Monthly Archives: February 2011

We Depend on Evidence-Based Research

Commissioner's researchData and research are engines that drive the national child support program. Data help us know whether we are on track to meet our performance goals. They help us identify the best case strategies to pursue. Research and data help us gain public support for our program and develop policies and initiatives that can effectively respond to trends in our caseload.

For example, the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Current Population Survey” shows us that the child support program’s caseload reflects societal trends in poverty, nonmarital childbearing, divorce, and families who receive public assistance. The “Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing” national survey of 5,000 newborns in hospitals, conducted by a team of researchers at Columbia and Princeton Universities, helps us understand the causes and consequences of nonmarital childbearing. This research helps us to better understand the living situations of our customers.

Research helped us understand why noncustodial parents’ arrears accumulate—and as a result of that research, child support professionals have developed projects to better manage these arrears. Research also taught us that we can increase support payments if we can help unwed parents negotiate access and visitation arrangements. And child support professionals have developed mediation projects that help parents put together parenting plans. Our research about undistributed collections has led to ways to reduce those amounts.

In the last 15 years, research has helped to spur the program’s shift to a broader set of family-centered strategies. We now know that the more involved the dad is emotionally, the more likely he will pay child support. We know that many fathers need services to help them understand the importance of their role as a dad. And we have learned that the child support program is uniquely positioned to reach out to low-income men through services that lead to employment and through access and visitation services.

At OCSE, we are thinking hard about ways to increase our data analysis and research opportunities to identify evidence-based practices that we should incorporate into our program. At the federal level, OCSE is developing a data warehouse to help us analyse our FPLS and administrative data. We are partnering with our Department’s research and evaluation offices, the Office of Family Assistance (which administers the TANF program), and the U.S. Department of Labor to obtain research evidence about certain workforce program models. And, through a small number of grants, we have been encouraging state child support agencies to develop partnerships with their state universities to use research to learn about more effective ways of doing business.

I look forward to further research as OCSE strengthens its partnerships—and creates new ones—with agencies at every level of government. We have the latest results about our partnership that drives the insurance match program (see page 1 in the February Child Support Report) and the passport denial program’s partnership with employers (see page 6 in the CSR).

I also look forward to seeing research evidence and other data from your states, counties, and tribal agencies. Despite tight budgets, you continue to innovate and test problem-solving solutions, for example, interactive websites to better communicate with customers (see page 4 in the CSR)—perhaps one of the most important opportunities to connect with our diverse customer caseload.

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A New Year for Opportunities to Help Families

Each New Year brings us new opportunities to enhance our services to children, parents and families. I am especially looking forward to the opportunity to help families through collaboration with the Assets for Independence program (featured on page 1 in the January Child Support Report). This demonstration will help parents in the child support program by offering financial and literacy services, which can in turn help parents to obtain lasting employment and become regular providers of child support.

It’s tax season again, and another opportunity to promote the Earned Income Tax Credit program to our child support customers who are low- and middle-income workers. Lifting over 6.6 million people out of poverty last year, including 3.3 million children, the EITC program, run by the IRS, is one of the most effective anti-poverty tools for working families, and the Federal government’s largest cash-assistance program. Last year, more than 25 million people received nearly $58 billion in EITC.

As child support professionals, we have a responsibility to promote awareness about the EITC. (January 28 marked the fifth annual EITC Awareness Day.) We also can educate parents about the availability of other tax credits like the Child Tax Credit, another refundable tax credit that puts much needed income into the hands of working parents and families. Find more information on the expanded Tax Credit Outreach Campaign website or visit the EITC website to see if you or someone you know may be eligible.

We can do more to refer parents—both mothers and fathers—to other programs that provide needed assistance. For example, when a parent has a disability or otherwise may be eligible for Social Security title II benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), we can refer them to the Social Security Administration. For more information about title II benefits and SSI benefits, see

My best wishes to all for a happy New Year filled with opportunities to help children and families.

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