The Politics of Child Support in America

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And it became harder and harder to justify that we should have a system that would support one group of women to stay at home with their children while this other group of women was choosing to enter into the labor market. Yes, with that kind of backdrop — with two earners becoming necessary, women making this conscious decision to enter into the labor market and the general dismay about the existing welfare reforms system — we started really to think seriously about how we should do this differently, and what should we expect of moms and so forth, and I think that's why the work requirements became so steep in the welfare reform debate.

And with child support, by the mids when all of these reforms were being put into place, nonmarital childbearing had risen from being something that was not very pervasive to nearly one-third of all births, 25 to 28 percent. Now, it's at 41 to 42 percent. Welfare reform really did punctuate this idea that fathers should be responsible for providing for their children, that the state will do it in limited circumstances, but that we want the fathers to be the ones who are responsible for this. And there was a very strong notion at that point that men who weren't paying for their child support were not involved in their children's lives, were just deadbeat and avoiding the system.

It changed what the performance measures were for states — basically, if you set an order, you have to collect on it and there could be penalties if you didn't. And it really punctuated the idea that child support is a direct link with welfare, that there really isn't a way for a mom who's going to go on public assistance to avoid seeking child support.

In our rolls on welfare were some of the largest that they had been; they had really ballooned up to the point where upwards of 7 percent of kids were on welfare rolls.

Child support laws to end 🤔

There was no end in sight because of the increase in nonmarital childbearing and who was now coming into the system was a different family type than what the system was initially set up to accommodate. And that, I think, remains one of the biggest challenges of our system. And so the initial system was set up to replicate the nuclear family of dad as breadwinner, mom as homemaker, and now you have families in which mom and dad may have never lived together.

They may have lived together when the child was born for a short period of time. They may or may not have shared resources. The father may have been contributing or not contributing. Each state does it differently, but Texas will determine what a noncustodial parent's income is.

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Child support in the United States

If he says zero, well, there isn't zero child support, there will often be a presumption that he should be working full time, full year at at least minimum wage. And he did not disclose that he had any income at the time that he established those awards. It could be even worse, it could be — and this happens very often — that that man comes in, but his child is 2 years old.

And now, either he's been evading for two years, or he didn't know he had this child, or they were together for almost all that time, but now they've separated. There could be lots of different reasons, but the child's now 2 years old.

The Politics of Child Support in America - Jocelyn Elise Crowley - Google Книги

And so this back child support is something that's very real. A lot of the men start off in this hole that they just simply cannot dig themselves out of. It feels almost impossible. I think it is actually not a simple answer. We do need to feel like men are being held accountable for their children, or noncustodial parents are supporting their children in some way. I do think that it's reasonable for people to say somehow men have to demonstrate that they are going to provide for their children.

That just ignores, though, the fact that we can say that, but that doesn't mean that they're going to be able to pay it.


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We often know that if they're not able to pay their child support formally, that they're less likely to be able to contribute informally. They're going to stay away from the child; they're going to be less involved. So although it makes sense on some level that we want to find a way to hold these dads accountable, in fact, what we're doing is making it less likely that he's going to be engaged in his child's life by providing informally or being involved in other sorts of ways, and it's going to cause difficulties in the co-parenting relationship between the mom and the father.

This applies also to fathers who are incarcerated. We have a huge number of fathers who are incarcerated at some point in their child's life. But it has not been a material reason to alter your child support award amount.

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So that's another change proposed by the Obama administration, that if you are incarcerated, that we modify the child support order in some way to reflect that you cannot earn an income during that time. When he comes out with high levels of arrears, he's less likely to enter into the formal labor market and have his wages immediately garnished, so it just sends him back to the underground economy and the chances of recidivism and incarceration are really high. The states' incentives really are to set amounts that can be collected on that make it look like they are reaching collection goals.

Jocelyn Elise Crowley's The Politics of Child Support in America PDF

But the performance measures at the federal level are based on the proportion that you collect based on the proportion that's established. So the states could benefit if they move to this more right-sized orders approach. But we have to be careful that that big dollar amount out there of what we're collecting doesn't become the driving force of how to maintain our child support enforcement system.

Cambridge University Press Bolero Ozon. The Politics of Child Support in America. Political observers have long since struggled with understanding how new ideas are placed on the public agenda. Researchers have had much more difficulty, however, in moving from these individual success stories to more generalizable theories of entrepreneurship.

This book builds such a theory by focusing on the critical issue of child support enforcement in the United States. Covering over a year period, this book tracks the evolution of multiple sets of political entrepreneurs as they grapple with the child support problem: Social Workers as Challenger Entrepreneurs.