May 28, 2014
The Office of the Child Support Enforcement Agency (OCSEA) has recently released a report explaining that there has been a change in who is actually owed the billions of dollars in child support arrears. To be clear, child support arrears represent the amount of child support that remains unpaid, (OCSEA, 2014). Traditionally, when a family receives any public assistance, the state has the right to keep all of the money collected as child support for the children. Although not universal across the country, changes in the distribution of collections, has attempted to ensure more money is paid to Temporary Aid to Needy Families or TANF families. According to the OCSEA Fact Sheet (2014), the federal government will share in the cost of distributing all child support to families, except for child support paid to families receiving TANF. The failure to share in the cost related to TANF families only means that the cost becomes the responsibility of the noncustodial parent. Since most child support arrears are owed by parents with little or no income, this cost quickly becomes arrears once the noncustodial parent becomes unable to meet a child support obligation.
The underlying characteristics of individuals, who owe substantial amounts of arrears, have little or no income, (OSCEA, 2014). The drastic change in who is owed arrears should not be attributed to greater collection results from state agencies, but the decrease in the amount of families that actually qualify for and receive cash benefits from the government. Since the reform of the Aid for Dependent Children or AFDC program, the reconstruction has left many families ineligible to receive any public assistance. According to the Trisi and Pavetti of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2011), between 1995 and 2010, TANF caseloads declined by at least 27% in every state and by more than 50% in 36 states. Since most low-income families must sign their child support rights over to the government and most arrears holders have no income, it should be no surprise that TANF arrears have declined.
The government insists that the child support payment is repayment for TANF payments which are actually block grants. The new work requirements and time restraints along with other strict criteria only means that fewer low-income people are receiving financial assistance from the government. Although total arrears have seemed to remain stagnant over the past years, the TANF specific arrears have decreased over the years. OSCEA (2014) reported that TANF arrears declined in absolute and relative terms, falling from $33.8b to $29.6b. This decline is not due to more money being collected by poverty stricken people. It can be directly related to less people owing arrears based on receiving cash TANF benefits. The TANF-to-poverty ratio plummeted from 68 families receiving TANF for every 100 in poverty in 1996 to 27 for every 100 in 2010, (Trisi, et. al., 2010).
The decline in arrears for TANF cases can only be the result of fewer families receiving cash benefits, signing over rights to child support payments, and less noncustodial parents being required to repay the government for those benefits. Not surprisingly, removing the most vulnerable from social programs with no alternatives has simultaneously increased dug people deeper into poverty. According to the Varner, Mattingly, and Grusky of The Stanford Center of Poverty and Inequality (2014), the current poverty rates for the full population and for children rank among the very worst over 13 years since 2000 which are both ranked 11th. Again, the change in who is owed arrears should not merit congratulations to the agency. It seems that the main beneficiaries of the child support program are the entities that already have money, namely the governments.
The decrease in TANF arrears should not be celebrated but a rude awakening to the reality that the current child support system is broken. The system does little to lift families out of poverty and only ads to the amount of debt owed to the government. An already disadvantaged population has no chance of overcoming the hurdles of poverty when they must overcome huge amounts of debt from the beginning. Restructuring the child support system will ensure that all states pay 100% of child support collected to the families, This will do a greater justice to the nation rather than merely decreasing the arrears owed by poor parents. Reform is both necessary and essential in reducing poverty for American children and families.
Office of Child Support Enforcement (2014, March). Major change in who is owed child support arrears. Retrieved April 20, 2014, from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/programs/css/changes_in_who_is_owed_arrears.pdf
Trisi, D., & P, L. (2012, March 13). TANF weakening as a safety net for poor families. Retrieved April 20, 2014, from http://www.cbpp.org/files/3-13-12tanf.pdf
Varner, C., Mattingly, M., & Grusky, D. (2014). The poverty and inequality report. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/_media/pdf/pathways/special_sotu_2014/Pathways_SOTU_2014_Executive_Summary.pdf
May 21, 2014
As more and more people become aware of the child support hustle there is an even greater need to explain one of the biggest scams administered by the government. That scam is the pass-through policy and how it was implemented and executed across the country. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty or NCCP (2004), a pass-through is the amount of child support forwarded to the families on whose behalf it was collected. This does not seem to be a problem for families that do not live in poverty or rely on government assistance in any way. The problem arises when pass-through policies affect low-income parents that could benefit from receiving a full child support payment.
Unfortunately, low-income parents must depend on disregards in relation to collecting child support money. The disregard is the amount of child support that the family can keep without lowering the TANF (Temporary Aide for Needy Families) benefits, (NCCP, 2004). With the reform of both welfare and child support programs, TANF benefits have decreased greatly. Only a fraction of low-income people qualify for these benefits and there are time-restrictions applied that prohibit states from providing assistance after a certain period of time. We know that since 1996, the value of cash assistance benefits have declined by 20 percent or more in 37 states, (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2013). And yet, 28 states do not offer pass-through or disregards to its low-income parents.
There are another 12 states that will disregard up to $50 to low-income family which does little to help fight poverty. Since the states force all applicants of TANF benefits to assign their rights to child support payments over to the state, the state will collect and retain the child support payment, less the aforementioned, $50. There has been an increase in child poverty since the reform to both social programs and poverty will continue to increase unless significant changes are made to the child support system. The pass-through policy should be first on the agenda. By expecting an already disadvantaged people to rise above poverty with no social nets and less, or in some cases, no money is virtually impossible.
The child support system vigorously pursues noncustodial parents for money that will only be retained by the states. The child support system supposedly cares only about what is in the best interest of the child. Pass-through and disregard policies demonstrate that this is not a true statement. The proof appears when one closely examines the system and the policies. After close examination it is clear that the states’ best interest is all that seems to matter. This current system will only pull people who happen to be parents deeper into debt. At the same time, the relationships between the children and the parents may become strained because of the penalties and punishments associated with nonpayment of child support. Each of the individual policies that govern the child support system needs to be reexamined so it can be determined what is truly in the best interest of the children.
Floyd, I., & Schott, L. (2013, October 21). TANF Cash Benefits Continued To Lose Value in 2013 — Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=4034
National Center for Children in Poverty (2004, September). NCCP | State Policy Choices. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_539.html
May 14, 2014
With the current financial situation of the U.S. which includes the bank bailouts and the recession, the wealth gap between citizens is increasing at a fast pace. Many contend that the middle class will be obsolete in the upcoming years. Unfortunately, the less money one may have can directly impact the amount of debt that a person amasses. According to the Free Legal Dictionary, equal protection is the constitutional guarantee that no person or class of persons shall be identified the same protection of the laws that is enjoyed by other persons or other classes. The current child support system adversely affects low-income parents because they cannot afford the duties applied to child support orders. The penalty fees and interest are applied when payments become delinquent. Some states consider a payment delinquent after only 30 days while others may wait six months before applying enforcement.
People that can afford to pay child support in a timely manner never face the punishments enforced by child support officers. The Ohio Department of Job Family Services (2013) reported that a study conducted by the Urban Institute in 2007 concluded that 69% of arrears accrued in Ohio were owed by individuals with no reported income or reported income less than $10,000. This causes great disparities between those being pursued and prosecuted and those who are not when punishments are based on income. The less fortunate are targeted and punished for being poor. The equal protection clause is violated because poor parents are not receiving the same treatment when it comes to state child support laws. By bogging parents down with debt and stealing freedoms, there is a direct violation of the equal protection law. The law states that men were created equal and have certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, (The Free Dictionary).
If someone cannot afford the same luxuries, in this case making payment to the government, that person should not be denied their liberty or their happiness. Child support laws have caused unhappy situations across the country due to snatching freedoms over a state owed debt, and attaching a child for justification. As the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow, there needs to be reform to the current child support system. As long as the poor are unfairly pursued, prosecuted, and jailed, the fact will remain that the system is purposely violating the constitution. Parents must argue in court for their rights or reform will never occur. As long as the government is allowed to openly violate parent’s rights, the child support hustle will continue to plague our children and families.
Child Support Guidelines Advisory Council (2012, August 24). Meeting agenda. Retrieved April 13, 2014, from http://jfs.ohio.gov/Ocs/pdf/20120824-Agenda.pdf
Farlex (n.d.). Equal Protection Clause legal definition of Equal Protection Clause. Equal Protection Clause synonyms by the Free Online Law Dictionary. Retrieved April 13, 2014, from http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Equal+Protection+Clause
May 7, 2014
To all who are not aware, the child support enforcement system is a billion dollar business in the debt collection industry. According to Emily Alpert Reyes of the LA Times (2013), more that $14 billion in child support was left unpaid to American parents in a single year. She does not mention that much of that money is arrears and are exclusively owed to the states. When that much money is at stake, there are extreme measures taken in order to collect those dollars. Because this money is government owned debt, the action to collect becomes more ruthless and uncaring than with the private collection agencies.
Currently, there are several enforcement measures taken in order to collect these billions of dollars. Professional and driver's licenses are snatched, property liens ordered, and imprisonment are just a few punishments that parents endure when owing child support debt to the government. All of the fees associated with the collection process emphasize the billion dollar status of the child support industry. But what about the revenues that are generated by non-public companies operating on the backs of families enrolled in the child support system? Companies such as the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) and the Eastern Regional Interstate Child Support Association (ERICSA) are two organizations making money in the name of children and families.
The NCSEA serves child support professionals, agencies, and strategic partners worldwide (NCSEA, 2014). There is no direct relationship between families and this agency although the alleged connection can be found written in the company's mission statement. The business boasts that it advocates to enhance the financial, medical, and emotional support that parents provide for their children, (NCSEA, 2014). This support does not come without a cost to the array of organizations that are served by this company and not to the taxpayers or families.
For instance, state, tribal, or international IV-D agency memberships range from $1,275 to $3,000 depending on which class the organization enrolls. There are additional Web-Talks available (beyond the initial programs) that can be purchased for $150, (NCSEA, 2014). Local agencies must also pay in order to gain information supposedly designed to better assist children and families. Although less at $315 to $1050 based on class, there are additional costs if an agency is seeking better classes with more information. There are premium education and training programs offered to both private and public parties.
According to the CSEA (2014), the premier program is $3,200 and represents a total value of more than $5,390. In order to purchase this expensive package that is supposed to be about assisting families in collecting child support, an organization must be a current dues member, (CSEA, 2014). While it is clear that businesses target and partner with government agencies while taxpayers are being made to pay the bill for their services. This money is never a direct, or arguably, indirect benefit to the children or the families currently participating in the child support system.
ERICSA, too, is a for-profit business generating revenues from the scheme of the child support agencies. This for-profit company describes itself as facilitating communication and delivering professional training in order to enhance the well-being of families, (ERICSA, 2014). That sounds commendable if families directly benefited from that assistance. It seems that the company is the biggest beneficiary based on the conferences, symposiums, and expositions that it hosts across the country. Although membership to the organization is only $25 per year (excluding lifelong membership), the company more than likely accommodates its revenues by cashing in from the government.
In May of this year, ERICSA will be hosting a training program that charges $250 for volunteers, $350 for speakers, and moderators, and $425 for regular attendance, (ERICSA, 2014). For those employers attending the employer symposium, costs are similar but there are additional charges at $200 a day for classes that are no included. There are also charges for the reception for the ERICSA president at $25, a business breakfast charge of $25, and a banquet which costs $50 per person, (ERICSA, 2014). This money being spent and collected in the name of children and families will, once again, never directly benefit the children.
These are just two examples of businesses that gain huge profits under the disguise of caring about the welfare of children and families. The billion dollar industry will continue to grow as long as citizens continue to be held liable for lifelong debt, double digit interest, and unrelenting collection practices. Public entities have no desire to discontinue collecting revenues off of the backs of children. Based on the growing revenues of private child support entities, their desire to discontinue making money in this fashion, is one that does not exist.
Eastern Regional Interstate Child Support Association (n.d.). ERICSA - Eastern
Regional Interstate Child Support Association. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from
National Child Support Enforcement Association (n.d.). About NCSEA | NCSEA:
National Child Support Enforcement Association. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from
Reyes, E. A. (2013, November 20). Billions of dollars in child support go unpaid
yearly - Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from
A parent and an author who has survived adverse situations and lived to write about it..