August is Child Support Awareness Month, and this year marks 25 years since the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) was enacted into law. This piece of legislation gave the child support program new tools to help support millions of children nationwide.
One important tool that PRWORA established is the National Directory of New Hires that requires employers to report new employees. Getting employer data on a regular basis allows the child support program to locate parents, determine if they could pay child support, and deduct payments from their paychecks. Our office continues to simplify and streamline processes through automated tools, portal enhancements, and standardized procedures that help states collect child support. In FY 2020, our collection rate remained at an all-time high of 66%.
OCSE also supports efforts that help parents secure jobs that provide for their families. OCSE assists through grants like CSPED, Section 1115 waiver projects like Families Forward, and authorizing state use of incentive funds for employment programs. Our Knowledge Works initiative also helps child support agencies implement or enhance employment programs for noncustodial parents by highlighting best practices in other jurisdictions. These efforts help increase participation in the workforce, improve compliance with court-ordered child support, and support financial self-sufficiency.
Policies and innovations like these have helped make child support one of the most cost-effective government programs. For every $1 spent in FY 2020, the child support program collected $5.51. We partner with state, tribal, and local governments to accomplish this significant return on investment. The program’s cost-effectiveness, collections, and caseload are highlighted in our annual national infographic (PDF). States and territories use their individual state infographics to advocate for their programs with legislators and policymakers.
The role of the child support program has shifted from recovering state public assistance costs, and it now focuses on family support. In FY 2020, the program collected $34.9 billion (PDF) and 95% went to families.
As we celebrate Child Support Awareness Month, I want to thank the child support professionals who work hard every day to make the program successful. Let’s continue our long history of thinking outside the box and developing innovative solutions that better support children.
Linda Boyer, Acting Commissioner
This blog gives the commissioner a forum to communicate directly with child support professionals and other stakeholders about relevant topics. The Commissioner’s Voice is reprinted from the August 2021 Child Support Report newsletter.