Child Support Advisory Council drives change in department

Michigan’s Office of Child Support has listened to parents who are on its recently formed Child Support Advisory Council and taken several actions in response to input.

Since February, Michigan’s Office of Child Support – which is part of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services – has hosted the Community Advisory Council that it formed to help make sure the office is fair and works for everyone.

“MDHHS values input from the people that we serve,” said Lewis Roubal, the department’s chief deputy director for opportunity. “Hearing diverse viewpoints helps the Office of Child Support make decisions that are beneficial to children and families.”

Several significant changes have been achieved since the council began meeting.  They include:

• An improved process for handling child support program complaints.

• Greater sensitivity in the wording the Office of Child Support uses to refer to Michiganders the program serves. The office is moving toward referring to “case members, program participants, parents and caregivers” instead of “customers” or other terms.

• Changes to ensure the advisory council is aware of the Office of Child Support’s projects and initiatives and to provide an opportunity for input by council members.

Creation of this council is a part of MDHHS efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. 

The Office of Child Support held virtual informational meetings in October 2020 about plans to form the council. Invitations to these meetings were distributed to a wide range of individuals, groups and demographic populations using both traditional and digital methods. Interest in the meetings was higher than expected, with 56 attending. The 12 council members were chosen from 42 applicants who expressed a keen understanding of the council’s goals and objectives and a willingness to think globally beyond their own personal situation.

Council membership crosses an intersection of demographics, with representation from different races/ethnicities, genders, ages, education levels, LGBTQ status, incomes, and geographic locations. All except one have either paid or received child support in their families. Members have voiced special interest in areas including veterans, fatherhood, special needs children, domestic violence and accessibility/disability issues. Child support programs across other states and tribal governments have shown great interest in the council, and several Office of Child Support staff members have presented at national conferences.

“Child support programs recognize the need to grow and change to serve in ways that do not unintentionally harm,” said Office of Child Support Director Erin Frisch. “We’re proud to be partnering with this group of committed individuals in Michigan to be trailblazers in this area.”