FY1998 Annual Report - Report Text
Office of Child Support Enforcement
The Child Support Enforcement Program
In 1975 Congress created the Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Program by enacting Title IV-D of the Social Security Act for the purpose of establishing and enforcing the support obligations owed by noncustodial parents to their children.
The CSE Program is a joint undertaking involving Federal, State, and local cooperative efforts. Because the States and territories run their own CSE programs, there are 54 separate systems, each with is own unique laws and procedures.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is the Federal agency that oversees administration of the CSE Program. Within DHHS, the Administration for Children and Families' Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) provides Federal oversight of the program.
OCSE sets program standards and policy, evaluates States' performance in conducting their programs, and offers technical assistance and training to States. It conducts audits of State program activities and operates the Federal Parent Locator Service, National Training Center, and National Resource Center.
The Federal Government shares in the cost of funding the CSE program by reimbursing a substantial part of States' administrative costs and providing incentive payments to States. OCSE acts in cooperation with the Internal Revenue Service in facilitating collection of overdue support from Federal income tax refunds.
State governments work directly with families through State child support enforcement agencies and/or their local counterparts. These agencies work closely with a variety of government entities in four areas: locating noncustodial parents; establishing paternity; establishing support orders; and collecting and distributing support.
CSE services are available automatically for families receiving assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Current child support collected usually reimburses the State and Federal governments for TANF payments made to the family. Child support services also are available to families not receiving TANF who apply for such services. Child support payments that are collected on behalf of nonTANF families are sent to the family. For these families, States must charge an application fee of up to $25 but may pay this fee from State funds.
State child support offices work with prosecuting attorneys and other law enforcement agencies to establish and enforce support orders. Each State CSE agency operates under a State plan approved by OCSE. State governments, and in some cases city, county, and/or local governments, participate in funding the program. In 1984, 1988, 1993, and 1996 Congress enacted significant amendments to the CSE program, providing the States with additional remedies to collect child support.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), signed by President Clinton into law on August 22, 1996, established the most sweeping revisions of the child support program to date. PRWORA provided States with new enforcement tools to ensure that children receive the support due them and that they are financially supported by both parents. The 1996 legislation also recognized the importance of children's access to their noncustodial parents by including grants to help States establish programs that support and facilitate noncustodial parents' visitation with and access to their children. In addition, the law created the National Directory of New Hires to help States with interstate enforcement efforts.
The federal mandates aim to streamline child support collections, increase paternity establishments and child support orders, strengthen penalties for delinquent payments, and encourage payment of child support. Because child support is primarily a function of state family law, PRWORA required state legislatures to make numerous changes in state law as a condition of receiving financial support for child support. Under contract to OCSE, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), in 1998, undertook a review of State legislation in response to PRWORA.
Through FY 1998 the great majority of states had passed needed legislation to bring their programs into conformity with federal law. For example state agencies must have the authority under state law to issue administrative subpoenas for financial, employment and benefit information. By the end of FY 1998, 48 states had enacted this provision. Federal law also requires state agencies to be able to access records of state and local governments, including vital statistics and state and local tax and revenue records (49 states). States are required to have simple civil processes for voluntary paternity acknowledgment (44 states). Federal law requires genetic tests, if they meet a certain threshold of probability, to be admissible in a paternity proceeding and to constitute at least a rebuttable presumption of paternity (47 states). States are required to have laws to withhold, suspend, or restrict the use of driver's licenses (50 states). Employers are required to withhold income according to the withholding notice (49 states). Federal law requires states to direct their child support agencies to enter into agreements for information matching with financial institutions in the state (48 states). States are required to mandate that all child support orders handled by the child support agency include a provision for health care coverage (44 states).
Other PRWORA requirements were embraced in a similar manner by states determined to improve child support services to children and families. As of the end of FY 1998, in those instances where a State's legislation remained inconsistent with PRWORA, OCSE continued to consult and provide technical assistance to help the State achieve compliance. For a more detailed review of States' child support legislative activity in response to PRWORA in FY 1998, see NCSL's State Legislative Report, "Child Support Enforcement: State Legislation in Response to the 1996 Federal Welfare Reform Act," September, 1998, Vol. 23, No. 17, available from NCSL, 1560 Broadway, Suite 700, Denver, Colorado 80202 (303) 830-2200.
As part of its ongoing Government Performance and Results Act process, which reforms the way Federal agencies do business, in FY 1998, with its State and other Federal partners, OCSE:
Continued to implement a national strategic plan that includes the CSE program's mission, vision, goals and objectives;
Collaborated on the development of fifteen outcome measures, including at least one for each goal and objective;
Developed a performance-based incentive plan (proposed to be phased in beginning October 1, 1999) to reward States' performance in five areas: establishment of paternities, establishment of support orders, collections on current support, collections on overdue support, and cost-effectiveness; and
Revised data reporting forms to collect information necessary to measure success in achieving strategic plan goals, calculating proposed incentives, and reducing reporting burdens.
To improve collections and better the lives of children, a major child support goal has been to increase paternity establishment for those children born outside marriage. In FY 1998,paternity establishments rose to 1.4 million in 1998, an increase of 171 percent from the 516,000 in 1992. This was also an increase of 12 percent from the 1.3 million paternities established in 1997.
A major factor in the increase in paternities established was the success of the in-hospital voluntary paternity acknowledgment program, which requires the cooperation of a newly born child's parents. In FY 1998 over 614,000 paternities were voluntarily established in hospitals and other similar settings. This was an increase of 26 percent from the previous year's 486,786 and demonstrates that many parents want to take responsibility for their children.
With more paternities being established than children being born out of wedlock, progress is being made in reducing the number of children who do not have a legally established father in their lives. Such a relationship is necessary for securing the financial and emotional support children need and deserve for their healthy development and well-being.
The child support provisions of PRWORA required all States to adopt the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) by January 1, 1998.
All States and jurisdictions met this requirement.
UIFSA was drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) and approved by the American Bar Association in 1993 as a replacement for the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA), the model interstate child support enforcement law dating back to the 1950s. URESA required enacting States to reciprocate in the enforcement of duties of support, but, since it was a State law, States enacted various forms of it. Often, this made the interstate enforcement of support difficult.
In contrast, UIFSA provides for uniform rules, procedures, and forms for interstate cases. To inform the child support community, in November, 1996 OCSE issued the July 18, 1996 version of UIFSA, which modified the 1992 version, with a memo from NCCUSL explaining changes. OCSE reissued this version in March, 1997 along with revised comments.
In FY 1998, OCSE continued to work collaboratively with the States on interstate issues, holding retreats to discuss PRWORA enforcement mechanisms and approaches to resolve interstate cases with special problems and providing on-site UIFSA training to States and judicial organizations. Also, OCSE issued OCSE-AT-98-05 on implementing automated administrative enforcement in interstate cases.
During FY 1998, OCSE certified 18 more States as meeting Family Support Act of 1988 automation requirements. The States certified in FY 1998 were: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Guam, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, and Vermont. This brought the total number of certified States to 35.
Another eight States, however, had certification reviews conducted in FY 1998, and six were eventually certified the following year. Therefore, by the end of FY 1998, 41 States had statewide operational CSE automated systems that met the functional requirements of the Family Support Act of 1988.
In addition, eight States (California, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio) that requested the alternative systems penalty for missing the Family Support Act of 1988 deadline (October 1, 1997) were fined $24,318,515 in FY 1998.
To implement the automation provisions of PRWORA, OCSE:
Published in the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding automation regulations in March, 1998 and the final regulation in August. The final regulation was disseminated to States via OCSE-AT-98-26;
Disseminated a draft of the functional requirements for PRWORA automation requirements in April, 1998 as OCSE AT-98-13; and
Disseminated the PRWORA financial distribution test deck generator in April, as OCSE-AT-98-15.
Also in FY 1998, OCSE's CSEnet project began assisting the States by developing the interface between the States' CSE systems and the CSEnet host - the server that directs interstate requests. CSEnet is a nationwide communications network linking State child support enforcement agencies. The network serves as a conduit for the transmission of information between State automated CSE systems. The purpose is to enhance States' management of interstate child support cases by providing a cost-effective and efficient communications network that is flexible and powerful enough to accommodate changes in policy, functionality, and increased State caseloads. By the end of FY 1998, the number of States connected to the network through fully automated interfaces rose from 13 to 33.
Technical Assistance and Training
The Division of State and Local Assistance (DSLA), includes the National Training Center, the Technical Assistance Branch, and the Special Initiatives Branch. During FY 1998, DSLA worked in partnership with the Training and Technical Assistance Work Group, the OCSE Regional Offices, other OCSE components, and a variety of national organizations. These included the National Child Support Enforcement Association, the Eastern Regional Interstate Enforcement Association, State CSE agencies, and financial organizations, to provide national leadership on special initiatives and develop national technical assistance (TA) and training strategies to address States' needs.
As a result of a State Needs Assessment, a "top ten" list of State TA priority areas was identified in FY 1998. It included: distribution and centralized collections; increasing collections; interstate; paternity establishment; automated systems; self-assessment; Tribal child support services; new hire reporting; fatherhood initiatives; and training. DSLA coordinated with other OCSE components and the Regional Offices to ensure that these priority areas were addressed.
Several training courses were developed and delivered: a standardized 2-1/2 day curriculum on Interstate Case Processing/UIFSA; a 2-1/2 day stand-alone curriculum on Distribution; and the Training of Trainer (TOT) course. The TOT course was delivered to teams of regional and State staff. Those teams will, in turn, deliver the training at State and local agencies;
Eleven Special Improvement Project grants, totaling $1,005,667, were awarded in areas such as paternity establishment, enforcement, fatherhood, IV-A/IV-D collaboration, and Tribal program services;
Training modules were outlined as a beginning step in the development of a curriculum for IV-D Directors; and
Resource materials were provided to States, including the Compendium of State Best Practices, 4th Edition; summaries of an interstate retreat; an issuance on funding opportunities for the employment and training of noncustodial parents; and a matrix on State license restrictions, suspensions and revocations.
Strides also were made in developing tools to promote the use of new technology and distance learning by:
Beginning development of a series of computer based training (CBT) courses, including an orientation to child support; and
Conducting the 8th National CSE Training Conference, "Meeting the Child Support Challenge: Children First" from September 28 - 30, 1998 in Washington, DC. Distance Learning was emphasized through use of both satellite and video-conferencing technology.
DLSA also provided the major staff work for OCSE's National Symposium on Children, Courts and the Federal Child Support Enforcement Program. The symposium brought together, for the first time, representatives from the judiciary, court administration, and State and Federal IV-D representatives in an educational forum identifying PRWORA requirements and their impact on courts.
The Expanded Federal Parent Locator Service
The Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) is a computerized national network that provides Social Security Numbers, addresses, and employer and wage information to State and local CSE agencies to establish and enforce child support orders.
The National Directory of New Hires
Under PRWORA, the FPLS has been expanded to include the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) and the Federal Case Registry (FCR). Under this expanded program, each State operates a State Directory of New Hires (SDNH), to which employers send information on newly hired employees within 20 days of hire. The SDNH forwards this data to the NDNH, along with quarterly wage (QW) data and unemployment insurance (UI) claimant information. From this national repository of data, the NDNH then provides key information to help State caseworkers establish paternities, establish and enforce child support orders, and initiate wage withholdings.
The NDNH was implemented on October 1, 1997, and as of the end of FY 1998 contained over 436 million new hire, QW, and UI records. To smooth the transition to the expanded system, the pre-existing FPLS, which accesses certain Federal databases, continued operation during FY 1998, using the NDNH as a new source of locate information. The NDNH responded to daily requests from State CSE agencies searching for noncustodial parents and putative fathers. During FY 1998, locate information was returned to States from the NDNH on over 1.2 million noncustodial parents and putative fathers.
The Federal Case Registry
The Federal Case Registry (FCR) was under development throughout FY 1998. Under this part of the program, every State will operate a State Case Registry (SCR) and send key child support case data to the FCR, which will automatically compare it with submissions from other States and with the employment data in the NDNH. Successful matches between child support obligors and employment and locate data will be returned to the appropriate States for further action.
To ensure that the FCR would be up and running by the October 1998 deadline, OCSE engaged in extensive database development, secured enormous computer and network capacity, and coordinated simultaneous systems development efforts with State agencies. The agency also developed adequate policy and systems safeguards to protect against unauthorized use of FCR data, particularly the Family Violence Indicator (FVI), which States can place on participants in child support cases who are at risk of harm from domestic or child abuse.
Intensive technical assistance was provided to help States develop and integrate these new systems, as well as prepare them to use the automatic match data expected after implementation of the FCR. At the end of FY 1998, over 40 States and Territories were expected to provide initial submissions of child support case information, with several more to follow shortly after. Implementation of the FCR was on schedule to occur as legislatively mandated in October 1998.
As a result of the automatic matching between the NDNH and FCR, State caseworkers will receive up-to-date locate and employment information from the expanded FPLS without having to make a locate request. This allows them to quickly initiate wage withholding, through which approximately 60 percent of child support is collected. Upon full implementation, the FPLS will give States the unprecedented ability to track noncustodial parents across State lines, which historically is one of the most difficult tasks in collecting child support payments.
Federal Parent Locator Service
The FPLS that operated before the expansion begun under PRWORA continued operating in FY 1998. The FPLS responds to locate requests from States and uses the most current information available from data sources external to the child support system, including the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and State Employment Security Agencies. During FY 1998, the FPLS processed over 5.5 million requests for information from State and local CSE agencies, an increase of approximately 12 percent over FY 97.
Federal Tax Refund and Administrative Offset Programs
OCSE continued operating the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program, which collects delinquent child support payments from Federal income tax refunds. In FY 1998, the program set another record by collecting $1.1 billion in delinquent child support. In addition, the first collections from the Administrative Offset Program were transferred to States at the beginning of FY 1998. The Administrative Offset Program, created under the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 and reinforced in Executive Order 13019, collects delinquent child support from certain Federal payments, such as Federal retirement benefits, and payments to private vendors.
Passport Denial Program
Another provision of PRWORA made available the passport denial program as an enforcement mechanism. The passport denial program is operated as part of the Federal Offset Program and is designed to help States enforce the child support obligations of the most egregious delinquent obligors. Under the program, non-custodial parents certified by a State as having arrearages of at least $5,000 are submitted by OCSE to the Department of State, which "flags" their name and denies them a U.S. passport upon application. The State can then remove them from the program once arrangements have been made to satisfy the child support arrearage. The program was implemented in June 1998 and by the end of the fiscal year 30 to 40 passports per day were being denied to delinquent obligors.
The passage of PRWORA changed the direction and emphasis of audits of State CSE programs conducted by the OCSE Division of Audit. Audit requirements now emphasize performance and outcomes instead of processes. Beginning in FY 2000, as part of PRWORA and the Child Support Performance and Incentives Act of 1998, States will be eligible for incentives based on performance, as reported to OCSE. States will report performance indicator data to demonstrate how they meet performance standards. States that meet or exceed the standards for each of the performance measures will become eligible for incentive payments.
The Division of Audit will evaluate the completeness, reliability, and security of data produced by the States' reporting systems and the accuracy of the reporting systems used in calculating performance indicator data. Data Reliability Audits (DRAs) will be conducted to ensure that the States' systems produce data that is reliable and accurate.
During FY 1998, the Audit Division initiated the process to evaluate State systems that will support PRWORA-required performance indicator data. An audit guide for assessing the reliability of data was developed after numerous contacts and meetings with other Federal agencies. The Division developed a training course in Data Reliability Auditing and delivered it to audit staff. Pilot audits were initiated in eight States, for management purposes only, to perform a preliminary assessment of the data. Management was informed of the results of each pilot audit.
OCSE also is required to evaluate the adequacy of the financial management of a State's program. Specifically, OCSE Division of Audit is mandated to perform administrative cost audits and reviews to determine whether collections and disbursements of support payments are correctly and fully accounted for. The primary objectives of an administrative cost audit are:
To determine whether costs claimed by the State for Federal reimbursement are allowable, allocable, and reasonable to the child support program;
To determine if the State has sufficient internal controls in operation to effectively ensure that costs claimed are valid and adequately supported; and
To ensure that States bear their fair share of child support costs.
In FY 1998, OCSE Division of Audit continued to evaluate the States' financial and statistical data reporting systems in order to determine whether the systems were sufficient for compiling information needed for the OCSE-158 report (the Child Support Enforcement Program Annual Data Summary). OCSE issued 17 Reporting System Review (RSR) reports, 12 Limited Cost review reports, and 1 Administrative Cost review report.
The RSRs identified system deficiencies in the areas of collections, expenditures, and statistical reporting for the OCSE-158. Improvements were suggested for the reporting systems in all States reviewed. Deficiencies noted included inaccurately reported collections, failure to report interest income and other program income, and failures to define or report data in compliance with Federal reporting requirements.
Deficiencies noted in the one Administrative Cost and 12 Limited Cost reviews included: training and other unallowable costs incorrectly charged to the IV-D program; incorrect allocation of indirect costs; overbilling of salaries and fringe benefits; lack of supporting documentation; claims related to fee for service agreements billed in excess of the amount allowable by law; and billing for nonIV-D costs. Also, program income and earned interest income were not reported as an offset to expenditures.
In FY 1998, the Division of Audit continued its technical assistance activity in the area of Self-Assessment by finalizing the work that had been initiated by the Self-Assessment Core Workgroup in FY 1997. Finalizing the workgroup's efforts resulted in:
Defining the compliance criteria that would be reviewed by each State;
Developing and formalizing a process/methodology to be used to conduct the reviews; and
Preparing a format to be used by the States to report review results to OCSE.
These component parts were packaged in an Action Transmittal (AT-98-12) and distributed to the States and other interested parties for implementation. In addition, the Division of Audit developed a training seminar to facilitate the States' first year efforts of conducting self-reviews of their IV-D programs. The seminar was presented by OCSE Division of Audit staff at one site in each of the 10 Federal Regions.
Service To Customers
Division of Consumer Services
OCSE's Division of Consumer Services provides a wide variety of services to the agency's customer base. These include: operating an Internet Webpage; responding to customer, congressional, and White House mail; operating the National Resource Center; writing and publishing the CSE national newsletter, Child Support Report; and carrying out special assignments and initiatives, such as those related to the nation's Hispanic population and customer satisfaction surveys. Each of these is discussed below.
In FY 1998, OCSE improved its Website by providing enhanced overall search capability to access information anywhere on the OCSE Home Page. OCSE continued to provide a significant amount of information about the CSE program on the Website. This includes basic descriptive information on the program, announcements about program-related events, current and past issues of the Child Support Report, annual reports, research reports, policy documents (relevant legislation and regulations in the form of Action Transmittals, Information Memoranda, Dear Colleague Letters and Policy Interpretation Questions), information related to child support enforcement from outside the agency, and links to State CSE home pages. The feedback feature of the Home Page allows individuals to make inquiries about their particular cases.
The Website was enhanced by the addition to the Home Page of a National Electronic Child Support Resource System (NECSRS). The primary emphasis of NECSRS is the transmission of electronic information. It provides child support professionals and the general public easy access and search capability to the wealth of CSE information available from the Federal Government, States, Tribes and localities.
In FY 1998, OCSE's public inquiries unit responded to nearly 4,800 written inquiries and more than 8,500 telephone calls. The public inquiries site on the Internet triggered an additional 1,500 messages with questions about child support laws and practices. As children and families are the beneficiaries of the child support program, on their behalf OCSE provides general and specific information and referrals, as appropriate, to custodial and noncustodial parents, advocates, Congressional staff, and members of special interest groups.
National Resource Center
The National Resource Center receives and responds to requests for child support publications and materials from a variety of sources. Requests by telephone and mail, for example, come from academic institutions, advocacy groups, CSE offices, Congressional staff, consultants, courts, employers, Federal agencies, judges, lawyers, private citizens, and State and local government. During FY 1998, more than 1,600 requests for publications were received by the Center. In response, more than 113,000 publications were mailed, including more than 30,000 copies of the popular Handbook on Child Support Enforcement, a how-to guide to help parents get the child support payments their children need and deserve.
Customer Satisfaction Surveys
The agency continued to be invested in customer service activities during FY 1998. A joint Federal/State/local child support customer service workgroup oversaw the development of a national customer satisfaction survey instrument. Another survey instrument, developed by the workgroup for States to use on a voluntary basis in determining the satisfaction of customers with their child support services, was provided to all child support directors for their use on a voluntary basis. In addition, an initiative was undertaken in FY 1998 to look at barriers that prevent or hinder some custodial parents in large urban areas from applying for CSE services.
OIG Survey of States' Satisfaction with OCSE
In FY 1998, as part of its customer satisfaction initiative, OCSE requested the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to undertake a CSE State satisfaction survey. OCSE was the first Federal agency to request such a study.
Using a structured telephone format, OIG contacted all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands--in most cases speaking to the child support program director. The survey covered each State's program highlights, working relationships with OCSE, and suggestions for improving service. Respondents were asked to differentiate their answers between the Central and Regional Offices for most questions. Six States (Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, and Texas) were selected for on-site visits and in-depth interviews.
The results of the survey are very supportive of the services OCSE provides to States and of the relationship between OCSE and its State partners. Forty-seven States are very or somewhat satisfied with OCSE's Central Office, while 49 States are very or somewhat satisfied with their Regional OCSE Office. A majority of States say their satisfaction with OCSE's services has increased over the past two years. Forty-four say it has increased with the Central Office and 28 say it has increased with the Regional Office.
Copies of the survey, which is in two volumes, may be obtained by calling the New York Regional OIG Office at (212) 264-1998, or via the Internet at http://oig.hhs.gov/. Document reference numbers are OEI-02-97-00310, Child Support Enforcement State Satisfaction Survey, and OEI-02-97-00311, Child Support Enforcement State Satisfaction Survey Case Studies.
During FY 1998, OCSE's Hispanic action items included: informing OCSE policymakers about Hispanics; designing OCSE information about child support enforcement for Hispanic families; and partnering with national and community-based Latino organizations. OCSE has established in-house Hispanic expertise for outreach and communications, as well as the use of culturally effective media and methods.
OCSE materials are not just translated but adapted culturally for Latinos. OCSE publishes its FACT Sheet and other information in Spanish and makes program information available in Spanish on its Webpage.
Child Support Report
OCSE's national monthly newsletter provides useful and timely information about the program to those who work in the field and to other interested individuals and organizations. By keeping abreast of national CSE issues and learning about what other States are doing, caseworkers, managers, and agency directors in the States can improve their own practices. Articles in FY 1998 included, "States Meet New Hire Deadline;" "Working with Low Income Fathers;" "State Legislators and Child Support;" "The NFL Responsible Fatherhood Campaign;" "CBT: A Tool for Maximizing Training Funds;" and "The Impact of Child Support Following Divorce."
The Big 8
This effort is targeted at those eight States that have the largest caseloads: California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Together, their caseloads and distributed collections make up nearly 50 percent of the national total.
The Big 8 partnership is designed as one of the key activities to achieve national goals and meet expectations that child support is an integral part of achieving real welfare reform. A central part of the effort is coordinating with senior officials and technical experts in Headquarters, Regional Offices, and the field to take advantage of the rich body of experience available in all States. The partnership seeks to build models and new processes targeted at high volume and high impact and that can be replicated in all States to benefit children and families. Priority issues before the group are systems development, cases without orders, and creative planning to dramatically increase paternity establishment and collections.
In FY 1998, the Big 8's Federal/State UIFSA Workgroup focused on ways to improve interstate collections. The Big 8 States were urged to implement the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act in a coordinated and uniform fashion and to treat each other's interstate requests as if they were in-State actions.
Child Support Enforcement Consultation Project
In the spring of 1998 the Office of Child Support Enforcement began a project to re-examine the financing of the program at the national and State levels. The project involved commissioning a national study and organizing an extensive series of meetings around the country to consult broadly with the States, advocates, and other interested parties.
The project was undertaken because of the interest--within the Administration, in Congress, and among some of the advocacy groups and other national organizations--in streamlining the structure of child support enforcement financing.
This effort to consult broadly on child support enforcement financing was first announced in the President's Budget for FY 1999. It was described as a broad-scale effort to review the mechanisms by which child support enforcement programs are financed at the State, local and national levels, and to examine policy and legislative options for maintaining and strengthening the program, assuring reasonable costs to the public and fair distribution of the financial burden, and providing for an effective set of fiscal incentives. OCSE's commitment to consulting with States, advocates, and other stakeholders on financing was reiterated in the FY 2000 Budget.
In the summer of 1998 officials within the Administration met to outline the key topics and devise a set of questions to be used in the course of the nationwide consultation effort. On July 31, in Washington, DC, the first of several public consultation meetings was held to discuss child support financing in general. That meeting involved major advocacy and intergovernmental groups, Congressional staff, the Congressional Research Service, the General Accounting Office, OMB and HHS staff, and a number of State child support officials.
Similar sessions were held around the country to solicit advice and comment from State officials, advocates, and other interested parties.
Also in 1998, the Lewin Group worked on a contract to study the means by which States finance the State share of funding for the administration of their child support enforcement programs.
Enactment of PRWORA authorized for the first time the direct funding of Tribal child support programs. In the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (P.L.105-277), Congress amended PRWORA to give OCSE greater flexibility in providing direct funding for Tribal CSE programs. This law requires OCSE to promulgate regulations before issuing grants directly to Tribes.
In the spirit of the Presidential Executive Memoranda of April 29, 1994 and May 14, 1998, and the DHHS consultation policy, OCSE consulted extensively in FY 1998 with Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations and other interested parties before beginning the task of drafting proposed rules. Six government-to-government consultations were held across the country to allow as many people as possible to have input into the regulation process.
Each of the consultations had two parts. The first provided an overview of the national CSE program. This session was designed for those persons who were new to the Tribal CSE arena, as well as for those who needed additional background information about paternity establishment and child support enforcement.
The second part of the consultation session was devoted to Federal staff listening to Tribal input regarding the regulations. To help focus the discussions, participants were divided into three tracks: Tribal leadership, legal, and social work.
In addition to the on-site consultations, OCSE established a Tribal CSE "800" number for phone inquiries and suggestions relative to the development of the regulations.
Special Improvement Projects and Tribal Planning Grants
Under the Tribal Planning Grant and Special Improvement Project (SIP) Grant program announcements, OCSE awarded four grants to foster the planning, development, and improvement of Tribal CSE programs. The recipients of planning grants were the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin and the Central Council of Tlingit-Haida Tribes in Alaska. The SIP grants were awarded to two Washington State Tribes: the Colville Tribe and the Puyallup Tribe.
The purpose of these grants was to foster the development and improvement of Tribal CSE programs. OCSE also used the grants as laboratories to learn about the development and operation of Tribal child support programs and barriers to effective program implementation.
Project Save Our Children
Project Save Our Children (PSOC) is based on a model project in Columbus, Ohio, launched in 1998. The Midwest law enforcement task force, formed by OCSE and the HHS Inspector General's Office, joined with Justice Department prosecutors and investigators, State child support agencies, and local law enforcement officials to coordinate efforts in a new investigative initiative. Since that beginning, four more sites have been established: in Baltimore, Maryland; Dallas, Texas; New York, New York; and Sacramento, California.
The PSOC initiative covers 18 States and the District of Columbia: California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia. These States account for 65 percent of the nation's child support cases. State child support offices refer their most serious cases to PSOC sites, where trained investigative staff locate the violator, document information needed for prosecution, and turn the cases over to prosecutors.
PSOC is targeted at the group of parents who over long periods of time willfully fail to take responsibility for their children. The goal of PSOC is to increase child support collections through the identification, investigation, and, when warranted, prosecution of flagrant, delinquent child support offenders. By prosecuting parents who will not provide support, a pointed message of responsibility is sent which may help to give their children a better chance in life.
To date more than 1200 cases have been received. Eight hundred of them have been referred to investigative units, and 275 arrests have been made. More than $5.3 million in restitution has been ordered.
Collaboration and Partnerships
In FY 1998, OCSE and other ACF programs continued their collaborations to promote child support services for custodial families participating in ACF programs, including Head Start, Child Care, Child Welfare, Community Services, Family Assistance and Developmental Disabilities/Mental Retardation. OCSE also entered into a partnership agreement with the National Head Start Association to work together to foster local partnerships between Head Start Programs and Child Support Offices nationwide.
Six States--Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota and Missouri--are implementing demonstration grants awarded by OCSE to develop models of collaboration between the Child Support, Head Start, and Child Care Programs. South Carolina has a grant to demonstrate using the FPLS to speed the location of parents of children in foster care to free these children for permanent adoption. The total amount of these awards was $275,000. OCSE staff continued to speak and conduct workshops on child support services at conferences and meetings of the other ACF programs.
Responsible Fatherhood Demonstrations
OCSE provides $1.5 million annually to fund Responsible Fatherhood demonstrations under section 1115 of the Social Security Act. Projects in eight states (California, New Hampshire, Maryland, Colorado, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Missouri and Washington) currently assist low income noncustodial parents to become better connected with their children following separation through providing employment and training assistance, peer group motivation, access and visitation services, and social services as needed. Over 300 parents have been assisted by these projects through FY 1998.
Grants to States for Access and Visitation
Section 391 of PRWORA authorized $10,000,000 annually to enable States to establish and administer programs to support and facilitate noncustodial parents access to and visitation of their children. Activities funded in FY 1998 included: mediation, counseling, parental education, development of parenting plans, visitation enforcement, monitored visitation, neutral drop off and pickup, supervised visitation, and development of guidelines for visitation and custody.
Data for 29 States indicates that almost 20,000 individuals received services. Most common services: parenting education, development of parenting plans, and mediation. Most States used a mix of services, urban and rural areas being almost equally served. Of those served, 19 percent were African Americans, 10 percent Hispanic, 26 percent unmarried, 25 percent separated, and 48 percent divorced.
Most of the service providers were either nonprofit agencies or courts. Individuals were referred to services by the courts, IV-D or welfare agencies, and others, as well as by self-referral. Services were both mandatory and voluntary, as determined by the State.
In FY 1998, OCSE staff worked to implement the provisions in PRWORA promoting the interaction of child support enforcement and domestic violence services. These provisions included: cooperation and good cause; the safeguarding of information requirements, the family violence indicator, and the family violence option.
OCSE's work in this area took a number of forms, including the award of grants to Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, and New York to examine various practices regarding cooperation/good cause and domestic violence.
OCSE staff served on the DHHS steering committee on domestic violence, composed of the DHHS OPDIVs, as well as the planning committee, and spoke at two national NCSEA conferences on domestic violence and child support. OCSE staff also served on an editorial board composed of domestic violence experts to assist the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence to formulate and issue several research papers on domestic violence and welfare reform. These articles were then disseminated to all child support agencies by Dear Colleague letters.
OCSE also helped to disseminate information on innovative practices involving child support and domestic violence, including Washington State's Address Confidentiality program and Anne Arundel County, Maryland's training in domestic violence of all its child support workers. The agency also began a consultation process with States to inform them of the family violence indicator requirements and to help them develop mechanisms for flagging cases.
The pace of Federal international child support activities established under PRWORA increased during FY 1998. Initial negotiations establishing the newly authorized Federal level international reciprocity agreements were held with many nations. Supported by local U.S. embassy staff, negotiating teams including Department of State and IV-D officials met with their counterparts in 20 nations during the year to explore increasing and formalizing child support cooperation with U.S. jurisdictions.
On October 6, 1997, OCSE issued Dear Colleague Letter 97-65, announcing the conclusion of the first Federal reciprocity agreement with Ireland. In July, 1998, Dear Colleague letter 98-67 announced that the second Federal level reciprocity agreement had become effective with the Slovak Republic. Federal level reciprocity agreements, authorized under 42 U.S.C. 659A, are based on the establishment of procedures in the foreign country which provide that CSE services, including legal and administrative assistance, will be provided at no cost to all U.S. residents.
During FY 1998, OCSE provided second year funding to 22 research and demonstration projects in 16 States. The total amount awarded for all the grants was approximately $1.0 million. As indicated below, these projects, which are envisioned as 3-year demonstrations, encompass a wide array of child support activities.
Child Support Assurance
- (Minnesota): Design a child support assurance program model that is adapted to the post-PRWORA world;
- (Massachusetts): Test different approaches to handling TANF/IV-D cases with a history of domestic violence;
- (Minnesota): Interviewing and Client Referral Services Demonstrate and evaluate a coordinated IV-A/IV-D process to increase the cooperation of custodial parents who receive public assistance in establishing paternity and obtaining child support payments;
(Missouri): Increase knowledge about domestic violence, increase the safety of victims of domestic violence and increase collections on behalf of these families;
(Maryland): Assist noncustodial parents who need social, employment, or access and visitation services with a comprehensive mix of services and motivation to assist them to be responsible parents;
(Washington State): Increase the incomes, child support compliance, and fatherhood involvement of low or no income custodial parents;
Head Start and Child Care
(Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri): To develop and implement models of collaboration between Child Support Enforcement, Child Care, and Head Start programs at State and local levels;
(South Carolina): Demonstrate the use of location services available to support enforcement agencies to facilitate family preservation through the placement of children currently in foster care with a biological parent.
(California, Missouri, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Colorado): Providing noncustodial parents with employment and access and visitation assistance through a comprehensive mix of services and motivation to become responsible parents;
Review and Adjustment
(Alaska): A statewide project to use modern technology to periodically collect income information from various sources to be used for reviewing and adjusting child support orders;
(Maine): Demonstrate the effectiveness of an on-going automated interface with the courts in increasing the number of modifications of child support orders through automated review and adjustment;
(Oklahoma): Inform parents about new laws regarding requesting review and adjustment through an intense public information campaign; and
(Vermont): Test streamlined methods for reviewing and adjusting child support orders by concentrating on an automated approach.