Policymakers, scholars, and members of Black and Latino communities have long discussed the difficult situations of low-income families of color struggling to make ends meet while trying to support their children—especially when the two parents are living apart. Furthermore, recent research has indicated that the social and economic circumstances of young African American men in particular are becoming more dire. And, in fact, some social welfare policies create barriers which contribute to these negative trends. A prime example is the impact that child support enforcement policy often has on parents struggling to achieve economic security for themselves, and their children and families. Large child support debt often prevents low-income fathers from establishing any financial stability, much less achieving economic security. Moreover, child support enforcement practices interfere with a stable connection to the workforce for many low-income fathers. It should also be noted that any money a parent pays toward state-owed debts (e.g. child support to reimburse TANF benefits, court fees, etc.) is money that could have contributed directly to his own or to his children’s immediate economic security and long-term development of assets. CFFPP’s work on economic security shows that for many low-income parents, particularly fathers of color, child support debt can become an insurmountable barrier to establishing financial stability.
As a resource grantee for the Ford Foundation’s Building Economic Security Over a Lifetime Initiative (BESOL), the Center’s role is to bring the circumstances and concerns of low-income men—particularly Black and Latino fathers—to bear on the work of the initiative’s state asset building coalitions. In addition to providing analysis of national and state-level policies, CFFPP is particularly supporting the Southern Regional Asset Building Coalition (SRABC), and its local partners in Louisiana and Mississippi. Throughout this initiative, we have continually posed the questions: Which social welfare policies facilitate or deter low-income men—especially fathers of color—from achieving economic security? From building assets or experiencing financial stability? From making their desired contributions to their children, families and communities? CFFPP continues to be an external resource provider to the BESOL state coalitions, whose support and technical assistance prioritizes building economic security for low-income families.
As a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grantee, CFFPP is investigating and critically examining the economic security needs of low-income parents and children—especially when the parents are living apart. The Center’s project with the Kellogg Foundation is called Making All the Ends Meet: A Two-Generation Approach for Children and their Mothers and Fathers. CFFPP will inform policymakers and provide a tool for calculating sufficient income needed for non-custodial fathers with child support obligations to achieve economic security for themselves, and their children and families. The voices of real, struggling parents will be at the forefront of CFFPP’s approach to systems change. In order to amplify parents’ perspectives that will guide analysis towards bold policy recommendations, CFFPP will conduct listening sessions and interviews, with both mothers and fathers, in several communities in four states: Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Wisconsin. Our recommended economic security income guidelines will be informed by the experiences of the parents that we speak with in the course of doing these qualitative investigations.