Child Support and Fatherhood Initiative in the Administration's FY 2014 Budget
The Child Support Enforcement Program touches the lives of one-quarter of the Nation’s children, and plays an important role in helping parents work together to support their children. The program supports federal, state, and tribal efforts to foster parental responsibility, promote family self-sufficiency, by locating non-custodial parents, determining paternity, and establishing and enforcing orders for support. For every dollar invested in the program, $5.12 in child support was collected in FY 2011.
Growing up in poverty and family economic insecurity can reduce a child’s chances of reaching his or her full potential. The program has a commitment to increasing the reliability of support payments throughout childhood. A growing body of research supports strategies that can help strengthen the ability and willingness of noncustodial parents to support their children, by promoting responsible fatherhood, helping parents succeed in the workforce, and building ladders of opportunity for those willing to do the work to lift themselves up.
To promote strong families and responsible fatherhood, the Administration’s FY 2014 Budget includes a multi-pronged Child Support and Fatherhood Initiative to modernize the Child Support Enforcement Program and to encourage non-custodial parents to support their children and play an active role in their lives. The Budget includes $2.0 billion over ten years to fund a package of child support investments that promote family self-sufficiency and responsible fatherhood, and that recognize the essential role both parents play in providing financial and emotional support for children.
These policy changes will encourage non-custodial parents to take greater responsibility for their children while maintaining rigorous enforcement efforts. The Budget supports states in providing access and visitation services that can improve a noncustodial parent’s relationship with his or her family and increases support for states that pass child support payments through to families rather than retaining them. The program will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of providing employment services aimed at increasing child support payments from non-custodial parents. The proposals support the President’s commitment to supporting the critical role that fathers play in enhancing the intellectual, emotional, and financial well-being of their sons and daughters.
Ensuring Children Benefit When Parents Pay Support
The FY 2014 Budget proposes to invest $1.41 billion over ten years to encourage states to pass through current child support collections to TANF families, rather than retaining payments for cost recovery purposes. The benefits to families exceed their cost, and will result in an additional $1.7 billion in child support payments received by families, reducing those families’ reliance on other social services programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI).
- Under the proposal, states would no longer be required to reimburse the federal government for any part of current child support payments that the state distributes to the family, and states would be allowed to discontinue assigning child support payments to the state when a family is receiving TANF assistance ($551 million over ten years).
- To encourage states to take up family distribution options, the proposal also includes short-term funding to offset a significant share of state costs in implementing this policy ($759 million over ten years).
- The proposal also provides limited resources to help states make necessary improvements to their systems technology to support the distribution changes ($100 million over ten years).
- In addition, the proposal requires child support payments made on behalf of children in Foster Care to be used in the best interest of the child, rather than as general revenue for the state ($254 million over ten years).
- It also prohibits the use of child support to repay Medicaid costs associated with giving birth—a practice retained by only a handful of states. Recovery of this debt from non-custodial parents can discourage the participation of pregnant women in Medicaid, discourage fathers’ attachment to the formal labor market, and reduce child support payments to the family (cost neutral).
Promoting Access and Visitation
The President’s Budget provides $448 million over ten years to support increased access and visitation services and integrates these services into the core child support program. These services will not only improve parent-child relationships and outcomes for children, but they will also result in improved collections. Research shows that when fathers are engaged in the lives of their children, they are more likely to meet their financial obligations. This creates a double win for children—an engaged parent and financial security.
- As a first step in facilitating a relationship between non-custodial parents and their children, the proposed initiative would update the statutory purposes of the child support program to recognize the program’s evolving mission and activities that help parents cooperate and support their children.
- The proposal also requires states to establish access and visitation responsibilities in all initial child support orders, just as custody arrangements are typically settled at the same time divorces are finalized.
- Federal resources are made available to states that choose to include parenting time responsibilities in initial child support orders beginning in FY 2014 and all states are required to include parenting time responsibilities in all new child support orders beginning in FY 2019. This phase-in approach will allow some states to begin immediately and will provide an opportunity for all states to learn from the lessons of “early adopters.”
- The proposal also would encourage states to undertake activities that support access and visitation, while implementing domestic violence safeguards, which are a critical component of this new state responsibility.
Enforcement and Establishment
The FY 2014 Budget includes several additional proposals aimed at increasing collections and improving program efficiency, which would collectively save $95 million over ten years. They include:
- Mandating data comparisons with insurance claims, payments, settlements and awards;
- Requiring employers to report lump sum payment for intercept;
- Closing a loophole to allow garnishment of longshoremen’s benefits;
- Improving the processes for freezing and seizing assets in multistate financial institutions;
- Providing tribal child support programs with access to the Federal Parent Locator Service and other enforcement tools and grant programs currently available to state child support programs, as well as sustained support for model tribal computer systems;
- Modifying the threshold at which states become subject to performance penalty based upon their paternity establishment percentage to better reflect state performance;
- Requiring each state’s use of procedures to review and adjust child support debt owed to the state, and to discourage accumulation of unpaid child support debt during incarceration;
- Revising title IV-D to consolidate and clarify various data matching, safeguarding and disclosure authorities; and
- Requiring states to pass UIFSA 2008, model uniform state law, to ensure efficient international case processing as required by the Hague Child Support Treaty.
In addition, this request includes several new no-cost proposals aimed at improving the child support collection process and allowing the child support program to implement models that get more men working and engaging with their children. These proposals include:
- Improving coordination between child support and Social Security benefits received by families;
- Increasing state flexibility to retroactively modify child support orders;
- Limiting interest charged on child support arrears; and
- Increasing state flexibility to determine when to report child support arrears to credit bureaus.
Taken together these proposals will strengthen the ability of both parents to support and care for their children as well as improve the performance of the child support program in meeting this goal.
ACF FY 2014 Congressional Justification
HHS/ACF Budget in Brief
ACF portion of President’s Budget
Building Ladders of Opportunity, Office of Management and Budget