My Brother’s Keeper, or My Brother’s Creditor? (Part One)

Date: September 15, 2014
Author(s): Nino Rodriguez

This brief is the first in a series. Future briefs will examine: the urgent need for data to track racial equity outcomes; and determine the impact of child support policies on children, parents, and families of color.

The importance of economically-secure and involved parents for the success of boys and young men of color is a centerpiece of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. Indeed, the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Report to the President highlights “Empowering Parents…” as one of four “Cross-Cutting Recommendations and Areas of Opportunity” that are essential to “improving educational and life outcomes for all populations.” Emphasizing the challenges of parents of color who are struggling to make ends meet while trying to nurture and support their children, the report also acknowledges that “economic stability…, custody arrangements and other factors exacerbated by low income make it difficult for many parents to have time for quality engagement with their children.” Indeed, the report concludes its section on Empowering Parents with a call for “removing barriers to parents’… engagement with children.” However, one important barrier to parent engagement is not addressed by My Brother’s Keeper: Court-ordered child support debt owed by low-income and/or unemployed parents.