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Tennessee Parent Support Program

What Works - Child Support Evidence-Based Practice Summary

Published: September 11, 2019

The Tennessee Parent Support Program is an example of a noncustodial parent employment program that demonstrated strong child support and employment outcomes. This summary document indicates the funding source, highlights the lessons learned during program implementation,  and provides an agency contact.

Funding Source: OCSE Section 1115 Grant

OCSE Policy Reference: IM-18-02, PIQ-12-02

Related performance measure(s): Percent of Current Support Paid, Percent of Cases with a Payment on Arrears

Short summary description of project/innovation:

In October 2009, the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) received a grant from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). Tennessee used the grant to develop, implement, and evaluate a program providing employment, parenting time, and case management services to low‐income, unwed parents in the child support program in three Tennessee judicial districts: the 11th (Chattanooga), 20th (Nashville), and 26th (Chester, Henderson, and Madison counties, which includes the city of Jackson).

The program, called the Parent Support Program (PSP), was conducted in collaboration with the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). The new project built on the Tennessee Parenting Project, which was funded by OCSE, conducted by DHS and AOC in the same three judicial districts, and provided parenting time services to low‐income parents in the child support program.

PSP enabled child support agencies in these three jurisdictions to hire staff to provide case management and job‐focused services in addition to helping with parenting time. Additionally, the project included a limited test of the effectiveness of providing short‐term, paid job training in generating longer‐term employment and regular child support payments for noncustodial parents.

Jurisdiction/Location:Tennessee - Three judicial districts containing the cities of Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jackson.

Scale of project (numbers served/reached by intervention): 1,000 - 5,000 (1,016 NCPs)

Dates of implementation: January 2010 to March 2013

Project cost estimates: $775,860

Evaluation/analysis conducted and if so, what type and who? The Center for Policy Research conducted a variety of nonexperimental analyses.

Evidence of impacts? Evaluation findings suggest that program services were tied to increased NCP employment rates, more consistent payment of child support, and modest increases in the amount of child support paid.

Key findings/lessons:

Findings:

  • PSP increased child support payments among participants. Prior to enrollment in PSP, participants paid 33% of their child support. After enrollment, they paid 36%.
  • PSP increased employment among participants. At enrollment in PSP, only 8% of participating NCPs in the 11th and 20th districts were employed. After 6 months in the program, that rose to 45% in the 11th and 50% in the 20th.
  • PSP participants who received help with visitation paid 45% of their child support obligation, as compared with 32% for those with no help.
  • For the 54 participants in the paid job training pilot, wage assignments increased from 28% to 40% and verified employment increased from 2% to 38%.

Lessons:

  • Programs like PSP attract participants at all stages of child support case processing. Although the initiative was designed to focus on new child support cases recruited at order establishment, NCPs who enrolled in PSP had child support cases ranging in age from one to 24 years. Future programs may want to consider broad recruitment efforts that are not restricted to a certain age range or stage of case processing.
  • Low-income noncustodial parents face many barriers to obtaining and retaining employment. At program intake, between 59% and 80% of NCPs reported that a limited work history, lack of job skills, prior incarceration, the lack of a car or reliable transportation, not having a driver’s license, and lacking a high school diploma or GED presented barriers to finding employment. This is similar to what other jurisdictions implementing employment programs for low-income NCPs have found.
  • Programs like PSP generate high levels of user satisfaction, but many participants want more intense job training opportunities and higher paying jobs. To improve the program, at least 80% of the respondents suggested offering more job training programs, having more job openings, having jobs that pay higher wages, and providing more help with rent.
  • Child support offices may want to consider partnering with workforce programs that are equipped to offer a wider array of effective job services and to monitor service delivery. Future job‐focused services for noncustodial parents could be offered by experienced and resourced workforce programs that are equipped to provide a wider range of services—including job training. These providers may also be in a better position to monitor the actual delivery of workforce services and track employment outcomes.

Project became institutionalized/ongoing practice? No

If project discontinued - reasons: Grant funding ended

Agency contact for more information: David Teasdale, David.Teasdale@tn.gov

Evaluator contact: Jessica Pearson, jspearson@centerforpolicyresearch.org

Project replicated? Locations and contacts: Tennessee built on the experience of PSP for the National Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED) project - in three Tennessee counties (cities of Nashville, Chattanooga, and Memphis)

Link to evaluation report(s)? Evaluation of the Tennessee Parent Support Program

Last Reviewed: September 11, 2019

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