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Category Archives: Child Support
Moms 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.
When that happens, the government, not families, benefits from child support. Cost recovery is not the best use of the money paid by parents for their children. Instead, that money could be going to support children. More money to families means bus fare to get to work, school clothes, diapers, and other necessities. Research finds that family distribution policies remove disincentives for parents to pay support, increase family income, and reduce the need for families to apply for cash assistance in the first place, with little net cost to the government. These policies are family-centered and help parents provide for their children.
It is time to renew the policy dialogue on family distribution. In 2006, the Congress enacted the Deficit Reduction Act providing states with a set of options to pay 100 percent of the money to the children, instead of keeping some of the money to reimburse government costs. In addition, the President’s FY 2017 budget proposes to offset some of the revenue loss that states would incur by using child support to support children rather than government budgets. One of the five program goals articulated in the National Child Support Strategic Plan is to pay collected child support to families. We encourage states to consider adopting family distribution and pass-through options authorized under the Deficit Reduction Act.
Families need more than child support
Child support income alone is not enough, however. Child support programs can help families manage their tight budgets in other ways. Many parents have limited access to resources such as employment, education and training opportunities linked to economic security; and reliable housing, transportation, and quality full-day child care that will allow parents to pursue job opportunities. The stress of living in poverty without access to adequate mental and physical health services and social support can lessen parental sensitivity and emotional support for children. And, in turn, when child development is not fully supported, children may be more challenging to raise, less prepared for school, more likely to drop out, and bound for their own adult life in poverty.
Along with child support, TANF, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and other safety net programs can help provide supplemental income for families. Noncustodial parents also need help. In the May 2016 Child Support Report (CSR), we feature New York City’s Paycheck Plus, a three-year program testing the expansion of the EITC for workers without dependent children, many who are noncustodial parents. You’ll also read about the comprehensive approach Washington state is taking to help parents. The Alternative Solutions Program helps them find jobs and keep them by addressing issues that might impact job stability like transportation and child care. Basic assistance, work-related activities, and child care are key services that support unemployed or underemployed parents with insufficient income, limited jobs skills and other barriers to employment.
A two-generation approach helps parents and children
Child support agencies can partner with TANF agencies to coordinate across programs for parents and programs for children to provide comprehensive two-generation approaches that work for families. We encourage child support agencies to work with TANF agencies to promote and support whole family approaches such as:
- Linkages between high quality educational services for children and workforce development services for their parents;
- Programmatic efforts to help parents gain the skills, knowledge, and resources to support their child’s development;
- Ensuring that families have access to the economic and social supports needed for stability and resilience, and healthy child development; and,
- Helping families build social capital that can support both resilience and upward mobility.
We can do a better job at connecting parents to the services they need for their family such as health care, food assistance, domestic violence intervention services, and other social services. Asset-building and financial management programs are available to both parents in many communities. We need to provide case management tools to child support workers so that they know who to refer and where to refer families for the help they need. Moms and dads can’t raise kids on love alone.
Learn more in the May 2016 CSR about the ways child support offices are making a positive difference.
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.
A family-centered child support program partners with parents to promote consistent support payments.
An effective child support program uses the right tools to meet the needs of the specific case.
An efficient child support program incorporates modern technology.
An enterprising child support program leverages sufficient resources to meet its mission.
A high-performing child support program is evidence-based.
In addition to these five principles, the plan lays out 25 goals and more than a hundred innovative strategies that many state, tribal, and county child support agencies are already putting into practice.
To ensure the continued effectiveness of the program, the national plan recognizes the relationship among program resources, technology, and performance and identifies strategies to address aging systems. State Child Support Director Kate Cooper Richardson, gives us a great example of this interplay in describing her state’s systems upgrades process in the April 2016 Child Support Report (CSR) article, “How Oregon is building a 21st century automation system.” You will also learn more about improvements in minority outreach and how tribes will have access to the Federal Parent Locator Service soon.
The national strategic plan strongly emphasizes the importance of child support income to child and family well-being and focuses on a range of evidence-based and locally tested strategies to collect more child support by strengthening both the ability and willingness to pay. Illinois reports on one county’s new accountability court in the April CSR, and we feature a Parenting Time Opportunities for Children grant success story from San Diego.
While use of the strategic plan by child support agencies is voluntary, many jurisdictions use the national plan to help build their own plans. The national plan may be a particularly effective tool for agencies to highlight family-centered strategies alongside conventional enforcement practices. In this way, the plan recognizes approaches that will help the child support program serve all families more effectively — now and into the future.
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).
Child Support Technology Fund — to promote the replacement of aging child support systems to increase system security, efficiency, and integrity
Child Support Research Fund — to spark research, build the child support evidence base, and tailor the appropriate child support enforcement tools for each family
Strengthening Establishment and Enforcement — to increase collections and program efficiency
Child Support and Fatherhood Initiative — to encourage noncustodial parents to support their children and play an active role in their lives; to build on the family distribution reforms included in the 1996 and 2006 statutes; to encourage states to pass through child support collections to TANF families so that when parents pay child support, their children benefit; to support safe increased access and visitation services and integrating these services into the core child support program to improve collections and parent-child relationships and outcomes for children
Medicaid and Child Support Proposals — to allow states to eliminate Medicaid’s requirement to assign the right to cash medical child support to the state as a condition of eligibility to reduce barriers to health care access and increase resources for the poorest families
NDNH Access Proposals — to allow certain additional programs and agencies authority to access NDNH data for program integrity, implementation, and research purposes
As we focus on the budget, in the February-March CSR, Washington and Nebraska child support offices share their insights on another important planning tool — the strategic plan. Washington shares its story on the systematic steps staff members took to develop their plan, including using a visual management tool to display progress. Nebraska staff and leaders used a roadmap analogy to describe their process in developing their strategic operations plan. We’ll continue the discussion on strategic planning in next month’s CSR.
In the meantime, we would like to hear your thoughts on the FY 2017 Budget.
The 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 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.
Despite the setbacks, our performance has improved slowly but steadily since 2008. In 2014, we collected $28.2 billion, a 6 percent increase over the $26.6 billion collected in 2008, even as the caseload declined by almost 4 percent. Our support order establishment rate was almost 85 percent in 2014, compared to 79 percent in 2008. The percent of cases with a collection was 60 percent in 2014, compared to 57 percent in 2008. Our current collections rate was just over 64 percent in 2014, compared to less than 62 percent in 2008.
Doing business in a changing world
There is no question about it: The child support program has been challenged to find new ways to do business to be able to respond to unprecedented changes in our world. During the decade from 1999 through 2008, the child support community engaged in extensive national and regional discussions about the future of the program, examining such issues as:
- The impact of organizational and funding decisions on the program;
- The shift from welfare cost recovery to family distribution policies;
- Strategies for addressing the accumulation of arrears;
- The role of fathers in families;
- The risks of domestic violence;
- Opportunities for tribal services in Native American communities;
- Strengths and limitations of automated enforcement tools; and
- The critical relationship between having a job and paying support.
These state planning and early implementation efforts, along with growing research, laid the groundwork for a more holistic approach to reinforcing noncustodial parents’ financial responsibility to their children.
Over the past seven years, we’ve successfully promoted a comprehensive family-centered framework designed to address barriers to employment, respond to changes in family roles, and increase the consistency of support payments. We are asking ourselves case-specific questions such as, “What are the reasons for nonpayment?” and “What would it take to obtain regular payments?” Practice in the field is shifting from a one-size-fits-all, standardized, and highly automated case management process to a more targeted approach that incorporates evidence-based practices framed as “the right tool for the right family every time.”
By strategically deploying a combination of early interventions, more thorough investigations, enforcement actions, and targeted services, we can do a better job of obtaining consistent child support for families. We have been working to build evidence about what works to increase support payments through our grant programs including the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED), Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services (BICS), Parenting Time Opportunities for Children (PTOC) pilot projects, Tribal Innovations Grants (TIG), University Partnership grants, and more.
Tribal child support
Over the past few years, we’ve also managed a significant increase in tribal child support programs —more than doubling the number since 2009. We currently fund 62 comprehensive and start-up tribal programs. We also developed and launched our award-winning tribal child support system — the Model Tribal System (MTS) — that is now operational in nine tribes. Although it seems like just yesterday that we launched the system, we have now begun an MTS modernization project to take advantage of the flexibility and modularity offered by today’s technology.
Other technological advances
In 2009, we went live with our Child Support Portal. Passport Denial was the first application, followed by Federal Offset Online, Multistate Financial Institution Data Match Online, Locates Online, FCR Query, DoD Entitlements, Query Interstate Cases for Kids (QUICK), Debt Inquiry, eTermination, Employer Search and Electronic Document Exchange (EDE) accompanied by other federal system services such as Electronic Income Withholding Order (e-IWO) and FAST Levy.
We continue to advance the ball on international and interstate cooperation, with state-by-state enactment of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) 2008, following U.S. signature to The Hague treaty in 2007 and the Senate’s advice and consent in 2010, which you read about in the December 2015 Child Support Report. The treaty will greatly expand the number of countries that will recognize and enforce U.S. child support orders. Under the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014, Public Law 113-183, all states must enact the UIFSA amendments as a condition of state plan approval and federal funding. States must adopt UIFSA 2008 in order for the U.S. to ratify the Hague treaty. All but two states have passed the legislation so far, and we expect to ratify the treaty this summer.
In the January 2016 Child Support Report, Retired Oklahoma Child Support Director Gary Dart continues his four-part change management series, Do healthy families initiatives conflict with performance measures? This month, he explains how an approach that aims for the best possible outcomes for each case can also “reward” agencies with performance incentives. All of the articles in the change management series will be available on our Managing Change in the Child Support Program webpage soon.
Also, be sure to read the article “Outreach to federal inmates.” South Carolina tells us how it is reaching out to noncustodial parents in prison. We also offer some tips on helping job seekers struggling with digital job searches.
Needless to say, we’re off to a running start in 2016! Thank you all for your tenacious work over the past seven years — and over the past 40 years since the child support program was enacted. For four decades, we have never stood still. And families deserve no less from us.
This 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.
National Public Radio ran three stories in November that provide a good backdrop for understanding program change. “How America’s Child Support System Failed to Keep Up with the Times” gives a historical perspective, summarizing child support’s challenges with the social changes occurring in the country in the last 40 years. Two other NPR articles focus on child support debt, explaining the reasons for billions of dollars in accrued arrears and how the Administration’s proposed rule can help minimize future accruals through realistic, right-sized orders. We provide the links to all three in the December 2015 Child Support Report (CSR).
Family mobility across state, tribal, and international borders requires even stronger coordination with other jurisdictions because these movements have expanded our intergovernmental workload. Our December CSR article, “Putting the “Uniform” Back in UIFSA”, chronicles efforts to strengthen interstate and international case processing with a common set of operating guidelines.
As the program evolved from a welfare cost-recovery model to one of the most significant income support programs for families, child support professionals have shifted their service mindset. We now strive for a more individualized approach, deploying a range of tools and strategies to “enforce, engage, and enable”, so that we do not leave any families behind. Our goal is to help all children receive the support and care they need from their parents. And it’s working. Our success at change management is a win/win for children, families, and agencies.
Be sure to read the first article in a new four-part change management series, “Do healthy families initiatives conflict with performance measures?” In this series, debuting in the December CSR, retired Oklahoma director Gary Dart explores the impact of “Healthy Families” principles on the five federal child support program indicators. He explains how an approach that aims for the best possible outcomes for each case can also “reward” agencies with performance incentives. Gary’s article, as well as other change management articles, are available on our Managing Change in the Child Support Program webpage.
While diversifying the program’s service delivery approaches, we are also experiencing change in the physical workplace. Staff turnover, leader successions, telework, consolidated offices, and different office layouts are just a few of the adjustments we are making in your daily work lives. OCSE’s recent moves to smaller, redesigned spaces give us a real appreciation of how environmental changes can affect the way we think and work.
After 40 years of service, you continue to dedicate yourselves to better serving our child support customers one person at a time. As we move into the future, we’ll continue to learn and use the evidence of “what works” to improve the program. Thank you for your commitment and hard work.
Happy 40th Anniversary and Happy New Year!
Celebrating the growth and success of tribal child support programs in honor of Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month
In 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.
Federal funding for tribal child support began in 1996 when the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act gave HHS authority to recognize and directly fund tribal child support programs. To jumpstart the implementation, OCSE offered Special Improvement Project (SIP) grants. Tribal nations could request funding directly or through a state partnership to establish a new child support program or enhance their existing one.
Three tribes collaborated with states to establish a tribal child support office. The cover article of the October/November Child Support Report, “Early history of tribal child support”, describes New Mexico’s use of federal funds to help the Navajo Nation establish three tribal offices in 1996. The Chickasaw Nation co-authored a SIP application with Oklahoma to establish its own tribal child support office in 1998. Wisconsin also received SIP funding and helped the Menominee Nation establish a child support office on the reservation.
Seven tribes received the first SIP grants directly in 1999:
- Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate
- Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
- Lummi Nation
- Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe
- Puyallup Tribe
- Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation
- Central Council for Tlingit and Haida Tribes
Tribal automation has expanded too. Nine tribes are using the MTS, one is installing the system, and three have Advance Planning Documents under review. They’ve come a long way since the Forest County Potawatomi Community agreed to pilot the system in 2009 and was joined the following year by the Modoc Tribe. To support program growth, OCSE and tribes collaborated to develop the Model Tribal System. Sandy Cloer, the Tribal Child Support Program Director of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians chronicled her tribe’s progression from membership in a tribal child support consortium to having its own MTS program, and now leads a consortium to help other tribes get started. Read about that journey in the CSR article, “Starting a tribal child support program.”
Over the years, I’ve seen a change in how tribal programs have come together to build a strong peer network by forming the National Tribal Child Support Association as well as emerging regional associations. I’ve also observed deepening and respectful relationships between states and tribes. I’ve seen tribes reach out to states and states reach out to tribes to support our common mission through openness, dialogue, and partnership. I’ve seen tribal child support transition from a young program without a lot of specialized experience or technology to a more mature, full-service program that is modeling best practices and holding itself accountable.
At OCSE, our organizational culture has evolved right along with the growth of the tribal program. We’ve integrated the tribal program into our daily business. We formally reorganized our office so that virtually every aspect of our work now has a tribal component. We continue to learn some lessons about consultation, dialogue, and trust in order to work through tough, complicated issues. We’ve learned to navigate together and we’ve seen the tribal child support program come into its own.
This is all part of building stronger futures for Native children. Our Tribal Innovation Grants are helping tribal child support offices improve their capacity to administer innovative, family-centered child support services that help parents provide reliable support for their children. You’ll read how the Forest County Potawatomi Community and Chippewa Cree Tribe are using grants to improve customer access to services, increase collections, and coordinate with child welfare and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
The tribal program has put down roots. It is moving into a new phase of deepening services, refining practices, and strengthening impact. I have had the honor to witness an incredible program take its place to support renewal of tribal family resilience, hope, and healing.
We feature more stories about tribal child support programs in the October/November CSR. I would love to hear your experiences.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We know that domestic violence is an every month concern for child support agencies, but October provides an extra reminder of the critical role safe access to child support services plays for survivors and their families. In the September 2015 Child Support Report, we feature a number of articles addressing the need for domestic violence safeguards and resources for parents receiving child support services.
In talking with child support professionals over the past year about the connection between child support and domestic violence, I’ve consistently heard the following theme: “We know domestic violence is a huge issue for families in our caseload and we want to do more to enhance safe access to child support, but we’re not really sure where to start.” Just like one size doesn’t fit all parents when it comes to delivering child support services, there’s not one approach to developing a comprehensive response to domestic violence. With that in mind, OCSE has developed new resources for child support agencies to use as a roadmap for starting the process of enhancing safe access to child support. These resources draw on the experiences of your peers in other states and jurisdictions.
Recent research data highlighted in OCSE’s upcoming resource “Safe Access to Child Support Services for Survivors of Domestic Violence: Scope of the Issue” are sobering. The data should prompt all of us in the child support profession to renew our efforts to enhance our program’s response to domestic violence:
- More than 4 out of 10 custodial mothers who don’t have a formal child support order and aren’t getting any informal support report domestic violence by the other parent,
- Underreporting of domestic violence by parents receiving child support services is substantial. Custodial parents surveyed by researchers at the University of Texas reported domestic violence at more than 4 times the rate disclosed to the child support program, and
- Nearly 1 in 10 unmarried mothers completing a voluntary paternity acknowledgment at the hospital report being injured by the father during pregnancy.
Behind those numbers are real people. Michelle, a domestic violence survivor, was able to get out of an abusive relationship because her child support agency staff was domestic violence-smart and responded to her with skill and compassion. Read her moving reminder of the importance of our jobs in the September CSR.
The good news from our Parenting Time Opportunities for Children (PTOC) pilot grants is that child support agencies can play a vital role in identifying and referring parents to those services. A PTOC grantee in San Diego described one parent’s experience this way, “The process was not intimidating and the positives that came from getting a safe visitation order really benefited her family.”
Learn about more domestic violence resources in the September 2015 edition of the Child Support Report.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the national child support program. Check out our 40th Anniversary infographic on our website to see some of the ways we’ve changed!
Thanks primarily to technology and proactive income withholding, our collections have increased from less than $1 billion to $28 billion, and our cost-effectiveness ratio has increased from $3.25 to $5.25 over the past four decades. Today, 75 percent of collections are made through payroll deductions. By the end of the year, almost all child support programs will use our centralized electronic income withholding (e-IWO) process through OCSE’s child support portal, under new legislation enacted by the Congress last fall.
One of the great things about the child support program is that we continue to innovate. Our portal applications include two of our more recent tools:
The first is Lump Sum Reporting: our centralized automated process that enables employers to provide information about employees who are eligible to receive a bonus or lump sum payment. As of July 2015:
- Forty-nine states and territories receive notifications from employers using Lump Sum Reporting, and
- More than 130 employers are participating, representing over 1,500 Federal Employer Identification Numbers.
The second is Terminations (or, as we call it, eTerm): our centralized, automated process that enables employers to notify states about an individual’s employment status. As of July 2015:
- Forty-five states and territories receive notifications from employers using eTerm, and
- More than 130 employers, with over 1,500 Federal Employer Identification Numbers, are participating.
Some of you may remember the days when income withholding orders sent to employers were handwritten. Today, employers expect to receive the OMB-approved Income Withholding for Support form to withhold child support and to send payments to a centralized state disbursement unit. In 2011, OCSE included language in the IWO instructions for employers to reject orders when they are not on the OMB-approved form or do not direct payment to a state disbursement unit.
With four decades of experience, the national child support program continues to excel. Our forward momentum depends upon modern technology and innovative strategies to respond to the needs of today’s families.
Read the August edition of the Child Support Report to find out how child support programs are continuing to improve.
As I travel and talk with caseworkers around the country, I hear your commitment and passion for our program mission, and see your hard work day in and day out to collect child support for children. The child support program has the reputation for being one of the best run programs in government. What we are all after is compliance with support obligations. When support payments come in regularly, custodial parents can budget for the money so there isn’t a household crisis every month.
What does the research say about improving compliance with support orders? Dozens and dozens of studies, some involving child support, all find the same thing: that the parties are more willing to comply with an order when they feel that they have been dealt with fairly. The research says that when litigants perceive that they are being treated fairly, they are more likely to comply with an order, even if they don’t like the order. Procedural fairness is an evidence-based and cost-effective way to improve compliance.
Researchers have identified and tested 5 specific elements of perceived fairness. They are:
- Voice — you feel that you have an opportunity to participate, tell your story, show your papers, and influence the outcome.
- Respect — you feel like people treat you with dignity and give credence to your side of the story.
- Lack of bias — you feel like you are being treated even-handedly and do not get different treatment based on your race, or gender or economic status.
- Understanding — you feel like people understand your circumstances, what you are dealing with, and when you are trying.
- Helpfulness — you feel like people care about you and want to help you as much as they can.
We have two bedrock values in our program. One is that parents have the fundamental responsibility to support their children. The other is that the government has a fundamental responsibility to provide due process and procedural fairness to litigants, particularly unrepresented litigants.
We accomplish our mission through parents. We know what works. We can increase trust and compliance if we can improve the perception of procedural fairness and deliver real due process — an opportunity to be heard, an order based on evidence, and realistic demands to comply. We can help parents address any barriers to employment and nonpayment. We can offer meaningful customer service that shows both parents that we care about them as people, understand their circumstances, and will do our best to get results.
Learn how other states and counties have increased their procedural fairness through strong judicial partnerships in the July 2015 Child Support Report, then tell us about your initiatives!
We’re always looking for ways to increase the effectiveness of our child support program, particularly in three major areas, modernizing technology, increasing procedural fairness, and gathering evidence of programs that work. In honor of Father’s Day, our June Child Support Report focuses on programs and initiatives that help fathers deepen their financial and emotional commitments to their children.
For more than 20 years, OCSE has been involved in efforts to secure consistent support for children through programs to improve parental responsibility and increase child support collections. Ongoing research and evaluation efforts are designed to yield the evidence required for developing and replicating program models.
Some of the earliest examples funded by the Office of Child Support Enforcement include the Parents Fair Share demonstration grants of the 1990s and the Partners for Fragile Families demonstration grants of the early 2000s. Both project designs aimed to improve child support payment compliance by increasing employment, earnings, peer support, and cooperative parenting, and by improving child support services. Noncustodial parents who
participated in the projects said they felt better about their roles as fathers and their ability to support their children financially.
Today, ongoing research projects will add to the evidence base for child support programs.
These studies include
- Child Support Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED) sponsored by OCSE (CSPED Fact Sheet #1)
- Parents and Children Together (PACT) evaluation of four Office of Family Assistance Responsible Fatherhood grantees conducted by the Administration for Children and Families (“Addressing Low-Income Fathers’ Legal Needs” article in the June Child Support Report and the Parents and Children Together (PACT) Evaluation webpage)
- Department of Labor Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release (LEAP) initiative designed to increase employment for individuals, including parents, who have been incarcerated
- Paycheck Plus, a demonstration conducted by MDRC with OCSE support to test Earned Income Tax Credit-like benefits for workers who do not live with children, including noncustodial parents (Behavioral Buzz newsletter article, Helping Paycheck Plus participants plan to participate in an informational meeting)
Ongoing research and evaluation efforts are designed to build the evidence required for developing and replicating effective program models. No other program has such extensive contact with fathers as child support does. We know that effective child support is linked with higher father involvement. Fathers who are involved with their children are more likely to pay child support, and fathers who pay child support are more likely to stay involved. We also know that parents — fathers and mothers — are more likely to engage with the child support program if they feel that they are treated fairly and even-handedly, receive timely information, and experience the child support program as genuinely helpful and concerned about their well-being.
The most effective child support programs combine modern technology with parental engagement and evidence-based strategies to increase collections and address barriers to
Read more about effective child support practices in our June Child Support Report.