Tag Archives: Statistics

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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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.

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.

Family-centered strategies

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.

International enforcement

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.

Managing change

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.

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Statistics are critical to our program

Colorful bar graph through a magnifying glassI just learned (via the U.S. Census Bureau) that 2013 is International Year of Statistics. A page full of statistics can be scary to some, but statistics is one of my favorite words. In OCSE, we have a division of dedicated staff members who collect and analyze statistics—a critical component of our program. Because we audit program data (through another OCSE office of dedicated auditors), we have program data that we trust.

Why do I like statistics? Well, first of all, child support statistics have given us the tools we need for measuring and presenting the efficiency and effectiveness of our national program to the public. The fact that we can measure our performance, and do so with audited, accurate data, has helped us demonstrate program accountability, identify program trends, and correct course when those data identify performance problems.

Statistics are critical, too, as we train our own staffs. In the February Child Support Report, New York City Director Frances Pardus-Abbadessa describes the need to get buy-in from every staff member to understand the culture of change in our program, including the importance of treating both custodial and noncustodial parents fairly in every case.

We pay attention to statistics published at various times of the year to understand trends in our caseload and improve our outreach services. For example, see the articles in the same Child Support Report on Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, the Latino Resource Center, and the IRS Earned Income Tax Credit; they all contain pertinent statistics.

But most importantly, statistics gives us a window on the families we serve. What does our caseload look like? What are the demographic factors we need to understand? And what does data tell us about effective strategies for reaching our goal: obtaining consistent child support payments for families? An example of how data changed the way we thought about arrears management is the series of state studies conducted several years ago by the Urban Institute that found that 70 percent of noncustodial parents who owe child support arrears had reported incomes below $10,000 per year. (You can find the report on the HHS website.)

Here are some statistics that are worth repeating because they play an important part in the program’s success:

  • Child support provides about 40 percent of family income for the poor families who receive it, and 10 percent of income for all poor custodial families.
  • Child support is a critical program for poor families; about half of families in the program are below 150 percent of the poverty level, while 90 percent are below 400 percent of poverty. The child support program is one of the “big three” income support programs (along with Earned Income Tax Credit and SNAP) that provides a safety net for poor families.
  • The child support program demonstrates a high return on investment. In FY 2011, the program collected $5.12 for every dollar it spent.

I look forward to two new OCSE reports this year that will give us a deeper understanding of those and other statistics in our program. The first is a “Story Behind the Numbers” fact sheet that analyzes the Census Bureau’s “Child Support Supplement to the Current Population Survey.” We expect to publish the fact sheet soon.

The second report will delve into data analytics. Over the last year, we have been collaborating with a contractor to assess our various data sources so we can use them more easily and effectively. We are developing a conceptual design document and requirement specifications to build an internal child support dashboard framework that will allow us to analyze our data in more robust ways. As many state and local child support programs know, dashboards are great tools for tracking outcomes visually through devices such as bar charts, time series trends and pie charts. They help us to tell the “story behind the numbers.” In addition, users will be able to quickly aggregate data from our data sources and drill down for further analysis. We expect to complete this project in late spring, and we’ll keep you posted.

I hope that many of you will share my focus on statistics this year, as we use data to help us improve ways we manage our program and provide services to all parents and families we serve.



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