The state and federal government collects billions of dollars from the child support system. Besides the incentive money that states collect from the federal government because it meets or exceeds the performance measurements, certain states/counties can also earn grant money. The Health and Human Services (HHS) and The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has awarded nearly $4 million to state-run child support agencies around the country in an effort to better understand individuals’ behavior and decision-making ability when it comes to paying child support, (ACF, 2014). The money has been distributed almost equally amongst certain state child support agencies, The Office of Child Support Enforcement Agency or OCSE (2014), announced that it awarded eight grants to state child support agencies under the Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services (BICS). The grants totaled 800,000 and counties in California, Ohio, and Georgia were among the eight recipients. Many can argue that the money could be better spent decreasing the number of children living in poverty and the unemployment rates across the country instead of spending tax dollars on exploring the reasons that child support is not paid consistently and in-full.
Sacramento County and San Joaquin counties in California have been awarded $150,000 to fund the Dedicated Daddies Make a Difference program. The platform was designed to explore ways to engage parents through fatherhood based programs, (ACF, 2014). This seems to be an unnecessary use of funds since it has already been proven that child support collections and relationships improve when parents are able to actually pay support. The concept of Family-Centered Child Support Services is not a newly implemented approach to improving the child support system. In fact, the ACF recognized that collecting support depends on responsive child support services and employment for non-custodial parents.
There hardly seems the need to grant two counties over $100 thousand to repeat what was discovered by the officials at least three years ago. The family centered approach has recognized the need for cooperation between parents and parents’ emotional connection with their children, (ACF). This, again, is nothing new and grant money being paid to support agencies will not alter the results that have already been discovered. The grant money could be better spent by offering more employment opportunities to parents that are included in the 7.3% of Californians that are out-of-work. Using the grant money to assist low-income parents and families would certainly decrease the 23% child poverty rate.
The government should not be permitted to through away money to fund programs that are repetitive and do nothing to impact barriers of low income families on either a short or long-term basis. According to ACF (2014), the grantee, Attorney General for the District of Columbia Child Support Service Division, will be receiving $150,000 as it plans to explore ways to right-size child support orders for the recently unemployed. This topic, too, has been explored and analyzed over the years and hardly requires another dime be paid towards researching this issue. The OCSE (2014) reported that child support orders should be realistic and based on the noncustodial parent’s actual ability to comply with orders. Quite simply, if a parent is unemployed, the child support becomes unrealistic no matter what the amount.
Unfortunately, instead of discontinuing the child support order while the parent searches for new employment, the payments and late fees continue to accumulate. The ACF (2012) wrote that increasing noncustodial parent involvement can have a positive effect on noncustodial parent engagement in the lives of the children. Perhaps reading previous reports about this issue could save both the government and taxpayers at least $150,000. Again, this money could be better utilized finding gainful employment for the 7.6 unemployed citizens living D.C. The 27% child poverty rate would surely decrease because, as previous reports have shown, employed parents pay the most child support through income withholdings and income tax refund offsets. After the government collects the money, the remaining money should (theoretically) trickle down to the children.
Georgia received its $125,083 grant which will be divided between four counties. The Behavioral Interventions of Early Engagement for Georgia Child Support Services hopes to increase child support payments by increasing commination and engagement from the moment an order is established, (ACF, 2014). Again, this dilemma of realistic child support orders and parent participation has already been discussed and remedies have been offered across the country. Because so many child support orders are established by default, the payment amounts are almost always imputed.
The ACF (2012) shared that engaging noncustodial parents early in the order establishment is more likely to result in setting realistic orders and avoiding default orders. This information is hardly new and should be used instead of awarding grants to explore topics that have already been researched at the cost of taxpayers. Engaging noncustodial parents early also means that they may avoid the unnecessary build up over arrears and it may increase parental communication and involvement, (ACF, 2012). The child support agencies, both state and federal, have no problem collecting money to research topics that have already been researched and analyzed time and time again.
As with California and D.C., Georgia could be spending this additional money helping its 7.7% of unemployed people find and keep jobs. This would surely benefit the 27% of children living in poverty especially since most people that have been mandated to comply with child support laws have little or no income. It is no secret that the local, state and federal governments collect billions of dollars from citizens in the name of child support. These grants are being awarded and justified as a reason to explore situations and solutions for problems that have already been resolved. This is just another piece to the child support hustle.
As long as parents continue to suffer injustices in the name of child support while the government agents to continue to prosper, there will always be a need for reform. The powers that be have already decided how to best keep parents in debt, but the government offers some sort of solution as to disguise the unconstitutionality of the child support system. Unfortunately, the officials are only repeating the same information but are not changing any of the policies and laws that hinders the economic growth of children and families. It is time to repair what is truly broken and not allow the government to keep funding these programs that do not produce any positive and substantive results. These grant awards are only giving the illusion that the government is interested in the well-being of children and families and in revamping the child support system.
Administration for Children & Families. (2012). Establishing realistic child support orders: Engaging noncustodial parents (1). Retrieved from Office of Child Support Enforcement website: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ocse/establishing_realistic_child_support_orders.pdf
Administration for Children & Families. (2014, October 7). ACF grant to explore link between psychology, behavior and child support payments | Administration for Children and Families. Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/media/press/acf-grant-to-explore-link-between-psychology-behavior-and-child-support-payments
Administration for Children & Families. (2014, June 6). Grants | Administration for Children and Families. Retrieved November 30, 2014, from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/view/HHS-2014-ACF-OCSE-FD-0822
Administration for Children & Families. (n.d.). Family-centered innovations improve child support outcomes (1). Retrieved from Office of Child Support Enforcement website: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ocse/family_centered_innovations.pdf
Office of Child Support Enforcement. (2014). November/December 2014 Child Support Report | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families (36/11). Retrieved from Administration of Children & Families website: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/november-december-2014-child-support-report