In the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014, Congress asked my office, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, to submit a report to Congress that addresses the effectiveness of state child support programs. As part of our outreach to parents to inform the report, we asked custodial and noncustodial parents and adult children who grew up in a separated family to tell us their child support stories. To date, we have heard directly from over a thousand parents and children. We are grateful that they took the time to talk with us. Their voices have informed and moved us. Here are excerpted comments from a few of the adult children who shared their experiences with us: … Read More: Thank you for sharing your child support stories
A son and daughter visit their incarcerated dad–part of Sesame Street’s Little Children: Big Challenges Incarceration initiative © 2013 Sesame Workshop.
Millions of children in this country have grown up with a parent in prison. One in two state prisoners are parents. The data reflect strong racial disparities. One in three black men can expect to go to prison during their lifetime. One in four black children born in 1990 had a parent in jail or prison by the time the child was 14 years old — more than double the rate of black children born in 1978, about the time when our program was getting started.
Many experts believe that the loss of a parent due to incarceration is more complicated and painful for a child than other losses. Repeated incarceration destroys all but the strongest family relationships. Most children love their parents, miss their parents, want their parents to come home, and mourn when they are gone. Helping parents and children overcome stigma and maintain contact during incarceration can help. But a child who has lost a parent to prison may never fully get over it.
… Read More: “My father is in prison”: The importance of child support and justice partnerships
The period to submit your stories for the Report to Congress is now closed. Thanks to those who sent in information. If you would still like to leave general comments, you can do so below.
The November-December 2014 Child Support Report gave you an overview of how new legislation, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (P.L. 113-183), affects the child support program. One particular provision requires us to draft a Report to Congress to recommend cost-effective program improvements, address effectiveness and performance, and outline the future of the child support program.
Please tell me your story. Whether you are a mom or a dad, or whether you grew up living apart from a parent, I want to hear from you. We will draw from these real-life experiences for our Report to Congress.
My story is that I left home early. I was 17 and pregnant when I got married and 27 when I divorced. I finished high school, but dropped out of community college. I had two kids and a desire to give them a better life. … Read More: My Child Support Story
Many years ago (in fact, only a few years after Congress authorized the IV-D program), I was a mom on my own with two small children to feed. I did not receive child support, and was the sole breadwinner in our family. I was a full-time waitress then, receiving a very small paycheck. To get by, we had to rely on my tips. Every night, my sons and I counted out the dollar bills and rolled the dimes and nickels. I set aside the quarters for the commercial washer and dryer in my apartment building. I used the pennies for bus fare, to the annoyance of those boarding the bus behind me.
So, I worked for tips. I hoped that customers would like my service well enough to give me a good tip. What I quickly learned was that the better my customer service, the better my tips — most of the time. This is what I learned about customer service: … Read More: Everything I learned about customer service, I learned while I was a waitress
We celebrated a major milestone at the end of the fiscal year when President Obama signed new legislation that will have lasting impacts on several key areas of the child support program. You’ll see an outline of these key areas in the November/December Child Support Report (page 2), and we’ll feature several articles in future editions.
At a glance, the legislation involves six child support-related components. The law:
- Expands the Hague Treaty to strengthen our international case processing efforts.
- Gives Indian tribes access to important child support data systems.
- Encourages parenting time arrangements as part of child support order establishment.
- Requires new standards for data interoperability – or data sharing – among states.
- Requires mandatory electronic income withholding. This will potentially save states’ and employers’ time, resources, and postage – and get child support to families more quickly.
- Requires OCSE to submit a major report to Congress in June 2015.
… Read More: Plans underway to fulfill milestone legislation
Domestic violence discussions were widespread on social media in September because of events in the news. #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft were top trending Twitter topics as survivors of family violence used the hashtags to tweet their stories. As a result, calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and renewed interest in employee training to address domestic violence increased dramatically.
Domestic violence has long been important to the child support community. Child support income is critical for most parents who are survivors of domestic violence, but child support establishment and enforcement can increase the risk of abuse. As child support professionals, we are responsible for ensuring that survivors of domestic violence receive child support safely and confidentially. While the topic for this blog is timely because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, this is an every-month concern for child support agencies and other organizations. For example, the Domestic Violence Awareness Project (@NationalDVAM) tweets about conversations and resources continuously throughout the year.
… Read More: Our focus on domestic violence survivors
My great-grandfather had a 6th-grade education. He started off his career making wagon wheels in a wagon shop. In 1907, when he was 32 years old, my great-grandfather got in on the ground floor at the Kissel Motor Car Company in Hartford, WI. The company produced handcrafted luxury cars driven by movie stars in the emerging Hollywood film industry.
He made the “artillery wheels,” made of wood spokes, rims and hubs. He was a master of wooden wheels.
Around 1925, the company began using metal disc wheels, and my 50-year-old great-grandfather was out of a job. He could not adjust to the new manufacturing process. Kissel Motor Company went out of business during the depression in the 1930s. The company could not adjust to the new economic conditions.
… Read More: Adapting to the cycle of change
Tribal child support programs are growing by leaps and bounds. With the latest tribe—Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Bayfield, WI—joining us this July, the national child support program now boasts 56 fully comprehensive tribal programs and six more in the start-up phase.
Only 16 years ago, federal legislation created a path for tribal child support programs. Nine comprehensive programs (listed below) began their journey up that path, paving the way for the next 47 with more to come. These original nine have collected more than $160 million since 2001. Comprehensive tribal programs together collected over $42 million in FY 2012 alone.
… Read More: Tribal programs gaining in number and strength
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.
… Read More: Engaging with both moms and dads
The child support program continues to evolve as families change. Our Father’s Day issue of the Child Support Report highlights innovative strategies that child support programs are using to work with both parents to increase the support that children receive from their noncustodial parents.
Erin Frisch, Michigan child support director, describes how her state improved customer service and office efficiency by streamlining case management so that case workers can really help parents.
… Read More: Today’s child support program helping fathers