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Noncustodial Parents Choices Project - Texas

2007 Best Practices

Published: October 1, 2007
Information About:
State/Local Child Support Agencies
Topics:
Family Services & Referrals, Economic Stability/Job Services
Types:
Promising Practices
Tags:
Toolkit & Training

Goals:

  • Increase the amount and consistency of child support collected from non-compliant NCPs
  • Increase NCP employment levels
  • Reduce the rate of TANF receipt for custodial parents associated with NCP Choices participants

Description: Multiple agencies in Texas have collaborated to create a child support-driven employment project, called NCP Choices, which has achieved very promising results. The Office of the Attorney General of Texas (OAG), the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), IV-D courts, and local workforce development boards each have a critical role to play in the program's success. The project is viewed by participating sites as an important vehicle for meeting collection goals, especially because it successfully targets NCPs that are both hard to serve and to employ.

In many ways, workforce and employment programs have been viewed as the solution to the challenges that low-income NCPs face with respect to finding employment and paying child support. While workforce development organizations play an important role in helping unemployed or underemployed NCPs participate in job search efforts, IV-D and judicial entities can leverage compliance in a more effective way because of one factor: noncompliance with court-ordered participation brings about consequences. The project mirrors the formula of Texas' Choices program for custodial parents. Both programs provide quality employment services combined with swift and certain sanctions for those who fail to comply with program requirements.

NCP Choices targets unemployed, nonpaying child support obligors whose children were part of the TANF caseload at any time. In November 2006, one site piloted an expansion of eligibility criteria to also include NCPs associated with families who were currently receiving Medicaid. Eligibility expansion for NCPs associated with Medicaid families was extended to all sites during the contract period, beginning in June 2007.

TWC provides funding specifically for close monitoring and weekly verification by local Workforce staff in order to assist our mutual and difficult to serve populations. Workforce staff is either housed at the courthouse or regularly attends enforcement hearings. Our judicial partners can direct NCPs to the Workforce staff person, often by name, to immediately set up their first job search appointment. Workforce staff help NCPs reach beyond low-pay dead-end jobs by providing incentives such as transportation assistance, limited job training, resume help and the opportunity to participate in mock interviews. Several sites have gone a step further - regularly scheduled compliance hearings before the bench are written into the original language of the NCPs' suspended commitment orders. This feature sets the program apart from previous employment initiatives in which participation was strongly recommended but not necessarily written into suspended commitment order language. This helps provide a tangible motivating consequence for NCP Choices participants.

Workforce staff are present at the compliance hearings whenever possible. If Workforce staff cannot be present at the compliance hearings, they may enter a compliance report as evidence of the NCP's job search and employment activities. Testimony from Workforce staff about the NCP's efforts to find employment can help judges act quickly with motions to revoke. Motion to revoke refers to the revocation of the suspended or delayed commitment order that the judge issues, which directs the NCP into NCP Choices. If the NCP does not comply with the provisions of the suspended commitment to conduct 30 hours per week of work search efforts, the judge revokes the suspended commitment and issues a warrant for the arrest of the NCP.

NCP Choices
Local Workforce Development Board (LWDB) Office of the Attorney General Child Support IV-D Court
Designate staff to manage project Identify NCPs for program participation Set docket for NCP Choices
Supply staff to enroll NCPs at court Communicate program benefits to CPs and NCPs Communicate program benefit to CPs
Provide NCPs with information packet and participation agreement Set number of NCPs for participation based on LWDB capacity (varies by site) "Swift and certain" consequences for non-compliant NCPs
Similar to CP Choices, provide 30 hours per week in workforce activities Prepare consent/probation orders Continuous feedback to improve program performance
Submit compliance report to OAG/Court Track payment records for participants  
Notify OAG of employment Submit payments/capias report to Workforce  

Results: The Texas Office of the Attorney General contracted with Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas to estimate preliminary impacts of NCP Choices and to determine whether the goals were met. Results from this independent third-party evaluation, which used a quasi-experimental "next best neighbor" multivariate analysis design are straightforward:

  • The monthly payment rate for NCP Choices participants is 57 percent higher than that from the comparison group.
  • The amounts collected averaged $60 per month higher.
  • Custodial parents associated with NCP Choices participants showed about a 10 percent reduction in the rate of TANF receipt subsequent to program entry.
  • Although comparison employment rates and wages are not yet available from Ray Marshall Center, data from the Texas Workforce Commission indicate that NCP Choices participants are employed after program entry at rates between 41 - 81 percent. The rate of employment varies by site.

Location: The Texas project initially began in Bexar, El Paso, Hidalgo, and Galveston/Brazoria Counties. Soon thereafter, a fifth site - Tarrant County - came up with funding to replicate the program on its own. Additionally, the Hidalgo County site is gearing up to add two more local child support units to their NCP Choices program. This project is loosely modeled on an employment program in Shawnee County, Kansas.

Funding: The evaluation contract is funded by regular IV-D Federal matching funds. The remainder of the project is funded by TANF funds provided by the Texas Workforce Commission.

Replication Advice: The program relies on child support staff regularly and consistently identifying NCPs eligible for program participation. The Workforce staff work best when they are physically present in the courtroom during the enforcement docket/compliance hearings. Judicial partners must provide swift and certain consequences for non-compliance. NCPs should be held to the same job search standards as those of the CP Choices program, which requires 30 hours of verified job search per week.

Contact:

Kammi Siemens NCP/Father Projects Phone: 512-460-6128 Email: kammi.siemens@cs.oag.state.tx.us