Evaluation of the B.C. Family Maintenance Enforcement Program's Pilot Outreach Project
Three issues arose in the implementation of the evaluation research. These affected the evaluation process and outcomes.
It was intended that payor data related to Payment Conferences (e.g. new information brought to the conference or current arrears totals) would be extracted from program documents such as the Payment Conference Summary Sheet and the FMEP Referral Form (completed by the FMEP Enforcement Officer). In many cases, data on these forms was missing, incomplete or inconsistent. For example, many FMEP Referral Forms had been discarded and data on the specific financial information payors brought to the Payment Conference was missing. Discrepancies were also found between information provided on the running record (see 4.2) and on the documents.
There was a lack of data or conflicting data in some FMEP case management fields related to the evaluation. For example, there was often contradictory data on past, current or new employment on the Payment Conference Summary Sheet, the Employer Log and the running record.
To address these inconsistencies, it was necessary to rely on the running record for all information related to case characteristics payor and payment history, Payment Conference agreements and outcomes. The running record is an abbreviated narrative description completed by Enforcement Officers. Its purpose is to record, in a narrative form, all the events and actions in relation to a payor file. It is time-consuming to review and frequently difficult to interpret. The comprehensiveness of data in the running record is difficult to establish because there are no distinctive data fields nor can the narrative be searched by key word.
The FMEP electronic management system (including the running record) was developed for operational not for research purposes. This accounts for some of the difficulties encountered during data retrieval.
The completion rate for the survey of payors who had attended a Payment Conference was low—40 percent of all cases. Although there were a small number of payors with “Not in Service” telephone numbers, the majority of payors could not be contacted or expressed unwillingness to participate because of their negative attitude towards the FMEP. It should be noted that most of these payors had a long history of non-payment and, as a consequence, had been subject to many enforcement actions.
Payors also said that they received so many letters regarding payments that the research contact letter appeared to them to be just another enforcement letter. In these cases, the letter was thrown out before being read.
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