Unlike many social services programs, child support regularly interacts with both parents. Child support agencies in states, tribes and local jurisdictions often provide educational materials, such as brochures, fliers, posters, videos, infographics and website information about what to expect and how to begin a case with the child support program. The agencies make these materials available for all parents.
Many child support agencies use early intervention methods, such as phone calls and mailings, to reach both parents. Reaching out to parents early in the child support process can encourage and empower both parents to interact with the child support program in a positive way. Some child support agencies work with both parents together.
Agencies may collaborate with partners as another way to ensure that all voices are represented (such as fatherhood groups, domestic violence organizations, and Hispanic organizations). Child support agencies often bring together diverse groups to collaborate on projects that help to engage moms and dads. In December 2012, I issued a Policy Interpretation Question document that explains that child support is in a great position to foster collaborations to help families holistically.
Our program routinely accepts applications for services from either parent, and enforces support against both mothers and fathers. Our program reaches out to engage both custodial and noncustodial parents whether they are moms or dads or another guardian such as a grandparent. We also collect data in OCSE that will help us understand parents of either gender. And we stay abreast of research in the field. We know, for example, that in 2011, an estimated 18.3 percent of custodial parents were fathers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Populations Reports (“Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2011”).
Child support professionals follow trends as well. Pew Research Center data on the “Growing Number of Dads Home with the Kids” shows that the number of stay-at-home fathers is rising. Another Pew report, “5 Facts about Today’s Fathers,” says fewer dads are their family’s sole breadwinner as dads’ and moms’ roles are converging—over the years, fathers have taken on more housework and childcare duties, and women have increased their time spent in paid work.
Our new OCSE infographic helps us visualize OCSE data for FY 2013. It may help you picture some of the changes taking place in our program. As we continue to manage program changes, we will keep our focus on treating both mothers and fathers fairly in their custodial or noncustodial roles.