Those of us working in the child support program have the opportunity and privilege of celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in both our professional and personal lives. Many state and tribal child support agencies actively recognize the parents in their caseloads with messages of thanks for supporting their children. Some also participate in community events promoting the vital role parents have within their families as well as in society. In this issue, we feature several child support agencies as they applaud the efforts of mothers and fathers and implement approaches that can expand parents’ capacity to strengthen their families.
Families have celebrated Mother’s Day and Father’s Day for many years with cards, flowers, brunches, and backyard barbeques. Now, through national and international resolutions, we can formally recognize our parents and families on several other days throughout the year. Do you know about or celebrate these?
Adopted by a Congressional Resolution in 1994, Parents’ Day is the fourth Sunday in July. It commemorates the efforts of both parents together, recognizing the role of parents, promoting responsible parenting, and uplifting parental role models as a source of hope, help, stability, and love for children.
On the first Sunday after Labor Day, Grandparents Day is celebrated in the U.S. and several other countries. This day of respect celebrates the significant role grandparents play in their families, particularly for young people, providing the roots, strength, wisdom, and guidance to future generations.
The International Day of Families, observed on May 15, reflects the shared value of the family as the fundamental unit of society throughout the world. This day has a specific theme each year, such as education, health, mothers, fathers, and work-life balance. The focus is on increasing awareness about social, economic, and demographic processes affecting families.
Annually on June 1, the Global Day of Parents is observed, emphasizing the primary responsibility of parents to nurture and protect their children. This day focuses on ending poverty and hunger, promoting economic prosperity, and improving social development for children’s well-being into adulthood. Changing families and parenthood
During the nearly 45 years that the federal child support program has been in existence, there have been significant shifts in family composition and societal norms. More recently, research has informed us about the significant impacts of parental involvement and family formation on child development, well-being, and life outcomes.
These developments and changes have informed our program and practices. We are no longer focused solely on welfare cost recovery and the transfer of financial support from one parent to the other. We now recognize that in order to effectively accomplish our mission of consistent support for children, we must fully engage with both parents, promote responsible fatherhood, connect parents with jobs, and provide resources to address the range of services parents need to be successful.
The important role of parents increasingly comes to our attention. I want to emphasize the importance of the child support program in elevating the identity of parents and enhancing their ability to fulfill their role. I encourage you to consider several approaches that are in practice and have shown promising results.
For years, some state and tribal child support programs have operated parenting awareness and preparation programs, in partnership with their school systems, to educate teens about the financial, legal, and emotional responsibilities of parenthood. These programs have been shown to increase the likelihood that young people will follow the optimal sequence of life events for economically stable families: complete an education, start a career, establish a healthy marriage, and then have children.
Some child support agencies have established local partnerships with responsible fatherhood, cooperative parenting, and healthy relationship education providers. They actively refer parents to these services and benefit from the providers’ positive messaging to parents about the child support program.
Within the past year, OCSE began training caseworkers on ways to incorporate budgeting information into routine conversations with parents, using specific cash flow tools to address financial issues. To advance core program goals, budgeting tools can enhance the effectiveness of conversations with parents about establishment, review and modification, nonpayment, tax refund offsets, and even emancipation of a child.
Vermont, one of our Behavioral Interventions grantees, has tested the use of an ‘identity priming’ exercise, a behavioral economics concept. While parents are waiting in the office for a scheduled meeting, they are given an optional activity sheet that asks them to select three actions from a list of eight that they believe are important things they could do to support their children. This activity is intended to encourage participants to think about their roles as parents and to focus first on the interests of their children. Parents are told that the activity is optional, their answers do not have to be shared with anyone, and they can keep the activity sheet for themselves.
In early May, we recognized public service week. I would like to close by recognizing all of you whose dedicated service has a positive impact on the parents in your caseload. Child support enforcement can be a challenging profession. Yet there are few that are nobler. Like the work of parenting itself, this can often be a thankless job. Please know that you have my thanks, my respect, and my applause. The work you do every day is making a real difference in the lives of real families. You are strengthening parents to become the providers and role models they want to be, to build self-sufficiency, and to give their children a better life.