Talking with the courts

Statue of justice in foreground and unidentified books in backgroundOver the past 18 months, I have had a number of conversations with national and state judicial groups, as well as individual judges, magistrates, and court administrators. These conversations across the country have led me to two clear conclusions: The courts are having many of the same conversations that we are in the child support community and there is judicial support for implementing family-centered child support processes. This summer, I had the honor of addressing the state court chief justices and court administrators about our family-centered framework at their annual conference, which focused on domestic relations issues. While there, I learned that the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ), the association representing the chief justices, has adopted access to justice and civil justice reform as key priorities for the coming years. Read More: Talking with the courts

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Employers

Four salespeople wearing aprons in hardware storeOur ability to collect consistent child support depends upon employment — and employers. The Family Support Act of 1988 revolutionized the collection of child support by requiring employers to withhold support payments from the paychecks of parents owing support. The law flipped the paradigm: instead of garnishing delinquent payments, the law established a process modeled after income tax withholding to withhold payments as they became due. In fact, the income withholding law is an early application of behavioral economics by setting up automatic payroll deductions with an opt-out to help parents do the right thing. Read More: Employers

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Child support performance has never been stronger

Blue line graph on a yellow backgroundThe numbers are in, and I am very pleased to report to you that 2015 represents a new high water mark in child support program performance.  Congratulations to all of you for your resilience and hard work!  We have come through the economic downturn stronger than ever.

The child support program continues to be highly effective for millions of children and their families, reducing child poverty and promoting family self-sufficiency. In 2015, we provided child support services for 16 million children, more than 1 in 5 children nationwide, along with 22 million parents and caregivers. According to 2013 Census Bureau data, child support was 41 percent of the income of poor families that receive it, up from 29 percent in 1997. Read More: Child support performance has never been stronger

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Fatherhood and justice

Image of father on computer near baby in cribHow did your father influence your life’s path? My father taught me that I could think for myself and solve problems if I tried. He expected me to achieve.

Fathers matter to their children. In fact, research says that father-child relationships influence children as much as mother-child relationships. Fathers influence their children in different ways than mothers. Babies who interact with their fathers tend to acquire language skills more readily. Children whose fathers spend time with them do better in school, have more self-control, and are more ambitious and willing to embrace risk. Teens who feel close to their fathers start having sex later.

Fathers are more involved with their children than ever before. Read More: Fatherhood and justice

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Making policies work for families

Kids counting coinsMoms and dads raising children on their own work hard to keep the rent paid, milk in the refrigerator, and growing children in shoes. It’s a struggle to manage on a tight budget. The child support program collected $28.6 billion for almost 16 million children in 2015. Ninety-five percent of the money collected was paid to families. However, the remaining 5 percent, or $1.3 billion, was kept by the government to repay cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or foster care program funded under title IV-E of the Social Security Act. That is because families are required to sign over their rights to support when they apply for cash assistance. Even after they stop receiving assistance, the government keeps a share of the support collected. Read More: Making policies work for families

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National Child Support Strategic Plan

Image of child looking forward with the words "National Child Support Strategic Plan for 2015-2019" on it.The national child support program has a long history of program innovation, performance measurement, and continuous improvement. Every five years, our community engages in a consensus-building process to create a new national strategic plan that will further strengthen the program and lead it into the future.

This month, we are publishing the National Child Support Strategic Plan for 2015-2019. The plan reflects the collaborative efforts and diverse perspectives of the state, tribal, and county child support agencies that — along with the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement — make up the national program. The plan is organized around five principles that represent a coherent vision for the future of the program.

FAMILIES FIRST

A family-centered child support program partners with parents to promote consistent support payments. Read More: National Child Support Strategic Plan

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How the President’s FY 2017 Budget Strengthens Child Support

Graphic of White House with the words "Administration's FY2017 budget " on it.I am pleased to describe the child support-related legislative proposals included in the Administration’s FY 2017 Budget. We are renewing a number of prior proposals for efforts to ensure that children benefit when support is paid, promote access and visitation, improve program efficiency, and for dedicated research funding. We’re adding new proposals to further strengthen enforcement. And, this year, we’re proposing a Child Support Technology Fund to promote the replacement of aging child support systems.

Below are the six areas of legislative proposals related to child support. These summaries offer a quick read on the proposals; for more details, see our FY 2017 Budget fact sheet. It is a supplement at the end of the February-March 2015 Child Support Report (CSR).

Read More: How the President’s FY 2017 Budget Strengthens Child Support

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Reflecting on our accomplishments

Toddler Glazing Out WindowThe start of a new year is a good time to look back. We have been through a lot of changes in the past seven years. Let’s start with some of the sobering ones.

The Economy

The economic downturn affected parent earnings and child support program funding alike. During the height of the recession, support collected through income withholding declined by 3 percent, while support collected from unemployment insurance tripled between 2008 and 2010.

At the same time, the child support program experienced significant decreases in program funding and staffing levels. Our peak funding year was 2008 — before the recession — when program expenditures were $5.87 billion in nominal dollars. Since then, funding has declined over 3 percent to $5.69 billion in 2014. Structural labor market changes, increasingly complex families, and reduced program resources have all taken their toll.

Read More: Reflecting on our accomplishments

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2015 was a busy year…

40th_banner_image_PNGThis year is the child support program’s 40th anniversary. For four decades, the program has fostered a culture of performance, innovation, and change. When I talk with child support professionals across the country, I hear a strong commitment to service, a deep engagement in the daily work of the program, and a willingness to do what it takes to accomplish our mission: collecting child support for children. We are always trying to do better. I think the phrase I hear most often from child support employees is that “The work is never boring!”

And indeed, it is not, for we are in the business of helping families succeed. Change has been our constant theme. Changes in the family structure, job market, and customer demographics since 1975 have required us to steadily adapt our services to the realities of today’s diverse families. From the beginning, we’ve looked to changing technologies for more effective and efficient processing of our caseloads. But behind the technologies, behind the dollars, behind the performance numbers are real families, families struggling to make ends meet, families trying to keep it together, families who are doing their best to raise their children. Read More: 2015 was a busy year…

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Celebrating the growth and success of tribal child support programs in honor of Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month

2015_native_american_heritage-2In honor of Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month, OCSE celebrates the growth and success of tribal child support programs.

Today, one in ten federally recognized tribes — 59 out of 566 — operate comprehensive child support programs. Another four tribal programs are in the start-up phase. Many tribes have incorporated traditional practices into a holistic tribal family-centered service delivery model. Read More: Celebrating the growth and success of tribal child support programs in honor of Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month

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