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A Collaboration and Strategic Planning Guide for States: Child Access and Visitation Grant Programs

DCL-07-07

Published: March 8, 2007
Information About:
State/Local Child Support Agencies, Access & Visitation Program
Topics:
Family Services & Referrals, Healthy Family Relationships, Parenting Time/Access & Visitation
Types:
Guides/Publications/Reports, Policy, Dear Colleague Letters (DCL)

DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTER

DCL-07-07

ATTACHMENT: A Collaboration and Strategic Planning Guide for States: Child Access and Visitation Programs

DATE: March 8, 2007

TO: STATE IV-D DIRECTORS, STATE ACCESS AND VISITATION PROGRAM COORDINATORS

RE: Release of a New Publication Which Details a Collaboration and Program Planning Process That Will Enable States to More Accurately Address and Effectively Respond to the Child Access Needs of Noncustodial Parents

Dear Colleague:

I am pleased to provide you with a copy of a new report entitled A Collaboration and Strategic Planning Guide for States: Child Access and Visitation Programs.

Since 1997, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) has been responsible for administering the “Grants to States for Access and Visitation” program. To date, OCSE has awarded $100 million dollars to states ($10 million per year) to “...establish and administer programs to support and facilitate noncustodial parents’ access to and visitation of their children,” as mandated by Congress. In order to achieve this end, States are allowed to fund a range of services including: mediation, development of parenting plans, education, counseling, visitation enforcement (including supervised visitation and neutral drop off), and the development of alternative custody and visitation guidelines. Between FFY 1997-2005, over 400,000 parents were recipients of AV services.

Despite the accomplishments of the AV grant program, this funding source alone cannot keep pace with the rising divorce and out-of-wedlock birth rates. For the majority of States, the demand for services exceeds the availability of grant funds. As a result, States are often faced with making difficult funding decisions regarding the type of services to be provided, to whom, and whether these services will be delivered statewide or targeted to certain locales.

Purpose of the Guide

The Guide describes how to establish an effective partnership among State AV Grant Programs, courts, Child Support Enforcement Agencies, and other public and community-based agencies, in:

  1. re-evaluating their respective efforts to provide access and visitation services to noncustodial parents and their families;
  2. analyzing the results of a statewide needs and service delivery assessment developed specifically for this purpose; and
  3. developing a statewide, AV service strategy that more accurately responds to the child access needs of noncustodial parents.

The Guide is grounded in the experiences of three States (Colorado, Tennessee, and Texas) who participated in this project. All had State AV Program, court, and child support leaders who were interested in examining the status of their AV program and assessing whether changes were needed. As a result, the Guide includes practical advice on initiating a successful program planning strategy.

Similar to the experiences of the three States who participated in this project, it is anticipated that implementation of an AV planning process will enable you to:

  • maximize the utilization of existing AV grant funds;

  • target the populations most in needs of services;

  • explore all possible funding mechanisms and opportunities for supplementing AV services;

  • promote collaboration among State AV Grant Programs, child support enforcement agencies, courts, public agencies, and faith- and community-based organizations to augment services; and

  • avoid duplication of and gaps in services to noncustodial parents.

It is my hope that the Guide will encourage you to implement a similar AV program planning and collaboration initiative in your state. Applying the strategies described in the Guide should help states be more successful in making it possible for children to benefit from the love and support of both parents. For additional copies of this report, please contact either Debra Pontisso at (202) 401-4548, debra.pontisso@acf.hhs.gov or Rayetta Byrd, (202) 401-9382, rayetta.byrd@acf.hhs.gov.

Sincerely,

Margot Bean
Commissioner
Office of Child Support Enforcement

Attachment

cc: ACF Regional Administrators
OCSE Regional Program Managers