Washington state's centralized system is rare success story

Washington state's centralized system is rare success story

By Merry Mayer

Special to GCN

Washington's Support Information Management System stores data on 1.1 million cases'356,000 are active'and collects about $500 million annually.

A staff of about 1,700 runs the Child Support Program: 1,350 are state employees; the others are prosecuting attorney staff members.

Washington's Support Information Management System stores data on 1.1 million cases and collects about $500 million in child support payments each year.

SIMS consists of seven modules:

' Master cross-reference

' Database of individuals

' Database of cases, including information about the mother and children

' Interfaces

' Financial

' Forms generation

' Management information systems and reporting.

SIMS has 20 major interfaces, said Jon Conine, project director for Washington's Child Support Program. The database has to share information with the new hire directory, drivers and professional licensing systems, welfare rolls and banking institutions. The state runs a quarterly computer match of bank account information on parents owing child support, Conine said.

Once the system has all the information on a delinquent parent, it generates a letter from its forms module to the individual's employer, requesting the garnishment of wages. The system does this without human intervention, Conine said.

Nearly maxed out

A Unisys 640ES mainframe with four processors runs the system from Olympia. The mainframe has about 64M of memory and 80G of storage. It runs the Unisys Exec operating system.

The mainframe has just about reached its maximum capability, Conine said, so the state plans to move to a Unisys ClearPath mainframe with 512M of memory.

The database is a hierarchical Unisys Database Management System 2200. There are about 115 online transactions and 680 batch programs, all written in Cobol, he said.

About 2,500 PCs, most from IBM Corp., run Microsoft Windows and are connected to the mainframe on a Novell NetWare LAN. The LAN uses routers from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., to link to a frame relay WAN. The PCs are 500-MHz Pentium IIIs with 10G hard drives and 128M of RAM.

The system processes about 10 million data transactions a month.

The file manipulation is done on the PCs using custom programs.

'Many of these programs are getting old, so we will rewrite these programs using either Java or Visual Basic,' Conine said.

The Washington Child Support Program has a full-time information technology staff, which made it easier to adapt to the new federal requirements, Conine said. Most states outsource much of that work, he said.

'Lots of states looked at our system, but we are Unisys, and they are IBM,' Conine said. It just wouldn't transfer to the systems they already had, he said.

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