Welcome to the Child Support Digest, a quarterly publication of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Child Support Project. The digest covers current trends in child support policy and enforcement and includes summaries of state legislation, news articles, the latest research and information on upcoming events and resources related to child support.
This issue features information about child support and domestic violence, our child support and family law legislation database, child support assurance and employment services for noncustodial parents.
For previous editions of the Child Support Digest visit our Child Support Digest Index.
For more information on the Child Support Project and the project's research publications, visit the Child Support Homepage
Questions? Contact Meghan McCann.
In the United States, 1 in 4 parents live in poverty, and 20 percent of children live in a household with income below the federal poverty level. A new approach to help families break the cycle of poverty is taking hold in states across the country. Called many things, from two-generation and intergenerational, to multi-generational or whole-family approaches, the idea of simultaneously addressing the needs of children and parents is the same.
NCSL has launched a new Two-Generation Strategies Toolkit to assist state legislators in understanding the issues this approach can address, what two-generation programs look like on the ground, the important roles legislators play and the opportunities for state legislators to engage in these efforts.
Child support laws impact children and parents in different ways, making child support an ideal target for applying a two-generation approach for better outcomes. For example, Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration Program Grants, awarded to eight states in 2012, provide employment programs and assistance with child support compliance and are leading to increases in parent employment, child support payments and parent engagement with their children. Highlighted in the toolkit, the Colorado Parent Employment Project (CO-PEP), connects noncustodial parents to fatherhood programs and workforce services. After six months, 74 percent of participants were employed, having entered the program un- or under-employed. During the same period, 79 percent of participants paid some child support after receiving services, compared to 57 percent prior to receiving services.
For more information about two-generation approaches to effective child support and other policies and practices, check out NCSL’s Two-Generation Strategies Toolkit.
The policy issues facing state legislators are varied and complex. For that reason, lawmakers often rely on their staff, experts in the field, lobbyists, practitioners and community members to gather information and develop policies that address a need or respond to an opportunity, such as new federal funds.
NCSL’s Guide for Child Support Professionals is designed to help child support professionals and directors understand how state legislatures work and how state legislators gather information and develop policies related to child support. In addition, child support professionals will learn how people outside the state capitol—specifically, child support directors and family law advocates—can communicate effectively with their elected leaders and provide constructive input through the legislative process.
NCSL manages a clearinghouse of information related to child support and family law issues. Here are some additional resources that may be of interest:
States are looking at ways to leverage child support for the betterment of parents and children. By making the distinction between noncustodial parents who can pay, but won’t, and those who want to pay, but can’t, state child support programs are helping the latter get back to work, and thus, pay their child support.
To highlight this new approach, Ascend at the Aspen Institute held a webinar, Putting the Support in Child Support, in June 2018. The webinar included presentations from Colorado, North Dakota and Washington, highlighting their state child support programs’ efforts to increase noncustodial parent employment. The PowerPoint for that webinar is also available.
Federal law requires that all applicants for TANF and Medicaid, under most circumstances, cooperate with child support enforcement programs to establish and enforce child support orders. In addition, states have the option of placing cooperation requirements on other programs, such as child care assistance and food stamps. In recent years, states have introduced dozens of bills to expand child support cooperation requirements and engage more noncustodial parents in their child support programs and provide more support for children in low-income families.
A new report, Child Support Cooperation Policy, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, looks at these policies across the country, and the potential reach to noncustodial parents not currently participating in a child support program. The report compares the number of custodial and noncustodial parents eligible for and receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and child care assistance benefits, as well as those custodial parents who do not have a formal child support order.
For more on state legislation addressing child support cooperation requirements, visit NCSL’s Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database.
Parental Accountability Court underscores new approach to child support in Northwest Georgia, April 27, 2018
Legislator says law aimed to prevent new fees on families, May 16, 2018
Ohio set to make major changes to child support system, June 16, 2018
What successful antipoverty efforts look like: A refreshing report from the Rocky Mountain State, June 18, 2018
New changes in Alabama child support calculations, June 18, 2018
Landmarks “Go Green” in Tennessee for Child Support Awareness Month, Aug. 9, 2018
Program to help parents behind on child support payments get back on track, Aug. 9, 2018