Our SolutionsAuthor: CFFPP . Date: May 22, 2017
- Enable HHS to provide grants for state-level Families First Commissions. Those commissions should be tasked with the ongoing responsibility for the following: (1) developing plans and processes that ensure broad-based access to services that shape and implement parenting time arrangements; and (2) developing plans and processes that ensure broad-based access to high quality family-dispute resolution services.
- Change the child support agency incentive structure to reward states for their effectiveness in collecting support from noncustodial parents who have the ability to pay. And those who are too poor to pay should be offered a hand up into family-sustaining employment.
- Collect racial, gender and economic demographic data in family and economic support agency activity and practice. This will provide the federal government and the public with basic information about how the system affects noncustodial parents. It would also allow for evaluations of whether states are using the best possible tools in trying to reach their child support goals.
- Integrate services, policies and processes into family support agencies and courtrooms that help parents construct safe, reliable, and accessible parenting time plans for their children. Poverty and instability make it difficult for parents to provide for their children at all, let alone in two different residences, or to devise reliable parenting time schedules. Still, they need information, mediation, and education to help them make good decisions for their children.
- Provide guaranteed jobs for all low-income parents—both mothers and fathers, regardless of legal custody status—with the government acting as an employer of last resort. A job is essential to self-worth and critical for entry into mainstream America. A Guaranteed Jobs Program coupled with educational and other social supports would help low-income families to become financially stable.
- Revoke the legal requirement that parents reimburse the state or federal government for welfare assistance provided to their children. Current federal and state law mandates that custodial parents who apply for cash assistance assign their right to child support payments over to the state. Some of the poorest families do not benefit directly from child support payments because they may not receive the full amount. States should pass through all child support payments to families. Additionally, state agencies should forgive existing child support debt that is owed to the state—rather than to father’s children.
- Remove low-income noncustodial parents from the child support enforcement system during any times that they have no current ability to both sustain themselves and to pay child support. Such parents should be placed in income support, employment support, asset development, and social welfare programs until they can financially support both their children and themselves.
- Stop the practice of incarcerating poor and unemployed parents who are unable to pay their child support debt. Low-income black men have historically faced limited employment prospects and high levels of joblessness. But when a low-income father is incarcerated for nonpayment of child support, it leads to a sequence of events that exacerbate the downward pressure on wages, provides incentives for some fathers to work outside of the mainstream economy to survive, and ultimately limits future employment opportunities.
- Change the current child support agency funding structure which incentivizes agencies to pursue and sanction poor men regardless of their ability to pay, and regardless of the impact of the order on their own and their children’s financial security. Child support enforcement should benefit children and protect their interests. However, welfare cost recovery is at odds with the best interest of children because states have a fiscal interest in reducing the costs of public assistance by redirecting payments from children to the government.