Within 60 days of FMIS becoming operational, DCS was able to make its deposits within the state-mandated 24-hour timeframe. The agency is also in compliance with federal regulations as well as the provisions of GAAP. "We're able to handle 50 percent more payments than we did six months ago using less staff," remarked Spitzer. In fact, the existing staff are able to complete their entire week's workload before Friday, leaving time to accomplish other long-range tasks.

According to Cesar, welfare reform has made the collection process more stringent by exacerbating a problem that goes back to the early days of child support enforcement. "It's a huge relief that [FMIS] works," he said. "It's a wonderful application of technology and has turned around a big problem in child support enforcement."

DCS is currently working on the next phase of automated collections, which involves extending FMIS to the numerous field offices. Soon, child support payments received over-the-counter or misdirected to field offices will be scanned and indexed into FMIS from these remote locations. FMIS will also allow field workers to look up the digital images from their offices. Currently, field workers needing to see a payment must wait days before a microfilmed copy is located, printed and forwarded to them from headquarters.

Future uses of imaging under consideration include digitizing the child support establishment orders. These are currently faxed into DCS by county clerks to set up cases and then faxed back out to field offices. Spitzer is also looking at COLD (Computer Output to Laser Disk), which is another imaging technology that can drastically reduce the paper and labor costs associated with document retention and management. "Our goal," commented Spitzer, "is to have a totally paperless environment."

How soon that will happen remains to be seen, but Washington's success with imaging so far is a sign of hope for other states struggling to operate child support programs under the tough, new provisions of welfare reform.

February Table of Contents