Tag Archives: Strategic Plan

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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National Child Support Strategic Plan

Image of child looking forward with the words "National Child Support Strategic Plan for 2015-2019" on it.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.

FAMILIES FIRST

A family-centered child support program partners with parents to promote consistent support payments.

CASE-SPECIFIC TOOLS

An effective child support program uses the right tools to meet the needs of the specific case.

MODERN TECHNOLOGY

An efficient child support program incorporates modern technology.

RESOURCEFUL LEADERSHIP

An enterprising child support program leverages sufficient resources to meet its mission.

EVIDENCE-BASED

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.

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Ten challenges for the New Year

"What's Next" headline in newspaperIn my previous Commissioner’s Voice column, I talked about the three generations in our society and three generations of our child support program and how the generational shifts in our society have impacted the way we do business. I gave examples of how you, the managers and staff in child support agencies, are addressing the changes in our caseload in innovative ways.

The members of the rising generation in our society—and in our program—expect clear information. They expect respect. They expect resources. And they expect results. In OCSE, we are beginning a new national strategic planning process for 2015-2019, involving all state and tribal child support directors. We want to use this process to help us position the child support program for the future. We have challenges ahead, but also a great commitment to our mission and the people we serve.

What do we need to accomplish as we face the third generation of our program? As we start the New Year, please consider these 10 challenges. We need to:

  1. Modernize our systems, automate as much as we can, maintain strong security controls, and figure out the right balance between data privacy and data sharing.
  2. Update our communications, customer service, case management, and service delivery approaches for diverse families to get the best results for this generation.
  3. Plan for generational succession in our offices as the people who built this program retire.
  4. Improve interstate enforcement, the last frontier, and develop effective federal/state/tribal/international case processing procedures.
  5. Modernize our laws, guidelines, and judicial processes, including updating our medical support, policies, and routine use of contempt hearings.
  6. Set accurate orders based on real income, reduce reliance on imputed income, keep orders accurate, and reduce state debt on the books.
  7. Pay all of the money we collect to families and address the loss of revenue involved in shifting to 100% family distribution policies.
  8. Figure out how we leverage and coordinate employment, parenting time, health care, and other services for those parents who need help.
  9. Make the most of the political credibility we’ve established due to the work of the last two generations by carrying it into the communities and parents we serve.
  10. Accomplish all of this with constrained resources.

I know we can do it.

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