The Washington, D.C. Office of the Attorney General takes a digital approach to delivering child support.

Time to read: 6 minutes

21st century child support enforcement.

Child support services are designed to maintain children’s living standards and ensure all their basic needs are covered. The team in Washington, D.C. is doing that and more as they manage a network of 75,000 children and their respective custodial and noncustodial parents, ensuring services and resources are received and that those kids are thriving. “We manage a very important, highly visible, and public program as we work with other human services agencies to ensure we are providing those support payments and services to those children in need,” said Chris Tonjes, Chief Information Officer at the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (D.C. OAG). “We are focused on custodial parties who are applying for child support and we often work with cases that are wrap-around, meaning a parent is also getting other benefits like SNAP, TANF, housing assistance,and more.”

For Tonjes and team, the heart of the mission lies with better serving the parents that are in need of child support, the children that are receiving the funds, and the network of 200 office employees that staff the support division. The D.C. OAG works to serve the general public and the staff that uses the system, whether they are lawyers, paralegals, social workers, investigators, accounting technicians, or more. Through readily available services and support programs, the D.C. OAG promotes responsible parenting, child well-being, paternity, and enforcement of obligations.

“Our goal was to create a system that we could quickly build but would also be flexible, configurable, and programmed,” Tonjes said. “We needed the ability to make changes on the fly using a system with a mature and stable ecosystem that could also integrate with other platforms.” The team had been operating on a support system that was developed in the early 1980’s with a main focus on the physical infrastructure. Tonjes and team saw an investment in eliminating technology that was lending itself as a limitation to their quality of service and looked to reorient themselves to be more focused on people and public interactions.

Reorientation for a single source of truth.

“We knew we needed to change with our constituents ever changing expectations and the D.C. laws that are dynamic in nature,” Tonjes added. “A change in a law generates a change in process and a change in process generates a change in technology. The ability to stay up to speed with the environment we are living in with a platform that is more public facing, more data facing, and more change-friendly was our only way to continue playing.”

With processes that were previously managed on paper or across several disparate systems on technology assets that were historically disconnected, the D.C. OAG set out for a solution. “Not only were we looking to move our operations virtually, but we also moved buildings physically,” said Angelisa Young, Acting Chief of Shared Services at the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia. “Paper applications can easily pile up in filing cabinets or left in a jacket somewhere and we understood that. We needed a way for our customers to apply for services 24 hours a day 7 days a week from the comfort of their own home.” The team was passionate about building a public-facing portal that would require minimal effort for users, would connect those various assets to one another, the active call center as an example, and would not compromise the security of the information being managed. Communication outreach and interaction also needed to be streamlined onto one system so that the team could more easily track, monitor, and manage child support cases as they progressed from the application stage to the actual disbursement of funds action.


A platform approach for lifecycle management.

The D.C. OAG deployed a child support enforcement system that manages the entire lifecycle of a child support case and the many moving parts that coincide. It is a fully functioning and user-intuitive online portal for parents and other custodial parties to apply for child support from their laptop, tablet, or mobile device. Previously, customers were coming into the office to fill out a physical piece of paper to apply before their case was opened, with zero visibility or status updates from the users perspective.

“We had to consider security, integration, and a basic understanding of how data is manipulated, designed, and flows through a system,” said Tonjes. “We wanted a system that was quick, responsive in nature, and omnichannel because we saw the ultimate value in meeting our customers where they were in the service experience.” Tonjes and team built an engine that would actually manage the flow of child support litigation, a system that is automatic for support petition documentation or any court documents and easily accessible by customers, judges, and employees. Alongside that, they launched a finance module to correctly tabulate and display payments and distribution across a bidirectional interface between the legacy system and Salesforce. “We now have complete and accurate data synchronization between the two systems,” Tonjes added. “With a platform that lends itself so easily to the creation and use of API’s, we have been able to solve problems more efficiently and effectively.


“We wanted a system that was quick, responsive in nature, and omnichannel because we saw the ultimate value in meeting our constituents where they were in the service experience.”


The Child Support Enforcement system:

  • Compliance is key: The system is built on Government Cloud Plus and is powered by Salesforce’s Customer 360 Platform. The D.C. OAG is scaling and securing their IT infrastructure within the CRM environment directly while enabling compliance efforts and minimizing system threats. The user intuitive portal thrives in a full support ecosystem where services are delivered through applications built with clicks, not code to ensure processes are optimized agency wide and the customer service experience is personalized. 

       Salesforce Shield was layered on to help Tonjes and team stay compliant with applicable privacy and requirement laws.

  • Taking self-service to the portal: An individual first begins their journey at the self-service portal where they are prompted to enter a basic set of personal information for both themselves and the child who is seeking the support payment, via Experience Cloud. The user intuitive system will guide the customer through the preliminary questions and gather any essential qualifying documents, things like marriage licenses, birth certificates, government issued identification, and more, before uploading them for inclusion in the case portfolio. “When our customers are prompted to upload information, there is no shortage in what they are willing to share usually,” said Young. “We see pictures of dads at birthday parties, hospital photos and more. It gives us a great feeling that we are assisting our customers with more than just obtaining child support orders, but enabling these unforgettable moments in a child's life to keep happening.” Once an application has been completed, submitted, and the accompanying documentation has been validated, the case will be established for a caseworker to review and manage in Service Cloud. “Because of the built-in intelligence, we can validate documents before we assign a case worker to them.” With omnichannel capabilities and SMS integration, the applicant can then interact in text based chat conversations from any device throughout the process, fostering the 360-degree visibility the team is passionate about providing. “We wanted to utilize next generation voice and text interfaces in our system and the portal has allowed us just that,” included Tonjes.
  • Innovation at the foundation: “Oftentimes, we have two different groups in child support that are reviewing the basics of cases created— those previously mentioned case workers and their supervisors,” Tonjes added. “Lightning has allowed us to receive more accurate and comprehensive data, increase our user engagement, and foster in-depth insights on current operations.” The previous system required extensive training to move from screen-to-screen with 15 page transaction codes. The team now has more readily available data and searchable applications with a web GUI based interface and a portal approach to child support. “We have also integrated Salesforce with to see significant improvement in our time-to-value,” said Tonjes.
  • Advanced analytics that work smarter: The D.C. OAG has streamlined efforts further with CRM Analytics, allowing them to blend their Salesforce data with other business data for increased visibility and a deeper understanding of trends and outcomes. With AI models that are easy to set up with no coding necessary, Tonjes and team have integrated the portal with virtual assistant technology to allow for simpler English based queries, such as “what is the status of my application” or “when is my next payment”. Additionally, the team has adopted interactive voice response (IVR) automation within their Amazon connect call center to allow customers to receive case information over the phone or make appointments for return calls from the active agents.

An investment in technology is an investment in the mission.

For Tonjes and team, an agile approach to the platform that allowed for refinement and use of out-of-the-box tools with responsive and user-centered design approaches, allowed the team to boost productivity both internally and externally. “We are processing cases more quickly, capturing thorough and accurate information, and staying cost effective while doing so,” said Young. “The federal government gives us 20 days to process and approve applications from when we receive them and the portal has allowed us to make a large impact doing that. The quicker we can get cases processed, the quicker they will go to court, and the quicker the money can get in the hands of the children that need it.” Receiving north of 50 applications a day, the team has been able to stay mission driven and narrative focused with a system that works as hard as they do.
With an omnichannel strategy, the D.C. OAG has seen over 60% of applications come through the smartphone and 10% come through a tablet interface. “We are passionate about delivering an experience regardless of the device our customers choose to use when interacting with us,” said Tonjes. “We are pleased to meet our applicants where they are and believe that is what the ultimate customer service experience is about.”
The D.C. OAG would suggest figuring out what works and what does not work in a cloud approach before deciding what you do and do not want in a system. “You can easily leapfrog over things that you know will give you a quicker path to victory, but that comes with understanding what will work in your ecosystem,” concluded Tonjes. “We were able to fast track the success of our system because we had set a solid foundation and ecosystem that would work for both our office and the custodial and noncustodial parents that were engaging with us here.” Additionally, Young suggests investing in educating your team on how to use the tool the correct way the first time when dealing with a multigenerational workforce. “Not everyone will be as comfortable with technology as we may be ourselves or want them to be,” she added. “You have to ensure you are training your team sincerely before adoption and staying open to conversations around optimal utilization of the system.”

Get timely updates and fresh ideas delivered to your inbox.