Tag Archives: Poverty

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.

Paternity, support order establishment, current collection, and arrears collection rates have never been higher, while cost-effectiveness remains high at $5.26 collected for every $1.00 spent.

And the really exciting news is that as states have begun to implement family-centered strategies on a broader scale, the current collection rate — which measures support order compliance and regular payments — is starting to rise. The last time we saw the current collection rate move this much was in the early 2000s. We also see an uptick in the arrears collection rate.

Over the past decade, we have made progress on every measure. Here are our FY 2015 national results:

  • We collected almost $29 billion in IV-D cases receiving child support services, including over $50 million in tribal child support collections, reflecting the growth of the tribal child support program. In 2006, we collected $24 billion.
  • We collected an additional $4 billion in payments made through income withholding orders for child support cases that did not receive child support services.
  • The IV-D paternity establishment percentage was 100 percent and the statewide Paternity Establishment Percentage was 95 percent, maintaining the high numbers from 2006.
  • 86 percent of cases had a child support order. In 2006, the support order rate was 77 percent.
  • We collected 65 percent of current support. In 2006, it was 60 percent.
  • We collected 64 percent in arrears cases. In 2006, it was 61 percent.
  • Our cost effectiveness rate of $5.26 compares to $4.58 in 2006.
  • Our collections increased by nearly 20 percent since 2006, while our expenditures increased by 3 percent.

The data say we are headed in the right direction. I am proud of your commitment to strengthen and improve our program.  Because of you, more families have what they need to make ends meet and more children have what they need most — parents who put them first.

Learn about more our improving performance measures in the July 2016 edition of the Child Support Report.

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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.

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.

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Tribal programs gaining in number and strength

Native American Navajo dancerTribal 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.

These dollars to families are more important than ever. The Pew Research Center reported in June that Native Americans have a higher poverty rate (26 percent) compared with the national average (15 percent). Unemployment rates for Native Americans also rank higher than the national average.

To help tribes enhance services to tribal families, we have published a new OCSE competitive grant funding opportunity for comprehensive tribal child support programs. The Tribal Innovation Grants will help eligible tribes strengthen their innovative, family-centered services, including through partnerships with other programs. Applications are due Aug. 12, with a possible Sept. 1 start.

Our Model Tribal System (MTS) participation is gaining strength, too. Five tribes now operate the system: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Modoc, Forest County Potawatomi Community, Mille Lacs, and Lac Courte Oreilles. Three more tribes are installing the system: Winnebago, Suquamish, and White Earth. In OCSE we are fine-tuning performance, planning enhancements and modifications, and of course, continuing to roll out the MTS to tribes that request installation.

Our goal is to widen the path further for new tribal programs each year. More tribal child support will mean more parental support for Indian children who need it the most—more money for food, clothing, school supplies, and opportunities to thrive in many ways.

Nine tribal child support programs led the way:

  • Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • Forest County Potawatomi Community, Wisconsin
  • Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Wisconsin
  • Lummi Nation, Washington
  • Menominee Tribe, Wisconsin
  • Navajo Nation, New Mexico
  • Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Washington
  • Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Washington
  • Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, South Dakota
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New poverty data matter to our program

Colorful number blocksOn Sept. 12, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual household income report, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011. Each year, child support professionals eagerly anticipate this release as we develop our priorities and projects that will best serve families. The report is based on a yearly Census survey and represents the official federal poverty numbers. These numbers reflect money income only and do not reflect in-kind public assistance or tax credits. (You can see a summary brief from the HHS Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation.

First the good news: the Census Bureau data indicate that the number and rate of children living in poverty has leveled off. There were 16.1 million children under 18 years old living in poverty in 2011, not a significant change from 2010. The child poverty rate was 21.9 percent in 2011, also not a significant change. In 2011, the poverty threshold for a family of one adult and two children was $18,123, and for one adult $11,702.

In addition, the proportion of children living in deep poverty (those with income below one-half of the federal poverty threshold) has declined slightly. In 2011, 7.3 million children, or 9.8 percent, were living in deep poverty, compared to 9.9 percent in 2010. Children in deep poverty represented 45 percent of all children in poverty.

The number and percentage of children without health coverage remained level in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, 7 million children, or 9.4 percent, did not have health insurance. Children 12 to 17 had a higher uninsured rate than those under 12. Children in poverty were more likely to be uninsured (13.8 percent) than all children, and Hispanic children were most likely to be uninsured (15.1 percent).

The number of men working full-time, year-round with earnings increased by 1.7 million between 2010 and 2011; however, this was 5 million less than in 2007, the year before the most recent recession. The number of women working full-time, year-round increased by .5 million, but was 1.9 million less than in 2007. In addition, the percent of people without health insurance coverage declined from 16.3 percent in 2010 to 15.7 in 2011.

Although the economy is recovering, the big picture is that the child poverty rate rose in seven of the last 10 years. Children living in female-headed families with no spouse present had a poverty rate of 47.6 percent in 2011, over 4 times the rate of children in married-couple families (10.9 percent). The child poverty rate in 2011 was 5.7 percentage points higher than in 2000, when the child poverty rate was 16.2 percent. And the proportion of children living in deep poverty was 3.1 points higher in 2011 than the 6.7 percent rate in 2000. Among children:

  • The poverty rate for African-American children was 37.4 percent in 2011. This is up 7.2 points from 30.2 percent in 2001.
  • The poverty rate for Hispanic children was 34.1 percent in 2011, up 7.2 points from the 2006 low of 26.9 percent.
  • The poverty rate for White (non-Hispanic) children was 12.5 percent in 2011, up 3.4 points from 9.1 percent in 2000.

The real median income for all households was 8.1 percent lower in 2011 than in 2007 and 8.9 percent lower than the median household income peak in 1999. The real median earnings of both men and women working full-time, year-round declined 2.5 percent between 2010 and 2011. The median earnings of women who worked full-time, year-round ($37,118) was 77 percent of that for men working full-time, year-round ($48,202)—compared to just under 59 percent in 1975.

Other Census Bureau data indicate that about 28 percent of the U. S. population had at least one spell of poverty lasting two or more months, but that chronic poverty was relatively uncommon, with 4.8 percent of the population living in poverty for all 24 months.

I look forward to hearing about ways your agency is putting the data to work.

 

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