Three recently completed federal demonstrations examined the impact of different program models that were designed to increase the earnings of noncustodial parents and improve the well-being of their children. All three demonstrations found positive impacts, suggesting that these types of program models can benefit noncustodial parents and their children. OPRE has published a brief that describes these demonstrations and their impacts, which is summarized below.
Description of Three Demonstrations Serving Noncustodial Parents
The Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration (ETJD) was launched by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in 2011 to test the effectiveness of providing temporary, subsidized jobs and other enhanced services to noncustodial parents who were unable to meet their child support obligations (4 sites) and individuals who had been recently released from prison (3 sites).
Parents and Children Together (PACT) was launched by OPRE in 2011 to test the effectiveness of four Responsible Fatherhood programs funded by ACF’s Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Program.
The Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED) was launched by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) in ACF in 2012 to test the effectiveness of child support-led employment programs for noncustodial parents behind in their child support in eight sites.
Who was served by these demonstrations? Two demonstrations served noncustodial parents; the third served fathers, 78% of whom did not live with any of their children at the start of the program. Program participants in all three demonstrations faced significant employment barriers. Over 70 percent of participants had a criminal record; over half had experienced some form of homelessness in the past year; and about 30 percent had not completed high school.
What services were provided? All three demonstrations provided employment services. One provided participants with up to 4 months of subsidized employment (ETJD); the other two provided less intensive employment services, which included job search, job readiness, and job development. All three demonstrations provided child support services. One demonstration was led by the local child support agency (CSPED); the other two demonstrations had differing levels of involvement with their local child support agency. Two demonstrations included parenting workshops in all sites; the third demonstration included parenting workshops in two of its four sites (ETJD).
What was the impact on earnings? All three demonstrations saw an increase in earnings as measured by quarterly earnings records during the final 12-month follow-up period, two of which were statistically significant.
- ETJD increased earnings by 13 percent (p<.01);
- PACT increased earnings by 6 percent (not significant); and
- CSPED increased earnings by 4 percent (p<.10).
What was the impact on employment? All three demonstrations saw an increase in the likelihood of working as measured by quarterly earnings records, two of which were statistically significant. ETJD and PACT examined the likelihood of working in the final 12-month follow-up period; CSPED examined the likelihood of working in the final 24-month follow-up period.
- ETJD increased the likelihood of working by 7 percent (p<.01);
- PACT increased the likelihood of working by 3 percent (not significant); and
- CSPED increased the likelihood of working by 3 percent (p<.10).
One reason PACT may not have had a statistically significant impact on employment and earnings even though its point estimates were similar in size to those in CSPED is because its sample size was about half that of CSPED.
What was the impact on child support payments? Two of the demonstrations examined child support payments using child support administrative data (ETJD and CSPED). Neither study found a statistically significant impact of the program on the amount of child support paid.
One explanation for why these programs did not increase the amount of child support paid is because both programs provided order modification services to members of the treatment group, which reduced child support orders for many treatment group members. This, in turn, reduced the amount of child support withheld to pay child support obligations. While control group members could also have their orders reduced, they would have had to request an order modification themselves. Because ETJD and CSPED offered order modification services that could reduce the amount of child support paid as well as employment services that could increase the amount of child support paid, these services appeared to work at cross-purposes and could have been the reason why these programs did not have an impact on the amount of child support paid.
What was the impact on parenting? All three demonstrations examined the percent of parents who had any contact with their children during the final 12-month follow-up period. The two demonstrations that included parenting services in all sites saw a significant increase in the percent of parents who had any contact with their children (PACT and CSPED). ETJD, which did not include parenting services in all sites, saw a significant decrease in the percent of parents who had any contact with their children. While this negative impact could be specific to ETJD, it provides a cautionary note that employment programs for disadvantaged noncustodial parents that do not include parenting services as a core service could lead to a reduction in parent-child contact.
- ETJD decreased parent-child contact by 5 percent (p<.10);
- PACT increased parent-child contact by 3 percent (p<.05); and
- CSPED increased parent-child contact by 3 percent (p<.10).