Local families received valuable assistance from the County Department of Child Support Services in 2016.  Thanks to the continued hard work of staff, children in our community can live healthy and productive lives.

With a workload of almost 4,000 cases, child support services caseworkers helped parents and employers establish and enforce court-ordered child and medical support in 2016. For the majority of cases, parents dutifully supported their children. However, there were cases in which child support payments weren’t forthcoming. That’s when the County Department of Child Support Services stepped in. Caseworkers responded on behalf of the child to collect the court-ordered support.

In 2016, County staff collected and distributed $14.3 million in child support to help local families meet their basic needs. In tough economic times, the money collected and distributed means that parents don’t have to choose between food and medical care for their children. They can have both.

In one 2016 case, a father owed his four children about $41,000 in past-due support, but refused to pay. A County caseworker intervened and collected nearly $40,000 by filing a lien on an inheritance the father was expecting to receive. Thanks to the caseworker’s efforts, the mother and guardian of his children could afford braces and mouth surgery for one of their children.

Since its inception in the late ‘90s, the County’s child support program has been the top performer in California. This is measured by five key metrics: paternity establishment, order establishment, percent of current support collected, cases with arrears collections and cost effectiveness.

Along with collecting child support owed to families, child support caseworkers also often serve as a bridge between parents to help them communicate. Caseworkers aim to foster trust by encouraging regular communication and proactive action, rather than avoidance out of fear.

As the world continues to advance with technological processes the County must also keep pace. To make the child support process even easier on parents, the County Department of Child Support Services went paperless in 2016. A new paperless management system was launched in July 2016 to conserve resources and maintain world-class service. Staff can now file legal documents electronically, which allows caseworkers to more quickly begin collecting money that families rely on to survive.

This new system is also expected to increase productivity, improve response time and enhance customer satisfaction.

Treating Children with Disabilities

The County also helps children through its Medical Therapy Program, which is connected with California Children’s Services. This program provides occupational and physical therapy for local children with musculoskeletal or neuromuscular conditions, from birth to 21 years of age.

Children who participate in the program have a variety of conditions, such as:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Spina Bifida
  • Arthritis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Specific types of traumatic injuries such as:
    • Burns
    • Amputation
    • Near Drowning
    • Traumatic Head Injury
  • A child under three with physical findings suggestive of Cerebral Palsy or muscle disease

At any given time in 2016, the County treated approximately 225 clients through this program, four of whom graduated when they turned 21 last year.

The program has six physical therapists and six occupational therapists that treat children at no cost to the families.  These medical therapy services are provided at the County’s four Medi-Cal Certified Outpatient Rehabilitation Centers located in Atascadero, Oceano, Paso Robles, and San Luis Obispo.

Each Medical Therapy Unit also has a bilingual therapy aide who assists in treatment, runs the scheduling program and provides clerical support. The aides also help with translation both during therapy sessions and medical therapy conferences.

Physical therapy is primarily provided to address mobility and ambulation needs. Occupational therapy, on the other hand, is primarily provided to address self-help skills or daily activities, such as self-dressing and eating, independently. The County’s licensed physical and occupational therapists possess at least a bachelor’s degree, some with master’s or doctorate degrees.

The County also hosted 18 clinics called Medical Therapy Conferences, where children and their family met with a physician and the County’s Medical Therapy team to assess the child’s medical needs, determine the diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment for the child.

At these clinics in 2016, families also met with the treating therapists (OT and/or PT), pediatric clinical director, nurse case manager, social worker, and pediatric rehabilitation specialist managing physician who travels to SLO County from special care centers such as the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and Children’s Hospital Oakland.