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Texas NCP Choices

What Works - Evidence-Based Child Support Practice Summary

Published: September 11, 2019

The Texas NCP Choices Program is an example of a noncustodial parent employment program that demonstrated strong child support and employment outcomes. This summary highlights the lessons learned during program implementation, describes the funding sources, and provides local agency contacts.

Funding Source: TANF funds and Child Support Incentive Funds (split)

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:

NCP Choices is a child support compliance and employment services program for unemployed or underemployed noncustodial parents who are unable to comply with their child support order. The Texas Child Support Division and the Texas Workforce Commission jointly operate the program and provide an alternative to jail for NCPs found in contempt by the IV-D courts.

NCPs who are medically and legally able to work are eligible for program services which include: employment assessment, job search, short-term training, employment supports (e.g. transportation/tools), job coaching, resume and interview skills, and other related services. Participation is mandatory (court ordered) and staff from local workforce centers attend court to conduct intake and to report to the court on program participation and compliance.

The Texas Child Support Division developed an online case management and monitoring and compliance tool (Choices Online Tracking System - COLTS) to facilitate information sharing between the workforce centers and the child support offices to ensure seamless follow-up on program participation and ability to report compliance to the courts.

Jurisdiction/Location: 21 of the 28 workforce board areas in the state of Texas - program covers counties comprising >75% of the state population

Scale of project (numbers served/reached by intervention): 5,000 to 25,000 NCPs received services

Dates of implementation: August 2005 - current

Project cost estimates: Program costs approximately $1,100 per NCP ordered into the program. Funding is a mix of state TANF funds and child support incentives. Annual budget for program is approximately $5 million.

Evaluation/analysis conducted and if so, what type and who? Quasi-experimental evaluation conducted by the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas at Austin (2007 and 2009). Comparison group developed using extensive “nearest neighbor” matching.

Evidence of impacts? Positive impacts on child support payments, earnings increased over a three-year period, employment rates/stability, and significant decrease in TANF use by the associated custodial parent. On average, individual child support collections exceeded program costs within seven months.

Key findings/lessons:

Findings:

  • Results indicated that, relative to the comparison group, NCPs ordered into the program:
    • Paid their child support 47% more often and paid $57 per month more, for a 51% increase in total collections
    • Paid their child support 50% more consistently over time
    • Continued to pay their child support more often, in greater amounts, and more consistently over time even two to four years after the program
    • Were employed at 21% higher rates, an effect that also persisted at least two to four years after the program
    • Were about one third less likely to file an unemployment claim in any given month in the first year after the program
  • The custodial parents associated with NCP Choices participants were 21% less likely to receive TANF benefits in the first year after the program, and 29% less likely two to four years after the program.

Lessons:

  • Court involvement was critical for program success, eliminating need for substantial recruitment activities and linking program to regular child support operations
  • Presence of workforce staff in court room key for success
  • Model based on the three partners doing what they “do best” in coordination: Child support staff provide enforcement case management, workforce staff provide employment services, and judicial officers apply appropriate consequences/hold NCPs accountable.
  • Online tracking system necessary to facilitate communication between two public agencies (overcame existing data system silos) and allowed program to operate at scale (more than 4,000 NCPs annually)

Project became institutionalized/ongoing practice? Yes - program moved out of pilot phase in 2009

If project discontinued - reasons: Not applicable

Agency contact for more information: Noelita Lugo, noelita.lugo@texasattorneygeneral.gov

Evaluator contact: Daniel Schroeder, schroed@austin.utexas.edu

Project replicated? Locations and contacts: Two additional sites are currently being implemented and evaluated as part of the National Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED). Same contact information.

Link to evaluation report(s)? Texas Non-Custodial Parent Choices: Program Impact Analysis

Last Reviewed: September 11, 2019

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