Grants and Waivers Foster Program Innovation

A Look Inside OCSE - Story Series

Publication Date: August 30, 2018

Title IV, Part D Visit disclaimer page of the Social Security Act authorizes the federal child support program. In Section 1115 Visit disclaimer page — another part of the Social Security Act — Congress provided the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to fund demonstration grants and waiver projects in the child support program. These articles outline the differences between Section 1115 demonstration grants and waiver projects.

Section 1115 Demonstration Grants

Michelle Jadczak

Section 1115 gives OCSE the authority and funding to award demonstration grants to study activities not allowable under current child support program policies that could improve the program’s effectiveness. In order to study these activities, we must waive specific child support program requirements during the demonstration grant. Section 1115 sets limits on what we can study through these demonstration grants. Demonstration projects must promote the objectives of the child support program and be designed to improve the financial well-being of children or the operation of the program.

Application and implementation

Once OCSE decides on a study topic, we issue a grant forecast to let state and tribal child support agencies know that we have a new demonstration grant planned.

The funding opportunity announcement Visit disclaimer page officially invites child support agencies to submit applications. The announcement includes details about the demonstration, provides the application deadline, and outlines the information we’re looking for in the applications. After the deadline, we oversee a competitive, neutral review process to determine which agencies will get a grant award. Once the grants are awarded, we work together with the states and tribes to implement and manage the project over the life of the grant. Grantees are responsible for submitting reports and meeting all requirements detailed in the grant award.

Section 1115 allows grantees to use demonstration grant funds as their state or tribal share, enabling them to claim federal financial participation (FFP) to use toward the grant project. FFP greatly increases the amount of money they have available for demonstration activities.

As demonstrations, we expect to learn from these grants and to share those lessons to benefit the broader child support community, not just the grantees. Because of this, we try to post the research findings and reports from these demonstrations on the OCSE website, and we often feature them in Child Support Report articles.

Recent examples of demonstration grants

In September 2016, we launched the Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC) demonstration. The six PJAC grant sites are incorporating procedural justice principles into their child support practices and testing to see if these changes increase reliable child support payments. PJAC is a five-year project. PJAC was the subject of an article in the April 2018 Child Support Report.

Under the Behavioral Interventions in Child Support Services (BICS) demonstration, eight grantees are developing and testing interventions informed by behavioral science. BICS interventions have targeted a number of different challenges in child support processes, including streamlining the review and modification process and increasing initial payments after order establishment. See page 11 in this issue for more information about BICS.

The 2012 National Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED) is in its final year. The eight CSPED grantees have developed and implemented programs that provide employment services to noncustodial parents in the child support system. CSPED was featured in the June 2018 Child Support Report.

Most recently, OCSE announced a new demonstration grant focused on digital marketing. The application deadline for that opportunity has passed, and we are currently reviewing applications. We’ll share more information about this demonstration later this year.

Looking forward, OCSE anticipates issuing Section 1115 grants again in 2019. Our current plan is to issue a forecast that includes topic and demonstration goal by the end of 2018.

For more information, visit the OCSE Grants webpage.


Section 1115 Waiver Projects

John Langrock

Under Section 1115, OCSE also has the authority to waive specific program requirements outside of demonstration grants, under certain circumstances. When we approve a waiver project, we are agreeing to allow a state or tribal child support agency to conduct pilot activities that would not otherwise be allowable. This is a powerful authority, so Congress has set some limitations on Section 1115 waivers. As with demonstration grants, waivers must promote child support program objectives and be designed to improve the financial well-being of children or the operation of the child support program. Additionally, waivers must be time-limited and they cannot disadvantage children who need support.

Funding for waiver projects

If a state or tribe is considering requesting a waiver, they must be able to invest new funds to pay their share of the cost of the pilot activities. This is where Section 1115 waiver projects differ from Section 1115 demonstration grants. States and tribes must provide their share of funding under a waiver, rather than federal grant funds serving as the state share under a Section 1115 demonstration grant. They cannot re-direct funds that would have been spent on the child support program. If the office is going to use money from a foundation or other private source as the state or tribal share, this must be part of the waiver request.

If OCSE approves the waiver project, the state can use its state or foundation funds to pay for the pilot activities and claim the FFP for those funds, which increases the amount of money available for the pilot activities. Without a waiver, these same activities would NOT be eligible for FFP. This is one key way that Section 1115 waivers are different from child support incentive payment exemptions — states cannot claim FFP when they spend their incentive payments, even with an exemption.

Additional requirements

OCSE can only issue waivers to the state or tribe, not to a county or other government agency, even when the services or activities will be piloted in a limited area. Additionally, states or tribes must specify the program requirements they wish to have waived or the services they wish to provide that are not allowed under current regulations. Finally, the state or tribe must provide detailed implementation and evaluation plans for the pilot project.

If a state or tribe requests a waiver and is approved, we will work with that agency to establish clear terms and conditions for that specific waiver, including limits on the FFP that it can claim for the pilot activities. The terms and conditions also specify reporting requirements and procedures for project evaluation and monitoring. Whenever possible, we try to share lessons learned in waiver projects with the broader child support community, such as in the Child Support Report or on the OCSE website.

Examples of waiver projects

Michigan had a waiver for a pilot project in Genesee County called Acquiring DNA and Paternity Timely (ADAPT). This pilot tested the potential benefits of providing genetic testing of the parents and other services, such as parent education, before the birth of their child. You can read more about this project in the July 2016 Child Support Report.

New York is concluding a waiver for the Paycheck Plus project in New York City. Paycheck Plus is an experiment designed to simulate an expanded earned income tax credit for low-income single workers without dependent children, including noncustodial parents. The May 2016 Child Support Report featured this project.

For more information, contact OCSE’s Division of Program Innovation.


Michelle Jadczak and John Langrock are members of the Division of Program Innovation at the Office of Child Support Enforcement. These stories were originally published in the July-August 2018 Child Support Report.


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