[House Hearing, 107 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
CHILD SUPPORT AND FATHERHOOD PROPOSALS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES
COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SEVENTH CONGRESS
JUNE 28, 2001
Serial No. 107-38
Printed for the use of the Committee on Ways and Means
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COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
BILL THOMAS, California, Chairman
PHILIP M. CRANE, Illinois CHARLES B. RANGEL, New York
E. CLAY SHAW, Jr., Florida FORTNEY PETE STARK, California
NANCY L. JOHNSON, Connecticut ROBERT T. MATSUI, California
AMO HOUGHTON, New York WILLIAM J. COYNE, Pennsylvania
WALLY HERGER, California SANDER M. LEVIN, Michigan
JIM McCRERY, Louisiana BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, Maryland
DAVE CAMP, Michigan JIM McDERMOTT, Washington
JIM RAMSTAD, Minnesota GERALD D. KLECZKA, Wisconsin
JIM NUSSLE, Iowa JOHN LEWIS, Georgia
SAM JOHNSON, Texas RICHARD E. NEAL, Massachusetts
JENNIFER DUNN, Washington MICHAEL R. McNULTY, New York
MAC COLLINS, Georgia WILLIAM J. JEFFERSON, Louisiana
ROB PORTMAN, Ohio JOHN S. TANNER, Tennessee
PHIL ENGLISH, Pennsylvania XAVIER BECERRA, California
WES WATKINS, Oklahoma KAREN L. THURMAN, Florida
J.D. HAYWORTH, Arizona LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
JERRY WELLER, Illinois EARL POMEROY, North Dakota
KENNY C. HULSHOF, Missouri
SCOTT McINNIS, Colorado
RON LEWIS, Kentucky
MARK FOLEY, Florida
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
PAUL RYAN, Wisconsin
Allison Giles, Chief of Staff
Janice Mays, Minority Chief Counsel
Subcommittee on Human Resources
WALLY HERGER, California, Chairman
NANCY L. JOHNSON, Connecticut BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, Maryland
WES WATKINS, Oklahoma FORTNEY PETE STARK, California
SCOTT McINNIS, Colorado SANDER M. LEVIN, Michigan
JIM McCRERY, Louisiana JIM McDERMOTT, Washington
DAVE CAMP, Michigan LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
PHIL ENGLISH, Pennsylvania
RON LEWIS, Kentucky
Pursuant to clause 2(e)(4) of Rule XI of the Rules of the House, public
hearing records of the Committee on Ways and Means are also published
in electronic form. The printed hearing record remains the official
version. Because electronic submissions are used to prepare both
printed and electronic versions of the hearing record, the process of
converting between various electronic formats may introduce
unintentional errors or omissions. Such occurrences are inherent in the
current publication process and should diminish as the process is
C O N T E N T S
Advisory of June 21, 2001, announcing the hearing................ 2
Brookings Institution, and Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ron Haskins 34
Castle, Hon. Michael N., a Representative in Congress from the
State of Delaware.............................................. 15
Cox, Hon. Christopher, a Representative in Congress from the
State of California............................................ 12
Johnson, Hon. Nancy L., a Representative in Congress from the
State of Connecticut........................................... 9
National Center for Strategic Nonprofit Planning and Community
Leadership, Jeffrey M. Johnson, accompanied by, Raymond Byrd,
Baltimore, MD.................................................. 29
National Council of Child Support Directors, Virginia Department
of Social Services' Division of Child Support Enforcement,
National Child Support Enforcement Association, and Eastern
Regional Interstate Child Support Association, Nathaniel L.
Young, Jr...................................................... 22
National Women's Law Center, Joan Entmacher...................... 45
Sorensen, Elaine, Urban Institute................................ 41
SUBMISSIONS FOR THE RECORD
Alliance for Non-Custodial Parents' Rights, Burbank, CA, John
Smith, statement............................................... 72
Association for Children for Enforcement of Support, Inc.,
Sacramento, CA, statement and attachment....................... 75
Austin, Rev. Dennis, Salisbury, NC, statement and attachments.... 85
Brien, Robert E., Ledyard, CT, letter............................ 86
Caffrey, Patrick R., Seeley Lake, MT, statement.................. 89
Chandel, Tom, Bridgton, ME, letter............................... 90
Children's Defense Fund, Daniel L. Hatcher, statement............ 91
Children's Legal Foundation, Charlotte, NC, Bill Wood, and Jay
Gell, statement................................................ 94
Children's Rights Council, David L. Levy, statement.............. 103
Citizens Against Paternity Fraud, Decatur, GA, Carnell A. Smith,
letter and attachments......................................... 105
Comanor, William S., University of California, Santa Barbara, CA,
DADS of Michigan, P.A.C., Southfield, MI, James Semerad, letter
and attachments................................................ 111
Davis, Martha, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, New York,
NY, statement.................................................. 114
Gell, Jay, Children's Legal Foundation, Charlotte, NC, statement. 94
Green, Richard M., M.D., Los Angeles, CA, letter................. 112
Hatcher, Daniel L., Children's Defense Fund, statement........... 91
Hemenway, Jim, San Ramon, CA, letter............................. 113
Hodges, William Whitley, Society of Just Men, Columbia, SC,
Levy, David L., Children's Rights Council, statement............. 103
NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, New York, NY, Jacqueline K.
Payne, and Martha Davis, statement............................. 114
Overton, James R., Pittsburgh, PA, letter........................ 120
Payne, Jacqueline K., NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, New
York, NY, statement............................................ 114
Peterson, Paul W., and Wendy G. Peterson, Cary, NC, statement.... 126
Protecting Marriage, Inc., Wilmington, DE, Phyllis H. Witcher,
Semerad, James, Dads of Michigan, P.A.C., Southfield, MI, letter
and attachments................................................ 111
Smith, Carnell A., Citizens Against Paternity Fraud, Decatur, GA,
letter and attachments......................................... 105
Smith, John, Alliance for Non-Custodial Parents' Rights, Burbank,
CA, statement.................................................. 72
Society of Just Men, Columbia, SC, William Whitley Hodges, letter 129
Witcher, Phyllis H., Protecting Marriage, Inc., Wilmington, DE,
Wood, Bill, Children's Legal Foundation, Charlotte, NC, statement 94
CHILD SUPPORT AND FATHERHOOD PROPOSALS
THURSDAY, JUNE 28, 2001
House of Representatives,
Committee on Ways and Means,
Subcommittee on Human Resources,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:10 p.m., in
room 1100 Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Wally Herger
(Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
[The advisory announcing the hearing follows:]
ADVISORY FROM THE COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES
CONTACT: (202) 225-1025
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 21, 2001
Herger Announces Hearing on
Child Support and Fatherhood Proposals
Congressman Wally Herger (R-CA), Chairman, Subcommittee on Human
Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means, today announced that the
Subcommittee will hold a hearing on oversight of the child support
program. The hearing will take place on Thursday, June 28, 2001, in the
main Committee hearing room, 1100 Longworth House Office Building,
beginning at 2:00 p.m.
In view of the limited time available to hear witnesses, oral
testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only.
Witnesses will include Members of Congress, program experts, advocates,
and researchers. However, any individual or organization not scheduled
for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration
by the Committee and for inclusion in the printed record of the
The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program, created in 1975 and
authorized under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, is a State-
Federal partnership developed to collect child support payments from
parents who do not live with their children. It serves families that
are recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
program and non-recipient families.
The 1996 welfare reform made significant changes to the child
support system. It included provisions requiring States to: (1)
establish an integrated, automated child support system; (2) increase
the percentage of non-custodial parents (mostly fathers) identified;
(3) implement more techniques to obtain support collections from non-
custodial parents; (4) intercept or seize periodic or lump sum
payments; (5) withhold, suspend, or restrict drivers, professional, and
hunting and fishing licenses; (6) advise the Secretary of State about
debtor parents so passports could be revoked or restricted; and (7)
conduct data matches with financial institutions and seize resources of
In 2000, the program collected $18 billion in child support
payments for single parents and their children--up from $8.9 billion in
1993, a 100 percent increase. In 1999, paternity was established in
over 1.5 million cases (up from 676,000 in 1994), and nearly 1.2
million new child support orders were established.
Proposals to enhance the operation and efficiency of the public
child support enforcement program are often considered along with
efforts to improve the employability and earnings of non-custodial
parents, most often fathers. For example, in the current Congress,
Human Resources Subcommittee Members Reps. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) and Ben
Cardin (D-MD) have introduced H.R. 1471, the ``Child Support
Distribution Act of 2001.'' This legislation is one of a number of
proposals, including the President as part of his fiscal year 2002
budget proposal, seeking to enhance the role of noncustodial fathers in
For single-parent families, the financial and emotional
contributions of the noncustodial parent can make a tremendous
difference in the lives of children. Unfortunately, unmarried poor
fathers tend to have elevated rates of unemployment and incarceration
compared to other fathers. Legislative initiatives the Subcommittee
will hear about are designed to prevent the cycle of children being
reared in fatherless families by supporting projects that help fathers
meet their responsibilities as husbands, parents, and providers. The
proposals promote marriage among parents, help poor and low-income
fathers establish positive relationships with their children and the
children's mothers, promote responsible parenting, and increase family
income by strengthening the father's earning power.
In announcing the hearing, Chairman Herger stated: ``This hearing
will bring us up to date on the performance of the child support
enforcement program. We are particularly interested in how the reforms
made in the 1996 welfare law have affected the child support system and
in proposals to better serve parents, children, and noncustodial
parents. We also will learn more about current proposals to enhance the
role of fathers in their children's lives.''
FOCUS OF THE HEARING:
This hearing will focus on child support and fatherhood proposals.
DETAILS FOR SUBMISSION OF WRITTEN COMMENTS:
Any person or organization wishing to submit a written statement
for the printed record of the hearing should submit six (6) single-
spaced copies of their statement, along with an IBM compatible 3.5-inch
diskette in WordPerfect or MS Word format, with their name, address,
and hearing date noted on a label, by the close of business, Thursday,
July 12, 2001, to Allison Giles, Chief of Staff, Committee on Ways and
Means, U.S. House of Representatives, 1102 Longworth House Office
Building, Washington, D.C. 20515. If those filing written statements
wish to have their statements distributed to the press and interested
public at the hearing, they may deliver 200 additional copies for this
purpose to the Subcommittee on Human Resources office, room B-317
Rayburn House Office Building, by close of business the day before the
Each statement presented for printing to the Committee by a
witness, any written statement or exhibit submitted for the printed
record or any written comments in response to a request for written
comments must conform to the guidelines listed below. Any statement or
exhibit not in compliance with these guidelines will not be printed,
but will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the
1. All statements and any accompanying exhibits for printing must
be submitted on an IBM compatible 3.5-inch diskette WordPerfect or MS
Word format, typed in single space and may not exceed a total of 10
pages including attachments. Witnesses are advised that the Committee
will rely on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing
2. Copies of whole documents submitted as exhibit material will not
be accepted for printing. Instead, exhibit material should be
referenced and quoted or paraphrased. All exhibit material not meeting
these specifications will be maintained in the Committee files for
review and use by the Committee.
3. A witness appearing at a public hearing, or submitting a
statement for the record of a public hearing, or submitting written
comments in response to a published request for comments by the
Committee, must include on his statement or submission a list of all
clients, persons, or organizations on whose behalf the witness appears.
4. A supplemental sheet must accompany each statement listing the
name, company, address, telephone and fax numbers where the witness or
the designated representative may be reached. This supplemental sheet
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The above restrictions and limitations apply only to material being
submitted for printing. Statements and exhibits or supplementary
material submitted solely for distribution to the members, the press,
and the public during the course of a public hearing may be submitted
in other forms.
Note: All Committee advisories and news releases are available on
the World Wide Web at ``http://waysandmeans.house.gov/''.
The Committee seeks to make its facilities accessible to persons
with disabilities. If you are in need of special accommodations, please
call 202-225-1721 or 202-226-3411 TTD/TTY in advance of the event (four
business days notice is requested). Questions with regard to special
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materials in alternative formats) may be directed to the Committee as
Chairman Herger. Welcome to this afternoon's hearing on
child support and fatherhood proposals.
Our hearing today will provide oversight on the child
support program as well as allow us to explore further changes
such as those in legislation introduced by our colleagues,
Nancy Johnson and Ben Cardin.
Substantial reforms of the child support enforcement
program were enacted in the 1996 welfare reform law. For
example, we have seen the creation of a new hire database,
improved paternity establishment, use of financial institution
data matches, and revocation of driver's licenses and other
privileges for parents delinquent in paying child support.
This Subcommittee has and will continue to monitor the
effects of such changes. Here is what we know already. In 2000,
$17.9 billion in child support was collected, which is a 50-
percent increase since 1996. By using the passport denial
program, $7 million in lump-sum payments were collected in the
last year, and the number of paternities established in 2000
reached a record 1.6 million, an increase of 46 percent since
1996. Overall, the system seems to be operating more
efficiently with total collections per program dollars spent on
the rise as well.
Yet, with all that, we also know that in 1999, the program
collected child support payments for only 37 percent of its
caseload. So this leads to a number of questions: which of the
recent changes have been most effective, which need further
refinement, and what else can be done to improve child support
The options for further improvements include the second
topic of our hearing today, fatherhood proposals. Single-parent
families benefit in many ways from the contributions of a
noncustodial parent, most often a father. Unfortunately, many
fathers are poor, and as a group, unmarried poor fathers face
greater challenges than other dads such as elevated rates of
unemployment and incarceration. Some were themselves raised by
single moms, often without the benefit of a positive male role
The fatherhood initiatives we will hear about today are
designed to help break this cycle, to help fathers meet their
responsibilities as parents, providers, and hopefully husbands.
That should improve child support collection, but this effort
is about much more than just that.
For too long, government seemed to care only about the
provider side of this role, which is important to be sure. But
children need more than just financial support to grow into
healthy, productive members of society. Every child deserves a
father for all the roles a dad plays in a child's development--
parent, mentor, disciplinarian, coach, and friend.
In addition to helping fathers and children improve their
emotional and financial connections, fatherhood programs also
can help both fathers and mothers better understand the
positive aspects of marriage.
For example, a recent study indicates that teenagers living
with their married biological parents have lower levels of
emotional and behavioral problems, higher levels of school
involvement, and fewer school suspensions or expulsions than
teens living in step-families, with single mothers, or in
I am encouraged that many fatherhood programs let young
people know about the benefits of marriage, especially for
their children. The House is on record supporting such efforts,
and the President has proposed additional funding. So support
seems to be growing, at least in part, because, as we will
hear, the need for fatherhood programs is great.
To discuss these topics and more, we have a distinguished
group of witnesses with us today. We will start by hearing from
Members of Congress about proposals they have introduced. Then
we will hear from the States, advocates and researchers, about
what is working and what more should be done.
Finally, I note that Ron Haskins is joining us as a witness
today for the first time since his departure as this
Subcommittee's staff director last year. We welcome him back
and thank him for his many years of service to this Committee
and the Congress.
Without objection, each member will have the opportunity to
submit a written statement and have it included in the record,
and at this point, Mr. Cardin, would you like to make an
[The opening statement of Chairman Herger follows:]
Opening Statement of the Hon. Wally Herger, a Representative in
Congress from the State of California, and Chairman, Subcommittee on
Welcome to this afternoon's hearing on child support and fatherhood
Our hearing today will provide oversight on the child support
program, as well as allow us to explore further changes, such as those
in legislation introduced by our colleagues Nancy Johnson and Ben
Substantial reforms of the child support enforcement program were
enacted in the 1996 welfare reform law. For example, we have seen the
creation of a new hire data base, improved paternity establishment, use
of financial institution data matches, and revocation of drivers'
licenses and other privileges for parents delinquent in paying child
This Subcommittee has and will continue to monitor the effects of
such changes. Here's what we know already. In 2000, $17.9 billion in
child support was collected, which is a 50 percent increase since 1996.
By using the passport denial program, $7 million in lump sum payments
were collected in the last year, and the number of paternities
established in 2000 reached a record of 1.6 million--an increase of 46
percent since 1996. Overall, the system seems to be operating more
efficiently, with total collections per program dollar spent on the
rise as well.
Yet with all that, we also know that in 1999 the program collected
payments for only 37 percent of its caseload. So this leads to a number
Which of the recent changes have been most effective?
Which need further refinement? and
What else can be done to improve child support
The options for further improvements include the second topic of
our hearing today--fatherhood proposals.
Single-parent families benefit in many ways from the contributions
of a noncustodial parent, most often a father. Unfortunately, many
fathers are poor, and as a group unmarried poor fathers face greater
challenges than other dads, such as elevated rates of unemployment and
incarceration. Some were themselves raised by single moms, often
without the benefit of a positive male role model.
The fatherhood initiatives we will hear about today are designed to
help break this cycle--to help fathers meet their responsibilities as
parents and providers, and hopefully husbands. That should improve
child support collection, but this effort is about much more than just
For too long, government seemed to care only about the provider
side of this role, which is important to be sure. But children need
more than just financial support to grow into healthy, productive
members of society. Every child deserves a father, and all the roles a
dad plays in a child's development--parent, mentor, disciplinarian,
coach, and friend.
In addition to helping fathers and children improve their emotional
and financial connections, fatherhood programs also can help both
fathers and mothers better understand the positive aspects of marriage.
For example, a recent study indicates that teenagers living with their
married, biological parents have lower levels of emotional and
behavioral problems, higher levels of school involvement, and fewer
school suspensions or expulsions than teens living in stepfamilies,
with single mothers, or in cohabiting families.
I am encouraged that many fatherhood programs let young people know
about the benefits of marriage, especially for their children.
The House is on record supporting such efforts, and the President
has proposed additional funding. So support seems to be growing, at
least in part because, as we will hear, the need is for fatherhood
programs is great.
To discuss these topics and more we have a distinguished group of
witnesses with us today. We will start by hearing from Members of
Congress about proposals they have introduced. Then we will hear from
the States, advocates, and researchers about what is working, and what
more should be done.
Finally, I note that Ron Haskins is joining us as a witness today
for the first time since his departure as this Subcommittee's Staff
Director last year. We welcome him back, and thank him for his many
years of service to this Committee and the Congress.
Mr. Cardin. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am glad you pointed
out that Ron Haskins is here so I have the opportunity to
cross-examine him when he gets up here. I have been looking
forward to that for a couple of years.
Mr. Chairman, let me thank you for holding this hearing. We
need to look at our child support collections system, and we
need to reform it. We can work in a very bipartisan way in
order to try to improve the quality of life for families to
depend upon the collection of child support.
I particularly want to acknowledge our colleagues that are
here. Mrs. Johnson, the distinguished Chair of this Committee
in the last Congress, forged a very strong coalition among
Democrats and Republicans to reform our child support system.
It wasn't her first actions last year, and when we were able to
pass a bill very similar to the one that we are considering
today by a vote of 405 to 18 on the floor of the House, but for
over the years that she has been working on the child support
It was my pleasure last year to join her in that
legislation, and again this year to join her in the legislation
that reforms our child support system so that more money, in
fact, can go to the families and that we can make it simpler
for our local governments to administer our child support
I also want to acknowledge Mike Castle, who has come up
with a very important tool to help families collect child
support, and I applaud Mike's actions on this issue.
Chris Cox has come up with a proposal to help use our Tax
Code in a more effective way to help families collect child
support. So I appreciate all three of our colleagues being here
today to assist us as we develop legislation to reform our
child support collections system.
Mr. Chairman, child support should go to the children. I
guess that is why we call it ``child support,'' but, today, the
arrearages in many cases go to government, not to the families.
Our laws require that the governments be paid back first. If a
State wants to pass through more child support to the families,
the Federal laws penalize those States by requiring the State
to pay the Federal share which can be anywhere between one-half
to three-quarters of the total amount that is passed through to
We just recently had a debate on the floor of this Congress
about what marginal tax rates should be, and I heard many of my
colleagues talk about in-the-thirties percent being too high of
a marginal tax rate. Well, we have 100-percent tax rate on
child support collections today, 100-percent rate for the
poorest people in our country, and that makes absolutely no
sense at all.
That is why we need to enact legislation that Mrs. Johnson
and I have been working on that would allow States to pass
through child support to the families first. Many of these
families are not on welfare today. To encourage work, we should
be doing this, without having to pay the Federal share as long
as the State disregards the money for the purposes of
I think that makes a lot of sense. I think we need to move
forward on that legislation. Let me just give you a few reasons
more. First, it will provide resources to families that need
it. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated this will be
about $6.3 billion over the next 10 years going to these
families. That is a significant amount of resources going to
Second, it is incentive for the noncustodial parent to pay
child support. If it goes to the families, it is much more
likely that the noncustodial parent will, in fact, pay child
Third, it helps the family unit to work together. The
noncustodial parent feels that he is part or she is part of the
family, which is not the case today in many cases.
Last, as I mentioned earlier, it certainly simplifies the
administration of the child support systems in this country.
So, for all of these reasons, I hope that this Committee
and this House will do what we did last year and pass this
legislation and hopefully convince the other body to do the
Last, let me point out that the fatherhood provisions that
were worked on and passed at least twice by the House in the
last Congress were carefully worked on by Mrs. Johnson and I
and a group of people in a very bipartisan way, which sets up a
way that we can really work to help the noncustodial parent, by
developing some national models and some local efforts to
improve efforts to help the noncustodial parent be part of the
family and a constructive provider of support.
So I would hope that the Committee would look kindly on
this legislation, and I do look forward to hearing from all the
[The opening statement of Mr. Cardin follows:]
Opening Statement of the Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Representative in
Congress from the State of Maryland
Mr. Chairman, I commend you for holding this hearing to evaluate
proposals on improving our Nation's child support enforcement system
and on promoting responsible fatherhood. I hope today's hearing
represents the first step towards this panel passing long overdue
reforms to the child support system.
I am very pleased that we are joined today by a panel of our
colleagues who have considerable experience in these issues. Nancy
Johnson has been a pioneer in improving our child support system, and I
was very pleased to join her earlier this year in reintroducing the
Child Support Distribution Act, HR 1471. An almost identical version of
this bill passed the House last year by a vote of 405 to 18.
We are also joined by Mike Castle, who has championed an expansion
of an existing child support collection tool (a proposal that is
included in the larger Johnson bill), and by Chris Cox, who has
proposed a change in the tax code to encourage the payment of past-due
Mr. Chairman, if you took a poll that asked whether child support
payments should go to the children for whom it was paid, I am sure the
vast majority of Americans would say--Yes, of course those payments
should be used to support children. That's why we call it child
Unfortunately, our child support laws provide a very different
response to that question. Current law actually penalizes States that
send child support collections to families struggling to leave welfare,
and in some cases, to families that have already left public
For example, if a State sends a child support collection to family
on welfare, it still owes the Federal government between half and
three-quarters of that same child support payment. This has discouraged
States from passing through child support--and encouraged them to adopt
an effective 100% tax rate on child support payments to certain
The Johnson-Cardin Child Support Distribution Act, HR 1471, would
end this disincentive for States to send child support to families.
This bipartisan measure would provide States with various options to
send child support to low-income families--with the Federal government
acting as a financial partner, rather than a financial barrier. For
example, States would be permitted to pass-through up to $400 a month
to families receiving cash welfare, as long as the amount is
disregarded for welfare payment purposes. In addition, States could
send all support to families that have left cash welfare.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates these reforms would send
an additional $6.3 billion in child support to low-income families over
the next ten years compared to current law.
There are three primary benefits to passing through more child
support to current and former welfare families. First and most
obviously, the policy will result in more resources to provide food,
clothes and shelter for some of our Nation's poorest children.
Second, passing through child support will encourage non-custodial
parents to pay support because they will know their payments are going
to benefit their families, rather than going to State and Federal
treasuries. Perhaps just as importantly, this enhanced sense of
financial responsibility may actually foster closer emotional ties
between absent parents and their children.
And third, this change will greatly simplify the administration of
the child support system, which will free up caseworkers to ensure the
payment of child support, instead of spending precious time on
complying with complicated and time-consuming Federal regulations.
In addition to the child support reforms,
HR 1471 includes $155 million for competitive grants designed to
promote responsible fatherhood. This section of the bill, which
includes a fully-funded evaluation, will give us some much needed data
on how we can improve certain parents prospects for employment,
marriage and an improved relationship with their children.
I hope this subcommittee will pass legislation including these
vitally important child support and fatherhood provisions as soon as
humanly possible. The Child Support Distribution Act has the
overwhelming support of both Republicans and Democrats and of groups
representing both mothers and fathers. We should act on this consensus
and pass legislation that will have an immediate and meaningful impact
on millions of children. Every day we wait, is one more day that a
parent's support will not reach their child.
Chairman Herger. Thank you, Mr. Cardin.
Before we move on to our testimony this afternoon, I want
to remind the witnesses to limit their oral statements to 5
minutes. However, without objection, all of the written
testimony will be made a part of the permanent record.
For the first panel today, we are honored to have several
of our House colleagues. I would like to welcome the Honorable
Nancy Johnson of Connecticut, a Member of this Subcommittee,
the Honorable Christopher Cox from my home State of California,
and the Honorable Mike Castle of Delaware. Again, I welcome
each of you here.
With that, we will begin with your testimony, Mrs. Johnson.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. NANCY L. JOHNSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
Mrs. Johnson of Connecticut. Thank you very much, Mr.
As you and Mr. Cardin both know, I am intensely interested
in the work you are doing and commend you on moving forward on
the important issues that face our children and families in
Let me be brief because I know you both know a good deal
about the bill that I am going to talk about and, in larger
measure, the subjects I am going to talk about.
First of all, I am pleased that Mr. Cardin and I did pass
legislation in the last session that had overwhelming support
and was a real advance in the concept of the child support law.
We did pass very tough enforcement a few years ago, and we are
collecting a lot more child support than we ever have, but it
is not going directly to the woman. It is not going directly to
the mother of the child. It is not going directly into the
family's resources. So, as we move forward with welfare reform,
we need to have this money flow to the mother of the child in
order to create the bond between the mother of the child and
the father of the child that will allow the development of the
human relations, the emotional ties that are essential to the
well-being of that child.
So our bill does say that when they leave welfare, the
money goes directly to them, but, more importantly--and it was
more controversial--it says that the money can flow to the
mother while she is still on welfare. This is extremely
When that young man is making child support payments, he
needs to feel he is contributing to his family, and the mother
of the child needs to feel that contribution. Unless it comes
directly--and with today's technology, we can easily account
for that in our system. Instead of having it flow to the State
and from the State to the mother, which it does now, it must
flow directly because then the mother gets it; that the father
is there and is a part of this child's life and a part of the
economic security of this child. It is one of the most
compelling facts in the whole hemisphere of facts associated
with all of these issues is the fact that when a child is born
out of wedlock, 80 percent of the women and men believe the
relationship that produced the child was a serious and
important one and, furthermore, was going to last into the
future. In 2 years, the fathers are gone. So we need to look
seriously at our responsibility to make sure the fathers are
not gone, and part of that is to enforce the child support
laws, but to make sure that the flow of those dollars into the
family give that male standing in that family as the father of
If you combine the child support changes that we are
proposing in our legislation with the fatherhood provisions--
and these, at this point, only apply to the fathers of children
on welfare or who have been on welfare within the last year--
the goal is to give the men the same support we are giving the
women, so that not only can they grow economically in parallel,
but so that they can grow emotionally in parallel.
One of the reasons the men are gone in 2 years is because
during that time, the woman has had job service, some career
counseling. She has gone through a process which helps her see
what her capabilities are. She often has started her first job,
and she has begun to see herself as a mother and as an earner
and as a competent adult.
Meanwhile, her male friend down here is still on the
streets, unemployed, or with a very low level or very sporadic
pattern of employment. So, if he has the same experiences, if
he is helped into the same legitimate structure of work and
reward, then they experience the same things. They both grow in
their understanding of their own power as economic providers,
and they have the chance to both participate in the kind of
parenting programs and money management programs that we know
will fill gaps in their educational experience, so that they
can be competent adults.
I just want to point to one thing that Ben Cardin did
mention because it is absolutely critical. We took a lot of
flack on this last year from some groups, but if we do not do
something to help these young men with the problem of
arrearages, then we will not get them into the work force that
pays Social Security and on retirement is eligible for benefits
Right now, because we cannot deal with the problem of
arrearages, because they have all that debt, they stay out of
the legal employment system. They do not contribute to Social
Security. They will not be eligible for Medicare, and,
furthermore, there is a limit to how much they can earn and
help with their family. So that is one of the reasons they are
We have to help them earn off those arrearages, and we can
give them, for instance, credit for in-kind services and things
We did not define what you ought to do because we need to
see what States think up that they want to do, but we have got
to face squarely the underground economy we force these young
men into, not just for a year or two, but for the rest of their
So I thank you for your consideration of the child support
issues and of the fatherhood issues, and I look forward to
working with you and thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mrs. Johnson follows:]
Statement of the Hon. Nancy L. Johnson, a Representative in Congress
from the State of Connecticut
Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, thank you for holding
this hearing today and for your tireless efforts on behalf of our
nation's families. I would also like to thank the Ranking Member, Mr.
Cardin, for his hard work and insight in this area.
The 1996 welfare reform law has been one of the greatest social
policy successes of the last half century. Due in great measure to this
law and excellent reforms in the earned income credit, Medicaid child
care, and other programs that support working families, work by single
mothers, and especially never-married single mothers, has increased in
the last 5 years to its highest level ever.
As a result, according to a broad Census Bureau measure of poverty,
we have reduced child poverty by nearly 30 percent in the last 5 years.
This is a historic achievement made possible by legislation that
originated in this body.
Welfare reform has put us on the right track. But many of these
single mothers and their children are struggling on extremely low
incomes. Those who used to be on welfare are now in the workforce, but
all too often their day-to-day personal struggle is nothing short of
heroic. They work hard to juggle transportation, child care, work, and
family time. It is a big job and millions of women are tackling it with
determination and grit.
This is why I, along with my good friend Mr. Cardin, have
reintroduced the Child Support Distribution Act. I am proud to say this
legislation passed the House of Representatives last September by an
overwhelming vote of 405-18. This legislation is designed to ensure
that these mothers who have left welfare get all the help they deserve.
Under this bill they will get to keep more of the child support money
the fathers of their children are paying.
It is time to modernize the child support system's connection with
welfare and require that a woman gets 100 percent of the father's child
support payment as she leaves welfare. That is exactly what this bill
When fully implemented, this legislation will provide young mothers
leaving welfare with an additional $700 million per year. That is $3.5
billion over 5 years. And every penny of it comes from child support
payments made by fathers.
In addition, this bill allows states to pass along child support
through to the family while the family is still on welfare. This will
encourage the development of the bond between the noncustodial and
custodial parent, help them develop an understanding of their economic
ties, and better prepare families for the transfer off of welfare.
Remember, if they understand the economic ties that bind, they are
going to be better positioned to develop the emotional ties on which a
secure life for the child depends.
Of course, the best solution for these single mothers and their
children would be to form two-parent families through marriage. We now
have overwhelming evidence from research that marriage is good for
health and happiness of both mothers and fathers, but the greatest
beneficiaries of marriage are the children.
Thus, as part of this very balanced legislation, we propose to fund
small-scale community and faith-based projects throughout the Nation to
promote marriage and/or better parenting by low-income fathers whose
children are on welfare and to help them improve their economic
I know that many in this body doubt that government should be
involved in promoting marriage, so I urge them to consider how our
proposal would work. We want to provide seed money to help faith-based
and other community organizations tackle this vital job. Seventy-five
percent of the funds must support nongovernmental organizations. So we
are not creating a new government program and bureaucracy. Government
is simply a mechanism to help private organizations perform this
Let me also mention the legitimate concern of some that women could
be pressured into violent relationships. In this bill we have added
many provisions to assure that domestic violence and child abuse are
prevented and that referrals are made to local services to help
families in which violence is occurring.
But we must in good conscience build on the important fact
discovered through welfare reform. Because of its paternity
determination requirements, we now know that 80 percent of the adults
having out-of-wedlock children are serious about their relationship and
believe it will be lasting.
Yet, after 2 years, most fathers are out of the picture. This bill
will help many poor young men and women, more than half of whom live
together when the child is born, and as I said, 80 percent of whom say
they hope to form a lasting relationship, to fulfill that dream through
education and support.
Young people with low incomes often live in dangerous communities,
lack economic security, and have few role models to help them form
stable, lasting marriages. These young couples face long odds. This
bill will help them work toward marriage, work toward becoming better
parents, and work toward economic advancement.
We will now provide the same help in getting a job to the fathers
of children on welfare as we do to mothers on welfare. In other areas
we will provide some of the education that has so helped women to their
male partners. It is just common sense.
This bill will move us a dramatic step forward in helping our
poorest young people help themselves by making sure that child support
money stays in the family. This will help young mothers to avoid or get
off welfare, and bring young fathers and their children closer
The fatherhood provisions of this bill promote more responsible
behavior by fathers, including marriage, better parenting, and work.
Through the fatherhood demonstration grants and the child support
distribution reforms, we will bring our Nation a giant step forward on
the path to building strong families and helping our poorest young
people realize their dreams.
Again, I thank my colleagues on the committee for their support and
hard work on this issue and I look forward to continuing our efforts to
build stronger families.
Chairman Herger. Thank you, Mrs. Johnson, again, for all
the work that you have put into this and your leadership.
Now we will hear from Mr. Cox for testimony.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. CHRISTOPHER COX, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. Cox. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Cardin, and
Chairwoman Johnson as well for all of your leadership on these
I am trying to speak loudly enough so I do not need a
microphone, but I think it would be helpful for the record if I
I wanted to thank the Chairman, Mr. Cardin, and Chairwoman
Johnson for all of your leadership on these issues this year
and in years prior.
I am here to speak about the Child Support Enforcement Act.
As we are considering ways to improve the well-being of kids
who are often short-changed because fathers are absent and
because child support payments are not made, we have to come
face to face with some statistics. A staggering 93 percent of
child support is in arrears. It is the norm for child support
not to be paid or not to be paid on time, and oftentimes, as
with other receivables, the older the obligation gets, the
longer it is not paid, the more likely it is it will never be
paid at all. Mountains of past-due child support will simply
never be paid at all.
What then happens to the custodial parent, often the
mother, sometimes the father? What happens to the kids when a
family court says you are entitled to a substantial amount or
at least an adequate amount to pay for clothes, for medical
care, for food for these children, for their education in some
cases, when they get nothing, when they get absolutely nothing?
Some years ago, Senator Dale Bumpers had an idea, and I
found it to be an especially attractive idea and adopted it
myself and it is the basis for this legislation. It is that in
the same way that the Tax Code gives a measure of relief to
someone who is owed a debt, but finds that it goes bad, we
could give tax relief to custodial parents and to those kids of
the child support is owed them, but is not paid. They could, in
essence, get a bad-debt deduction.
At the same time, the Tax Code, in a mirror-image
provision, provides for the recognition of income for the
cancelation of indebtedness. So, in this case, the parent owes
child support, but does not pay it, who is in the position of
essentially canceling his or her own debt, would recognize
cancelation of indebtedness income.
Because of the mirror-image tax treatment, there is no
negative revenue effect. Moreover, because statistically the
custodial parents are in lower tax brackets on average, there
is a modest positive revenue effect from this legislation.
There are questions that one can anticipate with a proposal
such as this. They have, in fact, been raised by the Internal
Revenue Service (IRS) and by staff of this Committee in past
years. I have been working on this for a number of years now,
and, in particular, the hearing that Chairwoman Johnson
conducted last year was an opportunity to remedy some of these
Specifically, in the bill that is now before you, both the
recognition of income and the bad debt deduction take place in
exactly the same 12-month accounting period, and so there is no
problem of a mismatch of revenue and expense from the
standpoint of the Treasury.
Second, there are no obligations imposed upon the IRS in
connection with this legislation. It is self-reporting, using
Form 1099C, a form that already exists for the cancelation of
indebtedness. It is, therefore, a simple administrative
proposal, but it might well be a powerful relief for parents
who do not have the child support that family court judges tell
them they ought to have.
The problems that we are talking about here today are
serious ones indeed. I wish they did not affect so many people
in our country, but they do, and I think that anything we can
do to help, we ought to do. This is certainly something that is
within our power to do, and I urge your consideration and
appreciate very much the interest that you have shown already
and in the past.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Cox follows:]
Statement of the Hon. Christopher Cox, a Representative in Congress
from the State of California
Thank you, Chairman Herger and Mr. Cardin, for holding this hearing
today, and for graciously giving me the opportunity to testify on the
merits of the Child Support Enforcement Act.
Today, we are here to consider what else may be done to improve the
well-being of kids who are shortchanged when child support isn't paid.
A staggering 93 percent of child support is in arrears. We have to give
delinquent parents a strong financial incentive to pay, and we have to
give relief to the custodial parents who aren't getting the help they
need to raise their kids.
The Custodial Parent Should Get A `Bad Debt' Deduction for Unpaid Child
Under current law, custodial parents receive no tax relief when the
other parent fails to meet his or her legal and moral obligations to
pay child support in full and on time.
Our current tax code permits individual tax filers to take a ``bad
debt'' deduction when they are unable to collect a valid monetary
obligation. But it does not allow a parent who has been unable to
collect legally obligated child support payments to take the same ``bad
The Child Support Enforcement Act will give tax relief to custodial
parents by extending the tax code's existing treatment of unpaid debts
to expressly include child support payments. Again, this is the same
tax treatment already afforded to other bad debts under Section 166 in
the Code. It is completely reasonable and logical that we extend the
same tax treatment afforded for unpaid rent, for example, to our most
precious resource, our children.
The Delinquent Debtor Should Recognize `Forgiveness of Indebtedness'
Income for Unpaid Child Support
Under our current tax code, a parent who has unilaterally failed to
fulfill his or her child support obligation is not required to include
the defaulted amounts in income to reflect the windfall gain from
nonpayment of the debt.
The ``forgiveness of indebtedness'' provisions of our current tax
law require a debtor who receives an economic gain from not paying a
debt to count the unpaid amount as taxable income. But it does not
provide the same tax treatment if the unpaid debt is child support. A
delinquent debtor who enriches himself by failing to make child support
payments is not taxed on the money that he has wrongfully appropriated
The Child Support Enforcement Act will require a delinquent parent
who has failed to pay child support to be taxed on that amount, just as
a debtor would be taxed under Section 108 of the Code. Since the parent
who fails to pay child support is simply ``forgiving'' his own debt, he
should receive the same tax treatment already applied to any other
``forgiven'' debt that the borrower doesn't pay.
Even though the Child Support Enforcement Act extends current tax
law concerning bad debts to include child support, it in no way
provides forgiveness of liability. The parent who owes child support
continues to bear the full legal obligation to pay it. The Act simply
provides a tax benefit for the custodial parent, and an additional
financial incentive for swift payment of child support obligations by
the delinquent parent.
Revisions to the Bill
A few revisions have been made to the Child Support Enforcement Act
to address technical issues raised by the Committee following last
First, the Child Support Enforcement Act does not require an
amended return to the Internal Revenue Service if past-due child
support is subsequently paid.
Second, there is an exceptionally simple reporting process that
does not burden or even involve the IRS. Both the bad debt deduction
for the custodial parent, and the recognition of income from
forgiveness of indebtedness for the delinquent parent, would occur in
the same taxable year. The custodial parent who is planning to take the
bad debt deduction would file a form that already exists, the 1099-C
``Cancellation of Debt'' form, with the IRS. A copy would be sent to
the delinquent debtor.
Third, there is no additional power granted to the IRS. In my view,
that is not necessary. In fact, IRS involvement through the Child
Support Enforcement Act would be far less than current IRS involvement
with the 18-year-old Federal Refund Tax Offset Program because the IRS
is not required to distribute past-due child support to custodial
parents. Taxpayers will simply report child support bad debt and claim
the deduction on their returns (or take it into income), as they
currently do for any other unpaid debt.
Because both the income from cancellation of indebtedness and the
deduction for bad debt are mirror images, there is no negative revenue
effect. Moreover, because statistically parents who owe child support
are in higher tax brackets than the custodial parents, the Act produces
a modest revenue gain.
The Child Support Enforcement Act complements state-level
enforcement mechanisms currently in place, by creating tax equity where
none exists. It also encourages the continued reporting and development
of databases to better track child support obligations.
We should not allow delinquent parents to avoid their legal
obligations--and we should not punish the custodial parents who are
forced to make ends meet without the assistance of child support
The Child Support Enforcement Act will help redress these
injustices. I commend the Chairman, Ranking Member, and the Members of
this Committee for their interest and support, and I look forward to
working with you to produce legislation that can be signed into law
Chairman Herger. Thank you very much, Mr. Cox, for your
testimony and appearing before our Committee. Now we are
delighted to hear from Mr. Castle of Delaware. Mr. Castle.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. MICHAEL N. CASTLE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF DELAWARE
Mr. Castle. Thank you, Chairman Herger and Ranking Member
Cardin, Mr. Watkins, and Mr. Camp.
I am also pleased to be here, and I want to thank you for
giving me as well as others who are going to be testifying
today the opportunity to testify on the extremely important
subject of the child support enforcement in this country.
It is a fundamental principle that parents who bring a
child into this world are both responsible for providing that
child's physical needs, regardless of any conflicts in their
relationship. It is rewarding for me to join you here today to
discuss how we can improve the laws of this country to enforce
I want to take a few minutes to discuss the Child Support
Fairness and Federal Tax Refund Interception Act of 2001.
Recently, I introduced this bill to remove a legal barrier that
is preventing the Federal Tax Refund Offset program for more
effectively ensuring that child support is paid to all those
entitled to it.
As you know, under current law, the Federal tax refunds to
parents who owe back child support can be intercepted and used
to reduce that debt. After garnishing wages, this program is
the most effective means of recovering back child support that
accounts for approximately one-quarter of all back child
However, unlike garnishing wages and many other child
support enforcement tools, eligibility for this program is
restricted by the age of the child. Eligibility for the program
is limited to cases where the child is still a minor, the
parent is receiving public assistance, or the child is a
disabled adult. This fails to protect non-disabled college-aged
children and their custodial parents even if the child support
deficit accrued while the child was a minor. The unintended
effect of the program is that it rewards noncustodial parents
who are successful in avoiding their child support obligations
while their children are still minors, and, believe me, many do
that. The age limit removes the threat of one of the most
effective child support enforcement tools, the Tax Refund
Intercept. That is what my legislation would correct.
I think we should just ask ourselves whether there is any
good reason why we should allow delinquent parents to collect
Federal tax refunds to use for their enjoyment while custodial
parents struggle to recover from years of raising their
children alone on one income.
I hope Congress will alleviate the tremendous burden on
single parents who have to work even harder to provide for
their children. Artificial barriers such as the age limit on
the Federal Tax Refund Offset program should be torn down. A
non-custodial parent should not be able to escape their child
support responsibilities by playing a waiting game until their
child is 18. The Federal Tax Refund Off-
set program is responsible for retrieving approximately a
quarter of all back child support collections, and the time has
come to make it a greater success by helping all children and
custodial parents by removing the age limits.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation. I thank
you, Chairman Herger.
I have actually approached the Chairman of the Ways and
Means Committee on this. I believe this is excellent
legislation. I introduced it last year. We were unable to get
it through, but I think it is so good that if we put it on the
suspension calendar for the Tuesday that we come back and you
are able to get this done, I can see your colleagues raising
you on their shoulders and carrying you out of the chambers.
That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but, nonetheless, I think
it is good legislation, and I hope it would help a lot of
people. Hopefully, we can move forward with it.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Castle follows:]
Statement of the Hon. Michael N. Castle, a Representative in Congress
from the State of Delaware
Chairman Herger, Ranking Member Cardin, Members of the
Subcommittee, I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to
testify on the important subject of child support enforcement.
It is a fundamental principle that parents who bring a child into
this world are both responsible for providing for that child's physical
needs, regardless of any conflicts in their relationship. It is
rewarding for me to join you here today to discuss how we can improve
the laws of this country to enforce that principle.
I want to take a few moments to discuss the ``Child Support
Fairness and Federal Tax Refund Interception Act of 2001.'' Recently, I
introduced this bill to remove a legal barrier that is preventing the
Federal Tax Refund Offset program from more effectively ensuring that
child support is paid to all those entitled to it.
As you know, under current law, the Federal tax refunds of parents
who owe back child support can be intercepted and used to reduce that
debt. After garnishing wages, this program is the most effective means
of recovering back child support. It accounts for approximately one-
quarter of all back child support collections.
However, unlike garnishing wages and many other child support
enforcement tools, eligibility for this program is restricted by the
age of the child. Eligibility for the program is limited to cases where
the child is still a minor, the parent is receiving public assistance
or the child is a disabled adult. This fails to protect non-disabled,
college-age children and their custodial parents, even if the child
support deficit accrued while the child was a minor. The unintended
effect of the program is that it rewards non-custodial parents who are
successful in avoiding their child support obligations while their
children are minors. The age limit removes the threat of one of the
most effective child support enforcement tools--the Tax Refund
I think we should just ask ourselves whether there is any good
reason why we should allow delinquent parents to collect Federal tax
refunds to use for their enjoyment, while custodial parents struggle to
recover from years of raising their children alone on one income.
I hope Congress will alleviate the tremendous burden on single
parents who have to work even harder to provide for their children.
Artificial barriers such as the age limit on the Federal Tax Refund
Offset program, should be torn down. A non-custodial parent should not
be able to escape their child support responsibilities by playing a
waiting game until their child is eighteen. The Federal Tax Refund
Offset program is responsible for retrieving approximately one-quarter
of all back child support collections. The time has come to make it a
greater success by helping all children who deserve support. I urge my
colleagues to support this legislation.
Thank you, Chairman Herger, for your commitment to this important
issue. I look forward to working with you to move this bill to the full
house in the near future.
Chairman Herger. Thank you very much, Mr. Castle. Mr.
Watkins to inquire.
Mr. Watkins. Let me say to the panel that I have the
greatest and deepest respect for all three of you in the
different directions you are coming from, but maybe I am raised
in the old school of the situation where no one is talking
about young men accepting some responsibility.
If we do not tell them they have got a responsibility to
fulfill their obligations, if people just feel like there is--
80 percent of them feel like they were in some kind of serious
relationship, what do we--if it is a court order they are
supposed to be fulfilling in their child support payments, what
is the responsibility they have from that court order? Is it
anything at all that they----
Mrs. Johnson of Connecticut. A lot of these----
Mr. Watkins. What is their penalty if they do not abide by
it? Is there any penalty for them not abiding by the court
order saying you make the payments to that young lady? I think
there should be a responsibility on that young man to make
those payments. If not, he maybe should go to jail.
Now, I think somewhere there has got to be a
responsibility. I do not know--I know the gentlelady from
Connecticut, she knows I had a little bit of difficulty with it
last year, but where are we missing that situation?
I know my friend from Delaware, you have been the leader of
a State and you have probably seen it from several different
angles than my colleague from California, but I think we need
to put some teeth into saying you abide by that court order,
male or female.
Mr. Cox. Mr. Chairman, if I might.
I think you make an excellent point, and in the Child
Support Enforcement Act, which I have just described, if the
person who owes child support fails to pay it, then he or she
is required to take the amount that he or she was supposed to
pay into income, and if that person was, let us say, in the 30-
percent income tax bracket, that means that there is a 30-
percent penalty that is owed for not paying child support for a
full year. That is exactly the kind of thing you are talking
about, I believe.
Mr. Watkins. That is at least a step in the direction of
saying you have a responsibility because I think too many
times, we have said to people you can go out and have a fling
and all these kind of things, and they think that is serious--
not out one night, but it is not. They waltz away without
paying anything, and I think they need to try to be
responsible. I think we need to at least step there first and
say what do we put the teeth of responsibility in if you----
Mrs. Johnson of Connecticut. If I may comment. I agree with
you absolutely. In the end, this is about personal
responsibility. Do not bring children into the world unless you
are going to be responsible for them, but remember we have had
out there for many, many years before 1994 when we reformed
welfare a system that said it is all right to have kids out of
wedlock, do not worry, the government will support you. So we
have a system out there now since welfare reform that says to
the young mother, ``Hey, wait a
minute. Let's look at what job you are capable of,'' and so on
and so forth.
But we do not set the father down, even though we require a
paternity determination. We do not set the father down and say,
``OK, you have just had the baby. This is what you are going to
owe. This is how it is going to accumulate if you do not do it.
This is how you manage money. Let us help you get into the work
force.'' We do not give them any of the support services, and
they are mostly unemployed or have a very poor work history. We
do not give them the job placement support services. We do not
give them the career counseling, the budget management, the
parenting courses to help them bond into this situation that
they have helped create that is so important to this child. So
I want to help them take their responsibility.
Now, this arrearages issue should not be an issue if we
help people take their responsibility from the beginning. The
arrearage issue really comes from the fact that for years, we
did not. So now you have a lot of gentlemen who would like to
be active parents of their children who have this history of
debt that they often were not even aware they were building up.
They thought the mother was on welfare. She was on welfare.
They did not understand that they were liable for all that.
So I am not saying forgive arrearages. I want our States to
begin thinking about as people get into the work force and we
help them--some of these guys have $40,000 debt, $30,000 debt.
They are never going to make more than $8 an hour. You cannot
repay that debt. Do you want them to be paying Social Security
and get into Medicare?
Mr. Watkins. A lot of college students have a lot bigger
debt than that. Nancy, there is a lot of college students that
have a lot more debt than that, and they have the
Mrs. Johnson of Connecticut. At least they have a college
Mr. Watkins. But I am willing to work with you on it very
closely to see if we have got those areas of responsibility
worked out because I know that there are differences. We are
dealing with a variable here of human beings, but I think
somewhere, we have got to have that step of responsibility.
Mrs. Johnson of Connecticut. I think your point is very
Mr. Watkins. And I think these others can come in place,
also, but I think we have got to make sure they understand
that, just like working and raising children.
Mrs. Johnson of Connecticut. And we did in our bill really
only provide a preference for demonstration projects that
attacks this problem because we know so little about how to
solve it, for just the reasons you point to. Thanks.
Chairman Herger. The gentleman's time has expired. Mr.
Cardin to inquire.
Mr. Cardin. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Let me associate myself with the response by Mrs. Johnson.
It is clear we could do a better job in child support
collection. I think we all agree on that, and we do not want to
condone any parent not paying their obligations, but what I
think we should acknowl-
edge are some of the positive steps that Congresses have taken,
the last past Congresses have taken, to make it easier.
We have the suspension of our licenses that is now a
requirement. We have the trade licenses. We have the wage lien
laws. Last time I checked my State of Maryland, people are
going to jail for not paying child support. We have criminal
laws and civil contempts on this around the Nation.
So the point about whether we should be more stringent in
the use of those penalties really rests with our States, and I
agree with Mrs. Johnson. Sometimes you need to look at the
practical circumstances in which a family is in, and that is
why I really applaud the legislation that is before this
Committee because I think it is well balanced.
We are trying to get the noncustodial parent engaged in the
emotional part of the family, which we think will encourage a
family unit and the payment of child support obligations, and
that is part of our bill.
We also believe that on the arrearages that the money can
go to the family. It is much more likely that the payments will
Right now, why wouldn't you look for a way of escaping your
obligations if the money is going to the government? If it is
going to your child, it is much more likely you are going to be
more interested in making the payments real. So I think the
bill is very well balanced.
Mr. Castle, I just might point out that I am not sure we
would carry Mr. Herger out on his shoulders, but I think the
other body would. Our problem, I think, is with the Senate. It
is not with the House on this legislation. As you know, you
might want to talk to Chairman Thomas about it, but he is
always leery about sending a tax bill over to the Senate as
non-controversial as it may be because, as you know, tax bills
only can originate in the House, and the Senate has a habit of
taking a very nice non-controversial bill and making it very
Mr. Cox, I just want to applaud you for the improvement in
the legislation, but I just would urge as we look at this bill
that you be prepared how to address the problem of how the IRS
would reconcile a dispute between the custodial and
noncustodial parent as to how much is owed. As I understand
your bill now, the custodial parent would send a 1099 form, and
if the noncustodial parent disagreed with that, I would be
curious as to how the IRS would reconcile that dispute.
You do not need to answer now, but it is one of the issues
that I think we would want some attention paid.
Mr. Cox. I will undertake to give you a more elaborate
answer, but on the face of it, because it is self-implementing,
self-administrating, both parents can file a 1099C, redesigned
perhaps only slightly for the purpose, and they are responsible
for their own tax returns.
Mr. Cardin. But if there is a difference between what the
custodial parent files and the noncustodial parent, the IRS
would be in a very difficult position to determine who is
correct in that.
Mr. Cox. Yes. In fact, one of the reasons that we have
these information returns and 1099's and so on is to know when
to trigger an audit. It is some evidence that somebody is
Mr. Cardin. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Herger. Thank you, Mr. Cardin. Mr. Camp, the
gentleman from Michigan, to inquire.
Mr. Camp. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Congresswoman Johnson,
could you tell us a bit about the pro-marriage features of the
fatherhood portion of your legislation, please?
Mrs. Johnson of Connecticut. Yes. They are very important.
In the hearing that we had and this Subcommittee held on
promoting marriage, it is very, very important. Too many of
these young people are growing up in neighborhoods where there
is no example at all of a married couple. So they do not have
any opportunity to learn what are the advantages for them and
for the child of marriage, and so we do give preference to
those projects that have in them some effort to educate people
about marriage because, if we do not do this, it is almost as
egregious a policy error as it was to pay people not to work.
Welfare was really a terrible system because it paid people
not to work, and in life, if you do not work, you do not know
who you are and you are not part of the real world, unless you
are disabled. We understand that some people cannot work.
In the same way, to not educate young people about marriage
when they have no opportunity to learn from their environment
is to ignore the enormous amount of research that has been done
that demonstrates that children do much better. They do better
in school. They do better emotionally. They have a brighter
future if they are part of a married unit. It is really
astounding that we have utterly ignored what is now a very
significant body of research that children need both parents,
and they do, do better in marriage.
Mr. Camp. Thank you very much.
I want to thank all of you for your testimony as well, and
thank the Chairman.
Chairman Herger. Thank you very much, Mr. Camp.
I want to thank each of our witnesses for your outstanding
testimony, and with that, I would at this point like to call on
our second panel to come forward, please.
I would also like to insert at this point in the record the
statement of Frank Fuentes, acting deputy commissioner of the
Office of Child Support Enforcement, who is not able to be here
today to testify on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, without objection.
[The following was subsequently received:]
Statement of Frank Fuentes, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Office of Child
Support Enforcement Administration for Children and Families, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services
Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, thank
you for giving me the opportunity to submit testimony for the record on
the Child Support Enforcement program. I am Frank Fuentes, the Acting
Commissioner of the Office of Child Support Enforcement. The Child
Support Enforcement program is a very successful Federal/State
partnership effort aimed at fostering family responsibility and
promoting self-sufficiency by encouraging that both parents support
children financially and emotionally.
To accomplish this goal, we work in partnership with States in
providing four major services: locating noncustodial parents,
establishing paternity, establishing child support obligations, and
enforcing child support orders. Welfare reform made dramatic
improvements in our ability to achieve these goals and I would like to
take this opportunity to share with you the promising results we are
witnessing. I would also like to share some of the activities the
Administration is undertaking to strengthen fatherhood since I know
this is of particular interest to the Subcommittee.
Child Support Enforcement Program Record
Through enactment of the Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act 1996 (PRWORA), unprecedented tools have
been provided to the child support enforcement program. These tools are
already having a dramatic impact in securing for many of our Nation's
children the emotional and financial support that they need. In FY
2000, a record $17.9 billion in child support was collected. This
represents an increase of 50 percent since FY 1996. We now are
collecting support on behalf of almost 68 percent of the caseload where
an order has been established.
PRWORA provided tough child support enforcement techniques and new
automated collection methods. For example, the law expanded wage
garnishment, authorized States to suspend or revoke driver and
professional licenses for parents who are delinquent, and provided for
passport denial for parents who were at least $5,000 delinquent in
In addition, the law established a Federal Case Registry and
National Directory of New Hires to track delinquent parents across
State lines. It also required that employers report all new hires to
State agencies for transmittal to the national directory and to match
records with financial institutions so that States may place a lien on
the accounts of delinquent parents.
Using the expanded Federal Parent Locator Service we were able to
provide States information on three million interstate cases, and using
the Passport Denial Program, we have collected over $7 million in lump
sum child support payments in the last year. To date, more than 4,200
financial institutions have agreed to participate in data matching for
child support and nearly 700,000 individuals delinquent in their child
support have been matched with their accounts. The value of those
accounts is nearly $2.5 billion. Further, the Federal Tax Refund and
Administrative Offset programs collected about $1.4 billion in calendar
The record is similar with respect to paternity establishment. The
number of paternities established or acknowledged reached a record of
1.6 million in FY 2000. This represents an increase of 46 percent since
FY 1996. Of these, over 688,000 paternities were established through
in-hospital acknowledgement programs. An additional 867,000 paternities
were established through the Child Support Enforcement program. In
addition to being the first step in collecting child support, paternity
establishment engages fathers in the lives of their children, creating
the emotional bonds and security that are crucial to their children's
health and well-being.
PRWORA streamlined the legal process for paternity establishment,
making the process easier and faster. It also expanded the voluntary
in-hospital process for paternity establishment started in 1993 and
required a State affidavit for voluntary paternity acknowledgment. In
addition, the law mandated that States publicize the availability and
encourage the use of the voluntary paternity establishment process.
We are excited about the dramatic results these changes are
generating and are convinced that the future of child support
enforcement will continue on this successful path. Critical to these
efforts, though, is a new and determined focus on the fathers.
I would like to turn to the administration's efforts to strengthen
fatherhood--what we view as a critical complement to our enforcement
efforts if we are to succeed in accomplishing our basic mission of
increasing both financial and emotional support for our Nation's
The Office of Child Support Enforcement has worked to strengthen
the role of fathers in families. For example, we have funded eight
child support enforcement responsible fatherhood demonstration projects
that will help bolster fathers' financial and emotional involvement
with their children. Each project is different, although they all
provide a range of services to aid in collecting child support, such as
job training, access and visitation, and social services.
The Office of Child Support Enforcement has provided over $1.5
million to the National Center for Strategic Nonprofit Planning and
Community Leadership (NPCL) to work with grassroots fathers'
organizations to help unemployed and underemployed fathers become
responsible parents. In addition, we have approved ten State waivers
supporting the Partners for Fragile Families, a set of projects to test
ways for child support enforcement programs and community and faith-
based organizations to work together to improve the opportunities of
young, unmarried fathers to support their children both financially and
emotionally. Further, PRWORA created a $10 million access and
visitation program for States, serving more than 22,000 individuals in
1997 and an estimated 50,000 in 1998.
Most recently, President Bush and Secretary Thompson's clear
commitment to promoting involved, committed and responsible fatherhood
as a national priority was emphasized in the FY 2002 budget request.
One of the many goals of the Administration's FY 2002 proposal is to
provide $64 million for the first year to support low-income families
by helping low-income noncustodial parents (mainly fathers) support
their children by paying child support and connecting or reconnecting
with their children.
This initiative shares many of the same goals as the fatherhood
legislation supported by this Subcommittee. We commend Representatives
Johnson and Cardin and the Subcommittee for your leadership in focusing
attention on responsible fatherhood and we look forward to working with
you on this critical area of mutual commitment. As the President
recently said at the Fourth National Summit on Fatherhood, ``For our
children, and for our Nation, nothing is more important than the
national fatherhood initiative.''
In closing, let me say that it is only through our partnership with
the Congress and the States that we have been so successful in
strengthening the Child Support Enforcement program. The many new tools
provided by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity
Reconciliation Act are helping to improve the lives of our Nation's
children. We can improve on existing efforts by focusing more attention
on strengthening our commitment to fatherhood, and we look forward to
working with you on this important legislation.
Thank you. I would be pleased to answer your questions for the
Chairman Herger. On the second panel this afternoon, we
will be hearing from Mr. Nathaniel Young, Jr., director of the
Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement, and president
of the National Council of Child Support Directors; Dr. Jeffery
Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the National
Center of Strategic Nonprofit Planning and Community Leadership
(NPCL), accompanied by Mr. Raymond Byrd; Dr. Ron Haskins,
senior fellow in governmental Studies at The Brookings
Institution and senior consultant at the Annie E. Casey
Foundation; Dr. Elaine Sorensen, principal research associate
at The Urban Institute; and, finally, Joan Entmacher, vice
president and director of Family Economic Security at the
National Women's Law Center.
With that, Mr. Young to testify, please.
STATEMENT OF NATHANIEL L. YOUNG, JR., DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES' DIVISION OF CHILD SUPPORT
ENFORCEMENT, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA; PRESIDENT, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF
CHILD SUPPORT DIRECTORS; BOARD MEMBER, NATIONAL CHILD SUPPORT
ENFORCEMENT ASSOCIATION; AND BOARD MEMBER, EASTERN REGIONAL
INTERSTATE CHILD SUPPORT ASSOCIATION
Mr. Young. Yes, sir. My name is Nick Young, and I am the
director of Child Support Enforcement for the Commonwealth of
Virginia, and I am also the president of the National Council
of Child Support Directors, the 54 child support directors of
the Nation. I appreciate being here today. Thank you very much.
I looked at a calendar and saw that our birthday, the
Nation's birthday, is next Wednesday, 225 years. Then I saw it
took us 199 years to pass the Social Security Act in 1975 to
where we realized that this was as a problem that we needed to
Then, in the ensuing 25 years that we have been doing child
support, as is in the statement that you just entered from Mr.
Fuentes, we have collected $100 billion through good hard work
of the child support program and through the laws and the tools
that you have given us, and we are very appreciative of that.
I would like to mention that the $18 billion that was
collected last year shows the significant improvement that has
been made. If you tried to break the $100 billion by 25 years
and then looked at 1 year that you got $18 billion, it is
While you are precisely correct that the average may be 37
percent, some States do better than that. Some do worse. All in
all, though, we are very proud of the $18 billion, and we do
appreciate the tools you have given us. I think we have
demonstrated that we have used them responsibly, not
necessarily to deliver child support services, truly at the end
of a billy club, but try to bring the personal responsibility
into the picture here by working with a number of the people
that are here at the table as well as the other groups.
I have two or three things to recommend. My testimony has
some examples from each of your States, from many of the
States, anyway, and I will let that stand for itself.
One of the things that we would encourage you to do is to
literally stay the course. Remember that this is not a speed
sport, that it is behavior modification. It is difficult. As
Representative Johnson just spoke and the others as well very
eloquently, we are trying to fix a long-term problem, and we
are trying to do it in a fairly short period of time, and it is
behavior modification, not always out-of-wedlock births, which
in my particular State make up 70 percent of the caseload.
While 30 percent of the out-of-wedlock births occur every year,
they cumulatively make up 70 percent of the caseload. I submit
to you that that is the problem we have to fix before we try to
fix the outcome which is getting the child support paid.
We support the simplification of distribution. It is far
too complex. Most of us cannot understand it. We cannot explain
it. We can eventually program it into logic, but we could not
explain it if we had to.
I would only ask you to look at how the child support
program is funded concurrently with your desires to fix
distribution. You may be fixing distribution, but you could
break the way that a State delivers the child support services,
depending on whether or not they had retained earnings or
whether or not they totally general-fund a child support
program, and about half the States used retained earnings. We
think that they are inextricably intertwined; that you have got
to look at them simultaneously.
We would also encourage you to look at removing the cap on
the incentive pool. Clearly, we believe that pay for
performance is the way to go. We incentivize most of our child
support workers on how well they do. Currently, with the
incentive cap, somebody has to lose because it is a fixed
amount of money. So, if Virginia does very well, perhaps
Maryland or some other State will be disadvantaged, and we do
not think that is a good way to do it. We would ask you to
examine that and to consider removing the cap.
One other issue that is problematic is the penalties. The
penalties were enacted for a very good reason, to get people's
attention, primarily not the Title IV-D of the Social Security
Act (IV-D) director, the child support director, but beyond
that in the State legislatures.
We are convinced as an association that the penalties have
done their job, and they have gotten people's attention. I
would ask you to look at some reinvestment options in amending
the law some States face up to, including $152 million in
penalties. That will certainly get your attention because that
is twice as much as most programs even spend. We would only ask
that there are some ways to allow reinvestment and to encourage
reinvestment instead of just having the penalty stand alone by
Last, the IV-D directors, the child support directors
clearly understand the need for more fatherhood initiatives.
Access and visitation is a wonderful program. It has brought
people together that were not talking, both government as well
as within the family structure. We realize there are a number
of these people that are dead broke, not necessarily deadbeat.
We are willing to work with any of the programs on
fatherhood, and we will appreciate any of the initiatives that
are coming out. And some of the ladies and gentlemen who are
with me can speak far more eloquently on that.
Thank you very much, sir.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Young follows:]
Statement of Nathaniel L. Young, Jr., Director, Virginia Department of
Social Services' Division of Child Support Enforcement, Richmond
Virginia; President, National Council of Child Support Directors; Board
Member, National Child Support Enforcement Association; and Board
Member, Eastern Regional Interstate Child Support Association
Good afternoon Mister Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee. My
name is Nick Young, and I am the Director of the Virginia Department of
Social Services' Division of Child Support Enforcement. I am also a
Board Member of the National Child Support Enforcement Association
(NCSEA) and the Eastern Regional Interstate Child Support Association
(ERICSA), as well as President of the National Council of Child Support
Directors (NCCSD). I am here today in my dual capacity as Virginia's
Child Support Director and as President of NCCSD.
The subject before you today is ``Child Support and Fatherhood
Proposals.'' I am here today to share with you the numerous
accomplishments that states have made against the backdrop of the
progressive laws and systems Congress has worked so hard to put in
First, permit me to share a couple of telling statistics about
Virginia's Child Support Enforcement Program: Our caseload today is
394,000, representing approximately 558,000 children--25 percent of
Virginia' child population. Though Virginia is recognized as having a
very efficient program, it is unfortunately the case that we carry a
$1.8 billion cumulative arrearage, an amount that is growing by $200
million a year. During the past five years, our caseload has grown by
10 percent. Our collections have increased by an average of 13 percent
per year for a total of 75 percent increase during the past five years.
We are one of the states that can conduct our business both
administratively and through the courts. As a result, approximately 70
percent of our cases are managed administratively, which saves a great
deal of time, paperwork and money. Our work is also accurate and our
data reliable; we have a very low rate of appeals of our administrative
decisions. Virginia was one of the first two states in the nation to
receive in early 1996 full federal certification of its automated case
management system under the Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Just last month, we again
received the welcome news of federal PRWORA certification of our
automated system. Currently, six states in the Nation share this
achievement: Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, Maryland, Washington, and
Automation, in conjunction with the powerful tools at our disposal
under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation
Act (PRWORA), is what will catapult states toward the vision that
Congress holds for the Nation's Child Support Enforcement Program. Just
last week, Virginia's new interactive web application was inaugurated.
The rollout of this technological innovation makes Texas and Virginia
the first states in the Nation to have designed and implemented a web-
based customer services application that will give customers yet
another way in which to access their updated payment and case
information. Other states are not far behind in similarly using
technology to bring more government services to customers.
There is lots of good news in Virginia,
During the past five years, Virginia's child support
Enforcement Program has increased its support collections by 75
The Division of Child Support Enforcement collected $347
million in State Fiscal Year 99 and $391 million in State
Fiscal Year 00, an increase of 12.7 percent, and will collect
$440 million this fiscal year.
In addition to our new interactive web application, Virginia
designed and implemented an interactive voice response system
that improves communication with and services to all child
support customers. Through the latter, Virginia fields over
eight million customer calls each year with 70 customer
services staff statewide.
Since July 1998, we have offered customers the use of direct
deposit to expedite payment and receipt of their child support.
To date, 38,134 customers have taken advantage of this tool.
Customers are signing up for this service at a rate of 1,000
Virginia's pioneering New Hire Reporting Program began
before the national program under PRWORA and has resulted in
over $60 million in child support that otherwise would not have
been collected. Using matches from New Hires, Virginia is
automatically generating income withholding notices, which
saves countless hours in staff time.
Our ongoing KidsFirst Campaign, which sprung from a one-time
limited Gubernatorial amnesty program offered to 57,000 of the
most egregious support evaders in 1997, has collected over $150
million for children owed past due child support. As important
as collecting financial support, KidsFirst has heightened and
sensitized public awareness to the plight of children owed
child support. The Campaign encourages both parents to assume
financial support of their children and increases the
likelihood that children will grow up with a sense of financial
security, and a respect for personal responsibility--both
hallmarks of the Nation's Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). An added bonus has
been enhanced rapport with the law enforcement community and
Increased emphasis on the inclusion and enforcement of
medical support as an intrinsic ingredient of child financial
Recently, Virginia was cited by the National Center for
Children in Poverty as one of only four states in the nation
showing significant progress in the area of fatherhood program
More than 70 community-based fatherhood initiatives are
currently underway in Virginia. These community-based groups
focus on a variety of areas including new and expecting
fathers, young fathers, incarcerated fathers, fathers of
children with special health care needs, visitation and
medication, mentorship and school involvement. Over 250 new
community leaders are trained each year on how to provide
effective services to men in being better emotional and
financial providers for their children.
Judicious use of the tool of suspending or denying driver
permits of egregiously-delinquent NCPs, with the primary intent
being to motivate them to pay what they owe to avoid loss of
their permits. Since 1995, when this program was initiated,
only 2,900 NCPs have undergone action to suspend their permits,
while approximately $100 million in delinquent financial and
medical support as a result of this potent initiative has been
collected attributable to the ``threat.''
Virginia has fully implemented the revocation of both
occupational and recreational licenses, as well as the denial
of passports to delinquent parents.
Virginia's Paternity Establishment Program (PEP) is a model
of collaboration and cooperation. Established in 1990, PEP grew
under welfare reform into an effective program that gives
unmarried parents the opportunity to voluntarily acknowledge
paternity in the hospital, before the child goes home.
Currently, 68 hospitals are participating statewide, generating
13,000 paternities per year.
Virginia returned $5.41 in collections for every dollar
spent in State Fiscal Year 00.
Virginia was the first state in the Nation in 1998 to begin
booting vehicles as a technique for gaining the attention of
recalcitrant delinquent noncustodial parents. This initiative,
which began in one locality in 1998, was expanded statewide in
December 1999. To date, over $420,000 has been collected from
79 bootings under this initiative. Furthermore, Virginia's
successful booting initiative is cited as a model by federal
authorities and has been included in federal law.
Virginia's accomplishments are but a sample of the innumerable
successes that the fifty states and four territories have achieved.
Among these achievements are:
Arizona, Georgia, and many other states are using access and
visitation programs to reconnect fathers with their children
and to address the root causes of nonsupport. They are
developing partnerships with hospitals to increase paternity
establishments and with workforce development programs and
community-based organizations to address a wide range of
barriers faced by many fathers in getting a job.
California has completely restructured its child support
program to achieve greater accountability and facilitate a
sound approach for an automated statewide system. The state has
increased program spending by 17 percent during the past two
years to underscore its commitment to the child support
program. Despite automation penalties, California's collections
will exceed $2 billion this year, a 12 percent increase over
the past year.
Connecticut's Legislature passed historic child support
legislation during 2001 that mandates regulation of private
child support collection agencies. The practices of some
private child support collection agencies tend to deprive
custodial parents and their children of monies that should come
to them--often enriching the collection agencies on the basis
of collections in which they had no role. This bill includes
private child support collection agencies in the state's
existing Fair Debt Collection Act that regulates consumer
collection agencies and gives the Banking Department authority
to license and regulate them. The bill prohibits private child
support collection agencies from deducting a fee from any child
support payments collected through the efforts of a
governmental agency. In addition, it limits the imposition of a
fee for the collection of any child support overdue at the time
of the contract to twenty-five per cent or less of overdue
support actually collected.
The state of Connecticut was included in a federal grant to
participate in a regional process for executing liens and
creating a regional ``Child Support Lien Network'' of
delinquent noncustodial parents for the purpose of intercepting
insurance proceeds. This project has demonstrated significant
potential as a new child support collection tool. Connecticut
has already collected over $200,000 through this program in
less than one year.
Florida expects to collect over three-quarters of a billion
dollars this year--over a 90% increase in collections over the
last 6 years. These increases are expected to increase
significantly through initiatives such as the phase-in of a new
automated system, which allows each business process to be re-
engineered and leverage state-of-the-art technology; piloting
an administrative support order establishment process; and
dedicating resources to reduce undistributed collections.
Michigan has an innovative NCP work referral program to its
``Michigan Works'' agency. The Child Support Program pays none
of the costs. NCP's referred to the program either go directly
to work or they get education or skills training. Clearly,
employing the idea that anyone can be referred regardless of
funding source is an important change in the way services are
Oregon's child support program is co-located with the
Department of Human Services, enabling the program to maintain
its close linkage with the TANF and other programs aimed at
helping families and children to attain and maintain self-
sufficiency. For delivery of IV-D program services, the IV-D
office contracts with the Oregon Department of Justice and with
county district attorneys the legal arena to collect child
support. This partnership structure has worked well, in
allowing the Oregon IV-D program to maintain its close linkage
with social service programs while still being able to take
effective action in collecting support for families.
In New York, where annual collections have doubled since
1994 to over $1.19 billion in 2000, the State initiated
automatic cost of living increases in child support orders, to
keep pace with inflation and allow families to stay off
The North Carolina Child Support Program has created five
special teams beginning to assist local child support offices
in improving casework results. These teams are proving
successful and more money is being collected than ever before
in North Carolina's CSE program. North Carolina's collections
for children have increased by 226% since State Fiscal Year 91
and are continuing to grow.
Texas is wholly invested in a comprehensive customer
services strategy that has resulted in a 24 percent increase in
the number of customers who indicate satisfaction with the
State's child support services. Each night in Texas, 1,600
income withholding orders are automatically issued to
employers. In State Fiscal Year 00, Texas collected over a
billion dollars for the first time and expects collections to
surpass $1.2 billion this year.
The aforementioned highlights are but a few of the myriad successes
that states are achieving. Our time together today and the printed
testimony do not allow the publicization of the host of activities
ongoing in all of our states and territories.
All of the IV-D directors and the federal government are taking a
hard look at arrears management in conjunction with fatherhood
programs. Connecticut, for example, is enthusiastically addressing this
You also asked me that I come before you to tell you what Congress
could do to help the Nation's Child Support Enforcement Program.
Challenges to the Child Support Enforcement Program abound, yet the
states are heartened and encouraged by the support Congress has shown
the Child Support enforcement Program.
In answer to your invitation to opine what Congress should do to
assist states, I would offer that you ``stay the course.'' The
enactment of PRWORA has served as the catalyst for the most
comprehensive revisions to the nation's Child Support Enforcement
Program in its 26-year history and the Nation's Child Support Directors
are enthusiastic about building on that landmark legislation and fully
employing the powerful tools it provides. Let us continue our progress
unimpeded by additional sweeping changes in the program. Such changes
will serve only to distract us from our core responsibility of
collecting child support and possibly dilute our effectiveness.
Comprehensive program changes at a time when many states are still
working to fully automate their child support programs to take
advantage of new federal tools can compromise their progress.
Recently, the Nation's child support directors formulated a list of
priorities. We urge Congress to continue its tremendous level of
federal support by focusing on these several important areas. They
Restructuring program funding
Removing the cap on incentives
Federal financial participation for non-IV-D payment
processing and bad checks
Extending Federal Financial Participation rates at the 80
percent rate for approved child support enforcement systems
(CSES) after October 1, 2001
Improving Interstate case management
Private access and confidentiality regulation
Complete implementation of PRWORA mandates, evaluation, and
A strategic plan for technology
Prominent among this list are four areas so pivotal to the Child
Support Enforcement Program that they warranted official resolutions
drafted by the National Council of Child Support Directors. I will
enumerate them here, as follows:
1. The resolution on Incentive Caps supports:
that Congress should amend federal law to eliminate the cap
on the child support federal incentive funding because the
current incentive structure requires some states to lose in
order for others to gain. The cap requires a computation of
each state's incentive in comparison to all states after the
end of a fiscal year, creating an unstable and unpredictable
prospective financial planning environment. It is not a true
performance incentive as there is no guarantee that improved
performance will result in increased incentive payments.
2. The resolution on the Reinvestment of Federal Automation
that Congress should amend the federal legislation that
imposes fiscal penalties on states that have failed to
implement (1) a statewide child support automated system by
October 1, 1997, and (2) PRWORA requirements for certification
by October 1, 2000. The amendments should:
(a) subtract a state's information technology expenditures in
the year prior to a year in which the penalty is applied from
the dollar amount on which the technology penalty is
(b) allow for reinvestment by reducing the penalty amount by
any additional state general funds invested in the program.
(c) require the Secretary of the Department of Health and
Human Services to hold in abeyance any penalty assessed in a
fiscal year if the Secretary determines a state to be in
compliance with the approved corrective action plan.
3. The resolution on Funding supports:
(a) that OCSE and Congress should provide for full and
sustained FFP for all aspects of the Child Support Program at
current or enhanced levels. Supports that Congress should
ensure the continuation of 90 percent FFP for genetic testing.
(b) that Congress should amend federal law to extend the use
of 80 percent FFP to October 1, 2005, for enhancements to
automated systems required by PRWORA.
(c) that Congress should provide enhanced FFP to reduce the
impact on the states' child support budget when states are
required to implement new mandates or make substantial
revisions to existing programs.
(d) that Congress provide enhanced 90 percent FFP for medical
support activities for a limited 5-year period.
(e) that OCSE and Congress should work with state IV-D
Directors to identify methods for ensuring that stable and
adequate levels of investment in the program by federal, state
and local governments advance the child support program's
4. The resolution on Medical Support supports:
(a) that OCSE should immediately act on the nonlegislative
recommendations of the Medical Child Support Working Group.
(b) that OCSE and Congress should consult with state Child
Support, state Medicaid and state CHIP programs, and national
child support associations to ensure consistent policies
related to IV-D medical responsibilities.
(c) that OCSE report to Congress and recommend that a medical
support measure not be incorporated into the performance
measure system and tied to funding at this time and that the
implementation of any medical support performance measure be
phased in to allow states to implement the Working Group's
(d) the recommendation of a plan for states and the federal
government to work together to identify medical support
outcomes and to define the work of the IV-D program in
achieving those goals.
The last subject, fatherhood initiatives, segues into my final
remarks. A few demographics about fatherless children are in order:
Twenty-four million children live without their biological
Children who do not have a relationship with their
biological father are shown to be:
Five times more likely to live in poverty,
Twice as likely to be abused,
More likely to bring weapons and drugs into the classroom,
Twice as likely to commit crimes,
Twice as likely to drop out of school,
More likely to commit suicide,
Over twice as likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, and
More likely to become pregnant as teenagers.
The number of children living with only their mothers and no
father figure grew from just over 5 million in 1960 to over
About 40 percent of children who live in fatherless
households have not seen their fathers in at least a year.
To address these telling statistics, the President's budget
included a Health and Human Services ``Blueprint for New Beginnings.''
This two-pronged approach includes competitive grants to help
unemployed or low-income fathers to avoid or leave welfare as well as
promote successful parenting and strengthen marriage.
We support this approach because:
It promotes responsible fatherhood and strengthens the
role of fathers
It is consistent with welfare reform initiatives and
promotes competitive grants to faith-based and community
organizations that help unemployed or low-income fathers
and their families avoid or leave cash welfare
Fatherhood programs make child support order and paternity
establishment and enforcement easier because fathers are
doing the right thing on their own initiative
We recommend supporting the President's initiatives with the caveat
that grants to faith-based and community organizations to serve these
populations should come through the states, not be granted directly by
the federal government. We take this position because:
States know their communities and needs best
States know their providers best
States already have mechanisms in place for competitive
and negotiated grants
States have mechanisms for successfully administering
Unnecessary taxpayer expense to set up an additional
federal operation when states are in the best position to
implement the grant program
Chairman Herger. Thank you, Mr. Young.
Now we will hear from Dr. Johnson, and, Dr. Johnson, I do
notice that you are accompanied by Mr. Raymond Byrd. If he
would like to join you at the stand, he is welcome to, and
perhaps even make a short statement if he would like to.
Thank you. Welcome to our Committee, Mr. Byrd.
STATEMENT OF JEFFERY M. JOHNSON, PH.D., PRESIDENT AND CHIEF
EXECUTIVE OFFICER, NATIONAL CENTER FOR STRATEGIC NONPROFIT
PLANNING AND COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP; ACCOMPANIED BY RAYMOND BYRD,
Dr. Johnson. Thank you very much, Chairman Herger, Mr.
Cardin, and the Committee for inviting me and Mr. Byrd for this
I would also add that I have also invited a nationally
recognized leader in the fatherhood movement and also the
program administrator for the program that Mr. Byrd is a part
of, Mr. Joe Jones. I also asked another young father who is
improving his life, Mr. Joe Lewis, to join us today in this
testimony. Additionally I have asked Ms. Teresa Kaiser who is
the director for Child Support for the State of Maryland, to
join us today. She has some interesting ideas on arrears
management that the Committee might be interested in.
Before I say some things, let me just say, Mr. Chairman,
that today is both a good day for me, for this opportunity to
talk about fatherhood, but it is also a day of reflection for
me because it is also the thirty-sixth anniversary of my own
father's death, and that I come to this Committee in reflection
of the good things that my father demonstrated to me. I think
that those things contributed in many respects to the work that
I do, but also how important it is to have fathers in the life
of children. I think that is really what this Committee and
this work is all about.
With that, let me just say that the work that we do at NPCL
is focused on building the capacity of local agencies to
strengthen communities and foster family and neighborhood
One critical element of family empowerment, particularly in
inner cities, is the return of fathers to families. Our current
focus is to build the capacity of community-based organizations
to provide services to low-income fathers so they can adopt
their critical roles as nurturers and economic providers which
at a time when society seems to be suffering from numerous
breakdowns is good for families and communities, but especially
Any policies we develop should not pose additional barriers
to low-income dads. So, when this Committee considers child
support, Welfare to Work, Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families (TANF) commitments and others, do not forget our
fragile families. These are young, low-skilled, never-married
couples with children. We are talking about dead-broke dads
versus deadbeat dads. The difference between deadbeat dads and
dead-broke dads is that the former can pay child support, but
will not, and the latter are willing to pay child support, but
cannot. Deadbeat dads should be punished. Dead-broke dads need
support and help.
Any responsible fatherhood proposal should provide for
employment, peer support, parenting education, parenting skills
development, conflict management, as well as a combination of
short-term job acquisition, interim job training, and long-term
career development strategies. Child support enforcement
proposals should consider different provisions for handling
dead-broke dad cases.
For example, orders established for low-income fathers
should be based on their ability to pay. This approach has been
embraced by child support leaders such as the National Child
Support Enforcement Association and has been a topic of NPCL's
peer learning college where we bring together child support
people to talk about these issues.
Other important strategies include arrears management.
Again, I will say that Teresa Kaiser who is here for the State
of Maryland has implemented a very innovative program that I
think this Committee would be very interested in hearing about.
My more extended written testimony, discusses in detail our
Partners For Fragile Families Project which brought to us Mr.
Byrd. This is a 10-city initiative that targets young fathers,
16 to 25, and builds upon 40 years of social policy research
and experimentation in this area. Each demonstration site seeks
to implement community-level partnerships between child support
enforcement agencies and local community-based fatherhood
programs in an effort to increase the long-term involvement of
low-income fathers in the lives of their children.
Eliminating policy and program barriers as well as
placement of fathers in jobs that have a wage potential are
also key aims of the demonstration, but the foundation of the
program, which is consistent with much of the provisions in
H.R. 1471, is looking at where a client is and working with
that client to bring them up to the point where they can marry,
but if they don't marry, make the best decision in the interest
of their child.
The basic model includes One on One case management, job
placement, peer support. The community should know that peer
support has been the most successful element of programs
working with fathers over the last 20 years, at least as far as
demonstration projects are concerned.
Peer support groups are anchored in this program in what we
call the Fatherhood Development Curriculum which is now being
used by over 3,000 practitioners nationwide. The curriculum
includes a range of topics from life skills to preventing
domestic violence. The father development curriculum also
includes a focus on family planning with topics such as
marriage and team parenting.
In terms of systemic change, we think that efforts should
be focused on public-private partnerships, employability, and
earnings for fathers. Research seems to suggest that men who
are employed and earning are more likely to pay child support
and stay in a relationship and often marry the mother of their
H.R. 1471, we believe comes closest to providing the scope
of policy reforms, we need to strengthen father involvement, as
well as a reasonable start on funding. Given the scope of
services needed to support a father's role until a dad can
support his family, we need a significant public investment.
While conceptually sound, neither the President's proposal
nor the Carson proposal is comprehensive enough to really do
the work necessary for fathers in fragile families. Child
support funding changes that will allow for pass-through
payments and new fatherhood demonstrations that are included in
H.R. 1471 is a start in the right direction, we believe.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the Committee
again for this opportunity and encourage you now to hear from
Mr. Byrd, and Mr. Lewis, and also, if time permits, to also
hear the innovative strategy that Ms. Kaiser is working on for
the record. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Johnson follows:]
Statement of Jeffery M. Johnson, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive
Officer, National Center for Strategic Nonprofit Planning and Community
Good Afternoon. I want to thank Chairman Herger and Members of the
Human Resources Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee for
this opportunity to testify on your efforts to promote fatherhood. I am
Dr. Jeffery Johnson, President and CEO of the National Center for
Strategic Nonprofit Planning and Community Leadership (NPCL) and on
behalf of the board and staff of NPCL, the 10 Partners for Fragile
Families Demonstration Sites, the 6 Charles Stuart Mott, Fathers-At-
Work Grantee Sites and over 3,000 fatherhood professionals that we have
trained over the pass few years, partners from the faith-based
community and an array of non-governmental organizations, I commend you
and thank you for squarely addressing this long-neglected aspect of
family social policy. If Congress is successful at passing legislation
to support fatherhood programs, it will be a crucial step towards
helping fathers assume emotional, legal and financial responsibility
for their children. Legislation that seeks to strengthen the
relationships between and among fathers and families covers a complex
web of interrelated factors that can, on a practical level, make or
break the brittle and weak family tie. The same bill also has
implications for the success of greater child support collections as
well as welfare to work initiatives.
My testimony is based on the work I have done over the past 20
years around fathers and families as well as my personal experience.
For 12 years, I had the wonderful opportunity of being reared in a
family with two loving parents. Unfortunately, my father died at the
age of 39 leaving behind a widow and 10 children. Despite the positive
example set by my mother, life was a struggle. She struggled to make
ends meet and each of my brothers and sisters faced their own unique
challenges that made it more difficult for a single parent. So, I know
first hand the importance of fathers in families and I try to bring
that knowledge to my work.
The mission of NPCL is to enhance the capacity of community-based
organizations to address identified local needs, primarily through
family and neighborhood empowerment. Simply put, NPCL works to help
communities and families help themselves. And, as we know, strong
families are critical to the health, economic, emotional and
developmental well-being of children.
NPCL now runs or provides technical assistance on several projects
aimed at strengthening the ties between fathers and families, including
our ten-city demonstration project Partners for Fragile Families, the
Fathers-At-Work demonstration project supported by the Charles Stewart
Mott Foundation, the HUD/Public and Indian Housing Responsible
Fatherhood Initiative and the Strengthening Fragile Families
Initiative, a research, policy and practice consortium supported by the
Ford Foundation to encourage the development and implementation of
policies aimed at fortifying the ties among poor, low-skilled,
unmarried parents and their children. We call them ``fragile
Partners for Fragile Families (PFF) is the first comprehensive
national initiative designed to help poor, single fathers pull
themselves out of poverty and build stronger links to their children
and their children's mothers. PFF reflects lessons learned from
previous failed demonstrations and is the child of best practices
culled from over 40 years of social policy research and experimentation
in this area. It is a collaborative effort funded by grants from NPCL
and operated in 10 test cities by public and private groups, grass
roots community-based organizations, federal and state child support
enforcement agencies and private employers.
The idea is a partnership that leverages resources in a broad
working coalition toward the shared goal of strong families where
children are cared for by both mothers and fathers. Our guiding
principle is that fathers have value to their children, even if they do
not have money.
And make no mistake about it, the population that we refer to as
``dead-broke dads'' have very little money. Unlike ``deadbeat dads,''
the men we serve likely qualify for food stamps themselves and
statistically look much like mothers on welfare, (formally Temporary
Assistance to Needy Families [TANF]).
The difference between ``deadbeat dads'' and ``dead-broke dads'' is
that the former can pay child support, but will not; the latter are
willing to pay child support but cannot.
We know this because research demonstrates that fragile couples are
typically in a relationship when they have a child.
According to the Princeton's \1\ Fragile Families and Child Well-
being Study1, a longitudinal four-year survey currently in progress to
document the course of ``fragile'' relationships, 82 percent of
unmarried mothers and fathers are romantically involved at the time
their child is born. Forty-four percent of these couples are living
together and over 70 percent of mothers, who are interviewed in the
hospital within 48 hours of their child's birth, say that their chances
of marrying the baby's father are ``50-50'' or greater. Among couples
who are not romantically involved at the time of birth about half of
the mothers hold that they are friends with the father. Further, two-
thirds of mothers and three-fourths of fathers agreed with the
statement ``it is better for children if their parents are married.''
\1\ Fragile Families & Child Well-Being Study, Irwin Garfinkel,
Ph.D. and Sarah S. McLanahan, Ph.D., Princeton University.
Clearly, there is a will here to form a family, what has been
lacking is a way. And let me address the issue of marriage, here, by
stating that the research shows the families support, it and so do we.
The question for us is not whether we support marriage, but how we get
there. And it seems to us that current proposals pushing marriage as a
panacea ignore current data on the issue.
In the African-American community, rates of marriage are positively
correlated to levels of education, according to studies conducted with
census data and reported in William Julius Wilson's seminal treatise on
the effects of unemployment on inner city families, When Work
Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor.
Wilson has also argued that the sharp increase in black male
joblessness since 1970 accounts in large measure for the rise in the
rate of single-parent families. In fact, employment status of the male
is a significant indicator of the probability that single parents of a
child born out-of-wedlock will marry. There is also a very strong
positive relationship between annual earnings of young black men and
their marital status, especially for young men between the ages of 18
and 31, roughly the cohort with which we work. As reported by Wilson,
black men who are stably employed are twice as likely to marry the
mother of their children.
Therefore, the mandate is evident.
If we provide support through public policies and programs aimed at
increasing the family's employment and earning prospects as well as
corollary services such as transportation, medical assistance,
childcare and parenting education, low-income fragile families are very
likely to stay together. In short, we believe that if we make men
``marriageable'' they are more likely to marry and their children will
It is as simple as that. But, we are talking about a wide spectrum
of support services, which in turn suggests that broad partnerships are
necessary to make these comprehensive efforts successful and sustain
families. The converse of that however, is that as job prospects fade,
the foundation for a stable relationship weakens and puts the fate of
the family--and the well-being of children--in jeopardy.
For these reasons, NPCL and its work directed at fathers is focused
on dealing with the fathers where they are, then bringing them into
programs where holistic support is available. One very positive result
of our PFF demonstration has been our ability to find fathers living
below the radar screen, outside organized society and out of the reach
of the child support enforcement system. Once we find these men and
convince them to join a program however, we have seen promising signs.
Not only do we provide job training, we also try to give men the tools
they need to make all their relationships work: with in-laws, the
mothers of their children, with the children themselves. We believe
that education is of supreme importance, so we try to educate men about
everything from anger management and conflict resolution to the child
support system and family planning. They are part of a peer support
group where men in similar situations share their experiences and more
experienced men can lead by example. Peer groups are powerful forces,
encouraging men to find work, provide for their children, negotiate
with mom, be there for their kids. We've learned to trust the process.
We have also learned that the child support enforcement system must
change. To that end, we have developed Peer Learning Colleges, through
which we bring together child support experts, researchers and leaders
in the field to focus on ways in which the child support system might
better work with ``dead-broke dads'' and address the needs of low-
income families. Child support enforcement agencies are beginning to
realize that poor fathers require a different approach than ``deadbeat
dads'' because they often want to support their children, but need
help. If child support enforcement has at the heart of its mission the
desire to promote child well-being, it makes more sense in the case of
low-income fathers to help them find a job, negotiate a payment
schedule for support or reduce arrearages, than it does to lock them up
for non-payment of support: after all, if you have no job skills and,
therefore, can't find a job to enable support payments, you won't find
those skills in jail.
Community-based organizations can gain the trust of hard-to-reach
fathers, help them establish legal paternity, learn their legal rights
and teach what we call T-E-A-M parenting, meaning that parents work
together for the benefit of their children regardless of their marital
status. Child support enforcement agencies can work with fathers at the
outset to modify child support orders, help or allow fathers time to
train for work and some, private employers are willing to hire well-
skilled and dependable workers.
Whether or not they are married, the child needs food, clothes,
care, love and two supportive, nurturing parents. After he becomes
self-supporting and an integral part of his child(ren)'s lives,
hopefully, marriage is a result if that is something the couple seeks
It is imperative that any new or revised policy initiatives work
towards supporting these efforts to assist fragile families.
Of the current proposals, H.R. 1471 provides for the kind of
service delivery system that is inclusive of fathers and would serve to
move fragile couples and their children toward traditional family
formation. The President's proposals, while welcome, do not contain an
adequate level of funding.
Our goal is to help fathers become nurturers, emotionally involved
and devoted to their children, in other words, as integral to the
developmental well-being of children as mothers. But, it is also to
spur independence and self-sufficiency.
We, now, face the second chapter in the welfare reform story. If we
are serious about ending ``welfare as we know it'' we must support
self-sufficiency as we envision it. The savings states are realizing
from the reductions in welfare rolls should go into real job-training
programs and comprehensive family and social services that have as
their ultimate objective, the ability to live and support a family by
working. But, these efforts are both deep and broad, they take
commitment and scope. That is why all PFF grantees must address a range
of issues. It is why they are required to institute or provide access
to intensive career and personal development skills training in
preparation for placement in family-sustaining, wage-growth jobs. We
are talking about boot-camp-job-readiness programs. Grantees are also
urged to perform long-term follow-up for clients to maximize the
chances for job retention.
Because rates of morbidity, mortality, unemployment, and
incarceration of young men are so high in their communities, there is
little evidence of successful marriage for young people to emulate.
None of this means that these young people are any less responsible for
their children. They are and should be expected to be accountable for
the ``oops'' once it happens. And, happily, research shows that many of
these young men are indeed interested in being good fathers, they just
don't know how. Our practitioners have a saying: ``If you've never seen
[fatherhood] and never experienced it, you can't do it.'' But they do
One 30-month study of 16-26-year-old, poor single fathers revealed
that 75 percent visited their child in the hospital; 70 percent saw
their child at least once a week; 50 percent took their child to the
doctor and large percentages reported bathing, feeding, dressing and
playing with their children; and 85 percent provided informal child
support in the form of cash or purchased goods such as diapers,
clothing or toys. In addition, the average mother on welfare receives
about $33 a month in covert support from poor fathers.
The heart is indeed willing, the ability is lacking. Multiple,
flexible strategies will be necessary to address the challenges these
men and their families face. Part of that response, we believe, is
programs like Partners for Fragile Families.
[The attachment is being retained in the committee files.]
Chairman Herger. Thank you, Dr. Johnson. Mr. Byrd, would
you like a couple minutes?
Mr. Byrd. Yes. Could you speak up? I cannot really hear you
My name is--well, you already know my name, but I am in
this trial program, and I am not a deadbeat dad, but I was a
dead-broke dad, but recently I got a job. It really, actually
gave me the positivity knowing would I be able to go get a job.
I went to like two, three group meetings. I have been to three
fatherhood conferences with Mr. Joe Jones and I spoke on that
panel three times, and I am not really saying that I am like
underskilled or underachieved, but it is just that most people
do not give us a chance because they would judge us by what
they see us as instead of not getting to know the person, not
knowing the person that is behind the clothes.
What I am here for today is to know what type----
I am kind of nervous, as you can see.
Chairman Herger. You are doing just fine. You are doing
Mr. Byrd. And mostly, when I go to the group, like when I
have problems, I call and I talk to either Mr. Rice or Mr. Joe
Jones. They give me input on different situations, and right
now, what I am going through, they was telling me about how I
got to learn how to play the ball game. Like if I am going for
a certain job, I have to look like the people working in order
for them to look at me to put me on their team. I just cannot
go into a job and say, ``Hey, this is me. I want to get this,''
without having the proper attire or the proper frame of mind. I
cannot go in there if I am comfortable. I have to go in there
looking like I am ready to play their game. That is all.
Chairman Herger. Thank you very much, Mr. Byrd. I
appreciate that. Dr. Haskins.
STATEMENT OF RON HASKINS, PH.D., SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS
INSTITUTION, AND SENIOR CONSULTANT, ANNIE E. CASEY FOUNDATION,
Dr. Haskins. Chairman Herger, thank you for having me
today. I am pleased to be here on the other side of the
microphone and learn that all of the members actually have a
front to their bodies. For several years, I got to study the
backs of members for hours and hours. Also, I believe this is
the first hearing I have been to in probably a decade that I
did not write the opening statement. I was especially pleased
that Matt agreed to write my statement for me. So I did not
have to write anything for this hearing.
Chairman Herger. I hope the front looks almost as well as
Mr. Haskins. Pardon?
Chairman Herger. I hope the front looks almost as well as
Dr. Haskins. Thank you. Thank you. Oh, of course, it is.
Mr. Cardin, I am afraid we will not have much of a chance
to disagree today. There may be a few little things in child
support that we could disagree about, but I hope you invite me
back again when you talk about welfare.
Mr. Cardin. Since you wrote the bill, I would hope you do
not have too much to say critical of it.
Dr. Haskins. Let me first say that I think the first thing
the Committee should do in considering reauthorization is to
reflect on the success that this bill has had. There are
failures, of course, but in almost every title, not just the
TANF title, not just because of more work, but in the child
support title, in the Supplemental Security Income titles, the
bill has achieved its intended effects. and I would say on the
whole that we probably have fewer people in the United States
today dependent on welfare benefits as their primary source of
income than we have had probably since the depression or
certainly since the 1950's. That is a major achievement and
this Committee is the first Committee that wrote the original
draft of the bill. So I think that is a remarkable achievement.
However, I do think there are three things in child support
enforcement that the Committee should attend to. Two of them, I
believe would have immediate or intermediate impacts, the
Committee would not have to wait very long to have good
impacts, and the third one may avoid a crisis. So I would like
to talk about each of those three in turn.
The first is who gets the money, and Mrs. Johnson and
others have already spoken eloquently about this. When we
started the child support program way back in the 1970's, the
main idea was cost recovery. We were trying to reimburse
taxpayers for paying for welfare. That is still a worthy idea,
but since then, our welfare system has changed dramatically,
and now we emphasize to a great extent people becoming
independent of welfare. As that goal has shifted of our welfare
program, more and more members have come to see that the child
support system should also shift. So the arrearages that we
used to retain to repay taxpayers and the money that we retain
(all the money when the family is on welfare) a lot of people
think should be given back to the families.
We made a very important step in that direction at the
initiative of this Subcommittee in 1996. We were blocked from
taking the entire step by the U.S. Senate, which often happens
to our magnificent legislation, and last year, we tried to take
this step and, again, were prevented by the Senate from doing
it. But I would guess that if this bill passes again that the
Senate will act on it and that we will, in fact, be able to
return that money to the mothers--get the money from the
fathers to the mothers.
I want you to know that when fully implemented, this
provision would provide about $900 million per year to mothers
who have left welfare. So that is a lot of money. It is money
that the father paid. This is extremely worthy legislation, and
I hope the Subcommittee can pass it.
The second issue is fatherhood. Many other witnesses have
talked about that, so I can just skim through that very
briefly. But I do want to point out, I think there is no
question that, especially Republicans, but on a bipartisan
basis, I believe, in the next 18 months or so, we will
emphasize marriage. There will be a huge emphasis on marriage
in welfare reform reauthorization, and I would point out to the
Subcommittee that, to some extent, to reemphasize marriage
without emphasizing fatherhood and particularly the problems
that are experienced by low-income fathers, is somewhat
hypocritical because we could not in all good conscience
promote marriage when we have so many fathers who are
unemployed. Their income has been declining for approximately
the last decade. They have lots of other problems. Many are
incarcerated. We simply need to find a better way to deal with
these young men and to help them to a greater extent than we
have in the past. Unless we do that, the marriage agenda, I
think, has a very serious flaw.
Finally, I would like to call the Committee's attention to
what I think is a long-term problem that will be very important
for the States in the years ahead unless something is done. If
you look at pages 6 and 7 of my testimony, you will see that
there have been huge increases in collections in the non-
welfare program, but if you look in the welfare program,
collections are actually decreasing, and the reason for that is
obvious. We have many fewer cases on welfare than in the past.
The Committee should take this into account. The average
State gets 30 percent of the money to finance their child
support program from their welfare collections. So, as these
collections go down, many States are going to have difficulty,
especially the half that Nick Young referred to that finance
their program directly out of those collections. They are going
to have greater and greater trouble, and they are going to have
to go back to their State legislatures and ask for more money.
So I do not know what the solution to this problem is. I
have not heard of a good solution, but I think this
Subcommittee with its long history of looking ahead and
emphasizing financing issues and nitty-gritty issues about this
program should look into this very carefully, should work
cooperatively with the administration, with the IV-D directors
and other bureaucratic organizations to see if, within the next
2 or 3 years, we can really develop a solution for this
So, Mr. Chairman, I would like to especially call to your
attention in closing the fact that if this Committee were able
to pass the provision to distribute more of the collections to
the mothers that we would have an immediate impact on these
families. The year after it passes, these families will start
to have more money, and within 5 or 6 years, they will be
receiving $900 million of money paid by the fathers. So that is
an extremely important action for this Committee to take.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Haskins follows:]
Statement of Ron Haskins, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution,
and Senior Consultant, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Baltimore, Maryland
Chairman Herger, Ranking Member Cardin, and Members of the
My name is Ron Haskins. I am a Senior Fellow at the Brookings
Institution in Washington, DC and Senior Consultant at the Annie E.
Casey Foundation in Baltimore. I thank you for inviting me to testify
about the child support enforcement program and the important child
support amendments of 1996.
As Members of this Subcommittee know very well, the welfare reform
law of 1996 must be reauthorized by October 1 of next year.
Reauthorization provides this Subcommittee and the rest of Congress
with the opportunity to review the effects of the momentous 1996
legislation. Other than the new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
(TANF) program in Title I of the legislation, which completely replaced
the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, no program
received a more thorough overhaul in 1996 than Child Support
Enforcement. Thus, it is especially appropriate for the Subcommittee to
examine what has been learned about the effects of the sweeping child
The major conclusion the Subcommittee should draw about the 1996
child support reforms is that, although much remains to be learned, the
evidence indicates that the reforms have been successful in improving
the performance of the child support enforcement program. Consider two
of the central goals of the child support program; namely, paternity
establishment and child support collections. As shown in Figure 1, both
paternity establishment and child support collections have improved
dramatically since 1995.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T4742A.001
Though the achievements of the 1996 reforms are notable, I would
recommend that the Subcommittee carefully investigate solutions to
three child support enforcement issues that were not thoroughly
addressed in the 1996 legislation, one of which is a long-term problem
that may lead to a financing crisis in many state child support
The first issue is one the Subcommittee has addressed in the past.
Perhaps the central goal of Congress when it created the child support
program back in 1975 was recovering the costs incurred by taxpayers in
providing welfare benefits. Many single mothers who received no
financial support from their children's father had difficulty earning
enough money to meet their children's basic needs. As a result, they
sought out help from taxpayers in the form of cash welfare and other
public benefits. Senator Russell Long of Louisiana, the major author of
the child support enforcement program, wanted to find such fathers,
establish paternity if necessary, obtain a child support order, and
collect money from them. If the children were on welfare or had been on
welfare, Senator Long believed it was appropriate for the government to
keep at least part of the money collected from these absent fathers to
reimburse taxpayers for the costs of welfare. Taxpayers had stepped in
for these absent fathers; now it was the fathers' turn to repay
taxpayers. Senator Long's vision became a major feature of the child
support enforcement program that became law in 1995.
Although most Members of Congress still support this cost recovery
goal of child support enforcement, most members believe that a new goal
has become even more important than cost recovery. When the child
support program was enacted in 1975, the federal government placed
little emphasis on trying to help mothers get off welfare and join the
workforce so they would not become dependent on welfare. In the years
after 1975, and especially since enactment of the sweeping welfare
reforms of 1996, both the federal and state governments have placed
much greater emphasis on families achieving independence from welfare
through employment. Thus, the 1996 reforms focused on helping, and
where necessary forcing, mothers to leave welfare for work. As many as
two million mothers who in the past would have been on welfare are now
trying to support their families without cash welfare.
Most of these mothers work at low-wage jobs and are able to support
their families because the federal government has created a set of work
support programs that provide income subsidies to these mothers and
their children. The work support programs include the Earned Income Tax
Credit, food stamps, the child tax credit, Medicaid, and child care. In
a typical situation, a mother with two children who used to be on
welfare now has a low-wage job and earns about $10,000 per year.
However, between the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps, this
mother has cash or near-cash income of $16,000. In addition, her
children are covered by health insurance through the Medicaid program
and her child care expenses are paid for by federal and state child
Even so, raising two children on $16,000 per year is no picnic.
Thus, in 1996, Congress began to alter the cost-recovery feature of
child support enforcement in order to provide more of the father's
child support payments to mothers and children. Under pre-1996 rules,
once a mother left welfare she was entitled to receive only child
support payments on current support. States had the right to keep, and
split with the federal government, any payment in excess of the current
support amount (the amount above current support is referred to as
payment on ``arrearages''). But in 1996, Congress, following the
leadership established by this Subcommittee, changed the law so that
states had to pay to the mother and children about half of the
arrearage amount. Thus, for example, if current support were $250 and
the father paid $350, on average $50 of the $100 arrearage amount had
to be paid to the mother and children.
Last year this Subcommittee originated legislation to give the
other half of the arrearage amount to mothers who had left welfare, as
well to share additional arrearages with mothers who were still on
welfare. Once fully implemented, this provision would have resulted in
mothers leaving welfare receiving in excess of $4 billion over five
years. The entire $4 billion, of course, would have been money paid by
the father. Members of the Human Resources Subcommittee wrote this
provision primarily because they wanted to ensure that mothers trying
to leave welfare received as much help as possible from government and
from private sources. As a conservative, this new emphasis on using
government to help mothers end or avoid reliance on public benefits
always seemed to me to be the essence of compassionate conservatism. In
any case, the provision on arrearages, combined with the Subcommittee's
provision creating a new fatherhood program, passed on the House Floor
by an overwhelming vote of 405 to 18.
Unfortunately, as often happens with the pristine legislation
originated by this body, the child support provision to give more money
to mothers leaving welfare met a tragic fate in the Senate. Despite
repeated efforts by Chairman Johnson and others on this Subcommittee,
and despite support from Chairman Roth of the Finance Committee, time
ran out on the 106th Congress before the Senate acted.
I would strongly recommend that this provision to share nearly all
arrearage payments with mothers leaving welfare be enacted by the
Subcommittee again as soon as possible and that special efforts be made
to help the Senate see the wisdom of this provision. In order to ease
Senate passage, I suggest that the Subcommittee slightly change the
version of the bill passed by the House last year. Last year's bill
mandated that states give nearly all arrearage payments to mothers
leaving welfare. This mandate imposes a serious cost problem on states
that are already having difficulties financing their child support
program. If the mandate is converted to an option, according to the
Congressional Budget Office more than half the states would adopt the
option, including most big states. The National Governors' Association,
the American Public Human Services Association, and the National
Conference of State Legislatures all strongly urged Congress to support
the option last and all will publicly support the legislation if the
option rather than the mandate is included.
The federal cost of this provision would be around $3 billion over
five years. The entire cost represents the loss of revenue to the
federal government because child support payments by fathers are being
given to mothers and children rather than government.
The second child support amendment the Subcommittee might wish to
consider is also one that was enacted last year by the House; namely,
an innovative fatherhood program. It may be recalled that the
Subcommittee approved about $160 million over 5 years to fund
fatherhood programs that would promote marriage, better parenting
(including the payment of child support), and employment for poor and
low-income fathers, especially fathers whose children were or had been
Several characteristics of the Subcommittee's bill are of major
importance. Recent research by noted Princeton scholar Sara McLanahan
shows that about half the couples that have babies outside marriage are
cohabiting at the time of the birth. An additional 30 percent tell
interviewers that they are involved in an exclusive relationship with
the other parent. Thus, a total of about 80 percent of the babies born
outside marriage have parents who either cohabit or are involved in a
romantic relationship. Moreover, these couples tell interviewers that
they hope their relationship will become permanent. Based on this
research and testimony from scholars and men directly involved in
fatherhood programs, one major characteristic of the Subcommittee bill
was an emphasis on involving couples in the program at around the time
of the child's birth. This is an especially important provision because
research by Rangarajan and her colleagues at Mathematica Policy
Research shows that within a year or two, most of these couples will
separate and the father will seldom see the child. As McLanahan put it,
the time of birth may be a ``magic moment'' in which programs to help
parents build their relationship have a window of opportunity.
The Subcommittee bill also placed great emphasis on projects
conducted by community-based, especially faith-based, organizations. A
broad bipartisan coalition of members supported this provision,
including the applicability of the 1996 welfare reform law's Charitable
Choice language to the fatherhood program. Now that the Bush
Administration is making a major effort to build faith-based programs
at the community level, the timeliness of emphasizing faith-based
fatherhood programs is even greater this year. In addition to the
potential effectiveness of faith-based programs, the emphasis on
providing funds to community-based organizations helps to ensure that
projects are consistent with local culture and are conducted primarily
by community leaders rather than imposed from outside the community by
Another important characteristic of last year's Subcommittee bill
was the provision on evaluation. It must be admitted that, although
programs for fathers hold out great hope for increasing marriage,
improving parenting, and increasing employment, it has not been
demonstrated that such programs can actually produce these effects.
Thus, careful evaluation of the programs is essential in order to
determine whether they work. In all likelihood, several types of
programs will be shown to work. Once these have been identified by
evaluation, the characteristics of these successful programs can be
duplicated by other programs.
A final word is in order about poor fathers and child support
enforcement. In testimony before this Subcommittee, several leaders of
fatherhood programs have pointed out how much difficulty poor fathers
have with child support arrearages. Program operators have found that
as they work with young fathers to encourage contact with their
children and the payment of child support on a regular basis, many of
them have built up arrearages of several thousand dollars. Some young
fathers under the age of 20, who have been employed only sporadically,
owe thousands in past-due support. These arrearages serve as a
disincentive for fathers to seek employment and to establish, often for
the first time, a pattern of routine child support payments. Something
must be done about these big arrearages.
Let me be clear that I am not recommending any statutory amendments
that would forgive child support arrearages. Such a provision would be
too controversial and might even seem to represent a step backward in
Congress's long campaign to build a strong child support program.
Rather, I believe this Subcommittee should encourage Secretary Thompson
and his staff to provide national leadership in convincing state and
local child support programs to work cooperatively with mothers and
fathers to temporarily suspend arrearages as long as fathers make
regular payments on current support.
The third issue I recommend that the Subcommittee examine in detail
during the 107th Congress is child support financing. The
impending problem with child support financing is suggested by the data
in Figures 2 and 3. Figure 2 shows the dramatic difference in the
enrollment history of welfare and non-welfare caseloads of child
support enforcement. More specifically, non-welfare cases have been
growing steadily since the beginning of the program in the 1970s while
welfare cases grew initially but have been declining in recent years.
The increase in non-welfare cases represents rising costs for state
child support programs because all the child support collected in these
cases is paid directly to the custodial parent and children. Unlike the
welfare cases, in which states often are entitled to keep part of the
collections, states are generally not allowed to keep any of the child
support collections in non-welfare cases.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T4742A.002
By contrast with the growth of non-welfare cases, the drop in
welfare cases is an outgrowth of the dramatic success of the 1996
welfare reforms and the strong economy. Although this caseload decline
is good for state TANF budgets because there are now less than half as
many TANF recipients as there were in 1995 in the average state, the
caseload declines threaten to be a disaster for state child support
enforcement financing. The average state receives about 30 percent of
the funds necessary to run its child support program from retained
collections in welfare cases and former welfare cases. In the case of
current welfare cases, states keep virtually 100 percent of child
support collections in exchange for taxpayer-provided welfare benefits.
But because the welfare cases have fallen so dramatically, this source
of income for state child support programs has also been falling.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T4742A.003
Fortunately, as can be seen by the second panel in Figure 3,
collections in welfare cases have not dropped as fast as the welfare
caseload itself. This fortunate result is caused both by the fact that
child support agencies are more effective now than before 1995 and
because old child support cases have continued to yield payments. Once
cases begin to produce payments, the collections tend to continue, in
some cases even after the mother leaves the welfare rolls. However,
these cases of continuing payments provide no more than a temporary
respite from the inevitable serious decline in state income from child
support welfare cases. In fact, in the long run income from these cases
will mirror the rapid decline of the caseload, at which point child
support financing in many states will reach a crisis.
Unless state child support programs are to shrink, the current
child support financing arrangements must be reformed. Inevitably,
either state governments, the federal government, or both are going to
have to spend more money on child support enforcement. Because it is
unlikely that welfare caseloads around the country will begin to
increase again, more and more states are going to reach the crisis
stage in child support enforcement financing.
The solution to this financing problem is not apparent. In the end,
it may prove the best course for Congress and the states to both
contribute more to child support financing to make up for the money
lost from declining welfare collections. What is certain is that the
solution will not suddenly appear out of thin air. Rather, this
Subcommittee should conduct hearings, work with state child support
enforcement officials and their professional organizations, and
cooperate with the Bush Administration to explore possible solutions to
the pending crisis in funding. A host of potential actions for
refinancing are certain to arise out of this work. In addition, the
Subcommittee can begin to get an idea of the costs of various
approaches to refinancing the child support enforcement program.
Although the evidence seems to indicate that the child support
amendments of 1996 have improved program performance, there are still
important reforms that could increase the program's effectiveness.
These include sharing more collections with mothers struggling to leave
welfare, creating fatherhood programs so that poor fathers can be more
effective parents and perhaps husbands, and reforming the financing of
the child support program to make it more compatible with the current
reformed cash welfare system. This Subcommittee, which has been the
source of vital child support reforms on so many occasions in the past,
should continue this tradition of program innovation by aggressively
addressing all three of these issues.
McLanahan, Sara, and others. 1999. Unwed Parents or Fragile Families?:
Implications for Welfare and Child Support Policy. Princeton, NJ:
Rangarajan, Anu and Philip Gleason. 1998. ``Young Unwed Fathers of AFDC
Children: Do They Provide Support?'' Demography 35(2): 175-186.
Chairman Herger. Thank you very much, Dr. Haskins. Again,
the Committee, and I, want to thank you for your many years of
guidance and support on this Committee.
Dr. Haskins. Thank you.
Chairman Herger. With that, we will turn to Dr. Sorensen.
STATEMENT OF ELAINE SORENSEN, PH.D., PRINCIPAL RESEARCH
ASSOCIATE, INCOME AND BENEFITS POLICY CENTER, URBAN INSTITUTE
Dr. Sorensen. Chairman Herger and other Members of the
Committee, thank you for this opportunity to testify. I have
been working on this issue for many years, and I would like to
make three points today.
First, child support enforcement has made a difference in
poor children's lives, and that is the success that we should
commend Congress for encouraging.
Two, despite this success, there are many noncustodial
fathers who are poor themselves and need help.
Three, child support enforcement, to be successful in the
future and reach more poor children, will need to face the
problems of poor, noncustodial fathers.
My research and that of many others show that expanding the
child support enforcement program has improved child support
collections, especially for never-married mothers who, 20 years
ago, were very unlikely to receive child support. So we have
had success. The specific policies that have been very
successful are the in-hospital paternity establishment program,
and immediate wage withholding. More recent programs like the
new hire program, State disbursement units have been very
successful in specific States.
My research shows, that child support for poor children has
increased since the enactment of welfare reform in 1996. We
find that 29 percent of poor families were receiving child
support in 1996, and that is up today. Also, the amount of
family income coming from child support compared to 1996. So
child support is playing a more important role in poor
Despite these gains, though, we still have 5.5 million poor
children who are poor and do not receive child support. Part of
the reason that child support has not reached these poor kids
is because their fathers have a limited ability to pay child
support. There are about 2.5 million noncustodial fathers who
are poor themselves, and they have many of the same employment
barriers that poor moms do.
We find that 43 percent of them are high school dropouts,
40 percent of poor non-custodial fathers have health problems,
most of them do not have health insurance, about a third of
them have not worked for a long time. When they do work, their
earnings are low. They are having a hard time meeting their own
needs as well as their noncustodial children.
One of the employment barriers that disproportionately
affect fathers that does not affect mothers as much is
incarceration. We estimate that about 30 percent of poor,
noncustodial fathers are incarcerated.
Despite these employment barriers, very few noncustodial
fathers receive assistance in the employment area. We find that
only about 6 percent of poor fathers, all of whom could benefit
from employment services, are getting employment services.
In order for child support to be more effective in the
future and reach more poor kids, research shows that more money
needs to go toward the father to get him employed. Employment-
oriented programs right now are mostly funded out of the
Welfare to Work program, but this program ends soon. The
question is how will employment programs for low-income fathers
be funded in the future.
As a society, we have invested in poor mothers so that
their children can live with them in their homes, and we have
been successful. We have invested in the child support
enforcement program so that children can count on the financial
support of both their mom and their dad.
To build upon this success, it is time to invest in poor,
noncustodial fathers so that they, too, can contribute to the
financial support of their children.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Sorensen follows:]
Statement of Elaine Sorensen,* Ph.D., Principal Research Associate,
Income and Benefits Policy Center, Urban Institute
Chairman Herger and Members of the Human Resource Subcommittee,
thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important topic. I
have been researching this issue at the Urban Institute for nearly ten
years. I have found that child support enforcement has made a
difference in the lives of poor children, but that there are a large
number of poor noncustodial fathers who have problems themselves.
* The views expressed in this testimony are those of the author and
do not necessarily reflect those of the Urban Institute, its board or
The approximately 2.5 million noncustodial fathers who are poor
(the poverty threshold for one person under the age of 65 was $8,959 in
2000) and do not pay child support have difficulty meeting the needs of
their children. They need help overcoming the multiple employment
barriers that most of them face. In my testimony today I will discuss
the gains that child support has made in obtaining more child support
for poor children. But I will also document the employment barriers
that poor noncustodial fathers face and argue that child support
enforcement will have limited success in reaching poor children in the
future unless the problems faced by poor noncustodial fathers are
My research, as well as that of others, shows that expanding the
child support enforcement program has increased the likelihood of
receiving child support, especially among never-married mothers and
single mothers on public assistance. Wage withholding and the voluntary
in-hospital paternity establishment program are two specific policies
that have had a dramatic impact on child support receipt. More
recently, since the enactment of welfare reform in 1996, poor children
eligible for child support are more likely to receive child support and
the amount that their families receive has increased. Between 1996 and
1998, the percent of poor children eligible for child support whose
families received it increased from 29 percent to 32 percent. In
addition, child support represented 23 percent of these families'
income, up from 21 percent two years earlier. Hence, child support is
an increasingly important source of income for poor children.
Table 1. Poor Children Who are Eligible for Child Support: Percent Whose Families Received it, the Average
Amount Received, and the Percent of Family Income it Represents
Percent of Poor
Children Eligible Average Amount of Child Support as a
Year for Child Support Child Support Percent of Family
Whose Families Received Income
1996 29% $1,979 21%
1998 32% $2,222 23%
Source: National Survey of America's Families.
Despite these gains, however, most poor children still do not
receive child support even though 60 percent of them are eligible for
it. Only 2.5 million poor children lived in families that received
child support in 1998; another 5.4 million poor children had to do
without child support that year.
Further efforts to increase the number of poor children receiving
child support should consider the limited potential of their
noncustodial parents to pay support. There are approximately 2.5
million noncustodial fathers who are poor and do not pay child support.
These fathers face many of the same barriers to work as poor mothers
who do not receive child support. In particular, 43 percent of these
fathers have not completed high school, the same percentage figure
among poor custodial mothers who do not receive child support. Nearly
40 percent of these fathers report a health problem and 62 percent of
them do not have health insurance. About one-third of them have not
held a job for more than three years. Among those who work, their
average annual earnings are only about $5,000. These employment
barriers and low earnings make it difficult for fathers to meet their
own basic needs as well as provide for their non-custodial children.
One employment barrier that disproportionately affects poor
noncustodial fathers is incarceration and having a criminal record.
Nearly 30 percent of poor noncustodial fathers who do not pay child
support are institutionalized. Most of these fathers are in prison.
Once these fathers leave institutional life, their work prospects will
not improve that much. Their criminal record and interrupted labor
force participation make these men unattractive to prospective
Although poor noncustodial parents face many of the same employment
barriers as poor custodial mothers, they are significantly less likely
than poor custodial mothers to participate in job-related activities.
In 1997, only 6 percent of these fathers received any job search
assistance and only 4 percent of them received job training courses or
attended GED or college classes.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T4742A.004
In order for child support enforcement to be more effective for
poor children, my research suggests that more money needs to be spent
on employment-oriented services for poor noncustodial parents.
Unfortunately, at this point we do not know what programs work among
this population. Congress has already funded one national demonstration
to examine the impact of serving poor noncustodial fathers--Parents'
Fair Share. Many lessons were learned from this demonstration. In my
view, the most important lesson learned was how hard it is to serve
this population. Only two of the seven sites in this demonstration were
able to significantly increase the child support payments and
employment rates of its participants relative to a control group. Two
attributes seemed critical to their success--strong leadership from
child support enforcement and a focus on skill-building services, such
as on-the-job training.
Employment-oriented programs for poor noncustodial parents are
currently being funded primarily through the Welfare-to-Work (WtW)
Grants Program, but this program will end in 2002. About 10 percent of
the participants in this program have been noncustodial parents.
Although many of the programs serving noncustodial parents experienced
initial problems, and some still do, there will be much to learn from
these efforts. A recent study by the Urban Institute showed that a wide
range of service delivery models are currently being used to serve
noncustodial fathers with WtW monies. Findings about the success of
these programs will help us better understand what might work for this
population. As noted above, WtW monies must be spent by September 2002
and no new money for this program has been allocated. The question
remains as to how Congress will fund employment-oriented programs for
low-income noncustodial parents in the future.
Despite our limited knowledge about what works for poor
noncustodial fathers, my research shows that they need services to meet
their financial obligations to their children and without these
services, further efforts to obtain child support for poor children
will meet with limited success. As a society we have invested in poor
mothers so that their children can remain in their homes and live with
them. This investment appears to be finally working. My research
suggests that it is time to make a similar commitment to poor fathers
so that poor children can rely on both of their parents for the
emotional and financial support that they need.
Chairman Herger. Thank you, Dr. Sorensen. Now Ms. Entmacher
STATEMENT OF JOAN ENTMACHER, VICE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR,
FAMILY ECONOMIC SECURITY, NATIONAL WOMEN'S LAW CENTER
Ms. Entmacher. Thank you.
Chairman Herger and Members of the Human Resources
Subcommittee, I appreciate this opportunity to testify on
behalf of the National Women's Law Center.
There are three main points I want to make in my testimony.
First, the child support reforms enacted by Congress in 1996
have substantially improved the performance of the child
support program. We have been critical of the performance of
the program for a number of years. We have worked to improve it
virtually since it was enacted, and so it is very exciting to
be able to say that the preliminary data show that collections
have doubled over the last 5 years. This is a real thrill for
The second point is that while these increases in child
support are benefiting many low-income families, some poor
children are not receiving support because the money the child
support system collects on their behalf does not go to them,
but instead goes for welfare reimbursement. For once, I can
simply refer to Dr. Haskins' testimony and say he is absolutely
right that nearly $1 billion a year should be going to children
and their custodial parents. So we completely agree on the
importance of that reform which is in 1471.
Third, some custodial fathers, like many custodial mothers,
are poor themselves and have limited capacity to support their
children. We need to improve services for both parents and the
earning capacity of both parents in the next stage of welfare
reform if we want to bring children out of poverty and not just
off of welfare. However, we do have much less information about
the effectiveness of different service strategies for
noncustodial parents as compared to the research that has been
done on custodial parents, and the funding for demonstration
programs in H.R. 1471, which is targeted to non-custodial
parents, would help fill this gap.
To return to point one, the 1996 reforms were designed to
create a more automated, integrated, and nationwide child
support enforcement system. Implementing these reforms has not
been easy, as you, Chairman Herger, have reason to know in
California, and the process is not yet complete, but, even so,
the improvements have been dramatic.
Between 1995 and 2000, the collection rates for cases with
orders in the IV-D program doubled. In 1995, even when an order
was put in place, collections were made in only about a third
of cases. In 2000, collections were made in more than two-
thirds of cases, and as you have heard, collections have risen
64 percent from $11 to $18 billion.
Child support is extremely important for the low-income
families who receive it. It accounts on average for 16 percent
of family income of families who get child support, but for
poor families not on welfare who are eligible to receive all
the current support that is collected, child support provides
over a third of the family's income. So that brings me to my
next point which is the importance of changing the assignment
and distribution rules to give more child support to families.
The National Women's Law Center has been working with the
Center on Fathers, Families, and Public Policy, and a group of
other advocates, practitioners, and researchers who work with
low-income mothers and similar people who work with low-income
fathers to see if we can come together on recommendations to
improve policies for mothers, fathers, and children.
This policy change of giving child support to families was
one that people clearly agreed on, not just because of the
value of the income, which was certainly important, but also
because of the costs that are paid in terms of hostility to the
child support system and hostility toward the other parent that
are generated by our current system.
Mothers are frustrated because they do not see any
contribution by the fathers. Fathers are frustrated because
child support is being collected from them, but it is not
getting through to the child, and instead of bringing people
together, current policies drive them apart.
We also know something that we did not have information
about last year when this policy was being considered.
Wisconsin implemented a policy of passing through and
disregarding all child support to children, and the results of
that experiment are now in. We see that mothers got more
support. Fathers were more likely to pay support, and there was
not an increase in overall government cost because, even though
the State was giving up these collections, it was offset by
savings in other government programs.
I would urge the Committee to act quickly on this reform.
The simplification of the distribution system would make a
difference to States like California that are still in the
process of designing their computer systems. So sooner rather
than later would make a big difference.
I see my time is up.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Entmacher follows:]
Statement of Joan Entmacher, Vice President and Director, Family
Economic Security, National Women's Law Center
Chairman Herger and Members of the Human Resources Subcommittee,
thank you for this opportunity to testify about the impact of the 1996
Congressional child support reforms on the child support system and
proposals to better serve custodial and noncustodial parents and their
I am testifying today on behalf of the National Women's Law Center.
The Center is a nonprofit organization that has worked since 1972 to
advance and protect women's legal rights. Since the creation of the
child support enforcement program under Title IV-D of the Social
Security Act in 1975 (the ``IV-D program''), the Center has worked at
the state and federal level to improve the federal/state child support
system, and has provided information to women across the country about
their rights to child support enforcement services. The Center also is
engaged jointly with the Center on Fathers, Families and Public Policy
in the Common Ground Project. This Project brings together public
policy advocates, practitioners and researchers who work with low-
income mothers and fathers to develop and advance child support,
welfare, and family law policies that foster effective co-parenting
relationships between low-income parents and increase economic and
emotional support for children. The first report of the Common Ground
project, Family Ties: Improving Paternity Establishment Practices and
Procedures for Low-Income Mothers, Fathers and Children was issued last
\1\ The Family Ties report is available on the web at http://
www.nwlc.org/pdf/commgrnd.pdf, or on request from the National Women's
Law Center or the Center for Fathers, Families and Public Policy.
To summarize: The child support reforms enacted by Congress in 1996
have substantially improved the performance of the child support
program. Preliminary data show that the collection rate has doubled in
the last five years. But even with further improvements in collection
rates, the amount of child support actually received by poor children
will be limited by two factors: the child support program's continued
mission of recovering welfare costs, rather than helping families
achieve self sufficiency, and the limited capacity of noncustodial
parents who are poor themselves to pay child support. H.R. 1471 would
help address both of these issues. The assignment and distribution
reforms in H.R. 1471, when fully implemented, would give an additional
$1 billion per year in child support to low-income custodial parents
and children, instead of to the government for welfare reimbursement,
allowing these payments by noncustodial parents to make a direct
contribution to their children's well-being. In addition, H.R. 1471
would provide funding for demonstration projects to improve services
for low-income noncustodial parents, an area where additional research
is needed. However, to bring families out of poverty, not just off of
welfare, we will need to do much more to support the efforts of
custodial and noncustodial parents, mothers and fathers, in the next
phase of welfare reform.
The 1996 Reforms Have Substantially Improved the Child Support Program
In 1996, Congress approved sweeping reforms of the child support
enforcement system, designed to make it a more automated, integrated,
and nationwide system. Implementing these reforms has not been easy,
and the process is not yet complete in a number of states.\2\ However,
preliminary data show that the new national databases, automated case
processing, and enforcement tools required by Congress are making a
major difference for the program--and for many children.
\2\ Several states--California, Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska, South
Carolina, and the Virgin Islands--do not yet have computer systems
meeting the requirements Congress established in 1988. http://
www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cse/stsys/reviewsd.htm (last visited 6/26/
Between 1995 and 2000, the collection rate for cases with orders in
the IV-D program doubled. In 1995, even after a support order was put
in place, collections were made in only about a third (34 percent) of
cases. In 2000, collections were made in more than two-thirds (68
percent) of IV-D cases with orders. In addition, the percentage of
cases with orders increased, from 57 percent in 1995 to 61 percent in
2000. Overall, collections rose by 64 percent, from $11 to $18
\3\ The 1995 data are from U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, Child Support
Enforcement: Twentieth Annual Report to Congress for Period Ending
September 30, 1995. The 2000 data are from U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Press
Release January 17, 2001, ``HHS Announces New Record Child Support
(last visited 6/22/2001) and unpublished OCSE data compiled by Vicki
Turetsky, Center for Law and Social Policy.
The improvements that Congress has promoted in child support
enforcement--not just in the last five years, but since the program was
created--have been particularly dramatic for low-income, never-married
mothers and their children. The percentage of never-married mothers
receiving child support increased by more than 400 percent between 1976
and 1997, from 4 percent to 18 percent.\4\ Improved child support
enforcement between 1978 and 1998 has increased the incomes of single
mothers by 16 percent and the incomes of single mothers with a high
school degree or less by 21 percent.\5\
\4\ Elaine Sorensen and Ariel Halpern, Child Support Enforcement Is
Working Better Than We Think, Urban Institute No. A-31 (March 1999)
(based on self-reports of custodial parents in the March Current
Population Surveys, not IV-D administrative data).
\5\ Irwin Garfinkel, Assuring Child Support in the New World of
Welfare 10, Conference on the New World of Welfare, Washington, DC
Receipt of child support can contribute substantially to family
income. Elaine Sorensen's analysis of data from the 1997 National
Survey of America's Families shows that child support accounts, on
average, for 16 percent of the family income of all families who
receive it. Child support represents an even larger proportion of
income--26 percent--for poor families who receive it. And for poor
children not on welfare, whose parents may keep all current support
collected, child support provides, on average, 35 percent of family
income--when families receive it. However, only 29 percent of poor
children who have a parent living elsewhere live in families that
receive child support.\6\
\6\ Elaine Sorensen and Chava Zibman, Child Support Offers Some
Protection Against Poverty, Urban Institute No. B-10 (March 2000).
There is still plenty of room for improvement in the child support
enforcement system. Although the overall trends are very encouraging,
progress is uneven among the states. In 1999, the latest year for which
such state-by-state IV-D data are available, the five best-performing
states collected support in over 80 percent of their cases with orders,
as compared to 62 percent nationally. However, in the five worst-
performing states, collections were made in less than 40 percent of
cases with orders.\7\ Although a number of factors may contribute to
differences in performance among states, the level of investment in the
program plays a key role; states that make substantial investments in
child support enforcement achieve better results than states that do
\7\ Office of Child Support Enforcement, Child Support Enforcement
FY 99 Preliminary Data Report (2000). Based on the 1997 National Survey
of America's Families, which provides detailed data on 13 states,
Sorensen found a similar disparity in performance. In the best-
performing state, 30 percent of children with a parent living elsewhere
who have a child support order received the full amount due; in the
worst-performing state, 14 percent of children received the full amount
due. Sorensen, Child Support Offers Some Protection Against Poverty,
\8\ Irwin Garfinkel, Theresa Heintze, and Cheien-Chung Huang, Child
Support Enforcement: Incentives and Well-Being 14, Paper Presented at
the Conference on Incentive Effects of Tax and Transfer Policies,
Washington, DC (2000); Michael Fishman, John Tapogna, Kristen Dybdal,
and Stephanie Laud, Preliminary Assessment of the Association Between
State Child Support Enforcement Performance and Financing Structure,
Lewin Group (2000), http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cse/rpt/
cse__working__paper__new.pdf; Vicki Turetsky, You Get What You Pay For:
How Federal and State Investment Decisions Affect Child Support
Performance, Center for Law and Social Policy (1998), http://
It is important to continue to work to strengthen the IV-D program,
and H.R. 1471 includes a number of important enforcement reforms. Title
II of H.R. 1471 would require IV-D agencies to review and modify child
support orders for TANF recipients every three years, and to do a
complete case review for families leaving TANF to ensure that every
effort is made to help them secure child support. Title IV would expand
the use of passport sanctions to obtain child support, allow the tax
refund intercept program to be used to collect past-due child support
for children who are no longer minors, and permit the garnishment of
veterans' benefits for child support in certain circumstances.
We also are pleased that H.R. 1471 does not include proposals
advanced in the last Congress that would give private, for-profit
collection companies access to confidential government databases and
enforcement tools. Such proposals could undermine the child support
enforcement program and reduce the support actually received by
children, as I and other witnesses testified to this Subcommittee last
\9\ Joan Entmacher, Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Human
Resources of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Hearing on Child
Support Enforcement, May 18, 2000, http://waysandmeans.house.gov/
However, even with improved enforcement by the IV-D program, the
amount of child support many poor children can expect to receive will
remain limited for two reasons. First, the child support payments may
go not to children and parents struggling to achieve self-sufficiency,
but to the state and federal governments as reimbursement for public
assistance. Second, some of the noncustodial parents of poor children--
mostly fathers \10\--are poor themselves, and have limited capacity to
pay child support (see discussion below).
\10\ In 1997, custodial mothers represented 85 percent of custodial
parents, and the poverty rate for custodial mothers (32.1 percent) was
three times the poverty rate for custodial fathers (10.7 percent). U.S.
Census Bureau, Child Support for Custodial Mothers and Fathers: 1997,
P60-212 (October 2000).
The Assignment and Distribution Reforms in H.R. 1471 Would Increase
Child Support for Poor Children
H.R. 1471 would do much to address these fundamental issues. The
distribution reforms in Title I, when fully implemented, would direct
more than $1 billion a year in additional child support to low-income
families,\11\ increasing the economic security of children and
custodial parents and encouraging noncustodial parents to pay child
\11\ NWLC calculations based on preliminary CBO estimate of the
federal budget effects of the Child Support Distribution Act of 2000,
H.R. 4678, as passed by the House September 7, 2000, which is virtually
identical to H.R. 1471.
When the federal-state child support program was established in
1975, its primary goal was to reimburse public welfare costs. Families
receiving public assistance were, and still are, required to assign
their rights to child support to the state. But, from the beginning,
the program also served families not receiving public assistance, and,
over time, the proportion of families served by the IV-D program who
were not receiving public assistance grew. Today, families receiving
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) represent only about 20%
of child support cases. However, most of the families served by the
program are low and moderate income; over 75% have incomes below 250%
\12\ U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ASPE,
Characteristics of Families Using Title IV-D Services in 1995 (May
1999). See also Vicki Turetsky, What If All the Money Came Home?,
Center for Law and Social Policy (2000), http://www.clasp.org/pubs/
The child support program thus has two often competing goals:
recovering government welfare costs and securing child support for
children, or, in the words of the American Public Human Services
Association, ``retaining collections from and giving collections to
families.'' \13\ Attempts to reconcile these conflicting objectives
have spawned a complex system of rules governing the distribution of
collected child support that is costly to administer, virtually
impossible to explain, and deeply frustrating to low-income mothers and
fathers who want child support to go to children.
\13\ American Public Human Services Association, Crossroads: New
Directions in Social Policy 59 (2001).
As the participants in our Common Ground project explained, the
continued emphasis on using the child support system to reimburse the
government can deprive children of the child support they need,
generate hostility toward the child support program, and create
tensions between parents. Mothers are frustrated that they are not
receiving help from the father; fathers are frustrated because they are
making payments, but their efforts are not making a difference for
their children. And the effects of these policies can be felt by
families even after they leave TANF and are entitled to receive current
support payments. In some circumstances, most notably when child
support is collected through intercepting federal tax refunds, child
support collections will go to repay government arrears before the
family's, even when the family is struggling to avoid a return to
welfare. And the burden of repaying large debts to the government--for
Medicaid reimbursement or past public assistance--may interfere with
the ability of a low-income father to make current support
\14\ Family Ties, supra, at 9-11.
Changing the distribution rules must be a key element of any effort
to promote responsible fatherhood. Fatherhood programs will have a hard
time persuading low-income fathers that they should pay child support
through the formal child support system because ``it's good for your
kids,'' if little if any of the money they pay goes to their children,
as the experience of the Parents Fair Share program suggests.\15\ In
addition, the results of Wisconsin's child support experiment show that
changing the rules so that child support goes to children increases
both the amounts that mothers receive and that fathers pay.
\15\ See Earl Johnson, Ann Levine, and Fred Doolittle, Fathers'
Fair Share: Helping Poor Men Manage Child Support and Fatherhood 93
In Wisconsin's W-2 program, for most custodial parents receiving
cash assistance, all child support paid was passed through and
disregarded in calculating their grant. A randomly assigned control
group received only a partial pass-through and disregard of child
support. Comparing those in the full pass-through group with a control
group receiving only part of what is paid, researchers found that:
mothers received more child support;
fathers were more likely to pay child support;
the largest effects were for cases new to the welfare
system, suggesting that the impacts would be even greater in
the future as the proportion of new cases grows; and
there was little or no overall government cost, because the
money no longer retained by the state was offset by other
savings in government programs.\16\
\16\ Daniel Meyer and Maria Cancian, W-2 Child Support
Demonstration Evaluation Phase 1: Final Report: Executive Summary,
Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin (2001),
Title I of H.R.1471 would help move the child support program away
from cost recovery and toward family support in three important ways.
First, it would simplify the assignment and distribution rules, and
give families that left TANF first claim to the child support paid on
their behalf. Second, it would give states more flexibility to adopt
the child support pass-through and disregard policies that promote
their welfare reform goals. It would not require states to pass through
child support to families receiving TANF. However, to the extent that a
state chose to pass through child support to families receiving TANF
and disregard the support in calculating the amount of assistance, up
to a certain limit, the federal government would forgo the federal
share. Third, it would direct states not to use the child support
system to collect Medicaid birthing costs--the type of impossibly large
state debt, unrelated to ability to pay, that can make it difficult for
low-income noncustodial parents to make current support payments, and
discourage them from even trying.
These changes would have multiple benefits for parents, children,
and the child support system. The extra money--over $1 billion a year
when the changes are fully implemented--could make a real difference
for low-income custodial parents and children. And beyond the money,
both parents and children would have the satisfaction of seeing the
child support payments made by noncustodial parents contribute directly
to their children's well-being. The simplification in the assignment
and distribution rules also would reduce administrative costs for
states, and errors and delays in getting child support to families once
they have left welfare.\17\
\17\ See Crossroads, supra, at 60-61.
There are additional advantages to be gained by enacting the
distribution reforms in H.R. 1471 this year, rather than waiting for
TANF reauthorization. Simplified distribution rules will save states
that are still developing their statewide child support computer
systems, most notably California, time and money in system development.
States will be able to plan for and adjust to these reforms before they
have to deal with all the other changes TANF reauthorization will
bring. And states that want to implement distribution reform quickly
will be able to do so.
H.R. 1471 Would Fund Demonstration Projects Serving Low-Income
Improving child support enforcement and giving child support to
children will help many low-income parents and children. But when both
parents are poor, income transfers between parents, and even marriage,
will not provide parents with the resources they need to give their
children a better life.
The focus of this hearing is on ``fatherhood proposals.'' But
before turning to such proposals, I would emphasize the need to improve
services for both parents to increase their ability to provide support
to their children, as participants in the Common Ground project
recommend.\18\ Although many custodial mothers have left welfare and
found jobs since PRWORA was adopted, many are still poor or near
poor.\19\ Indeed, the disposable incomes of the poorest fifth of single
mothers declined between 1995 and 1999.\20\ The jobs most women who
leave welfare find are typically low wage, lack benefits, often have
nonstandard hours, and offer little stability or room for
advancement.\21\ To bring children out of poverty, not just off of
welfare, we need to do more to increase the earning capacity of
custodial and noncustodial parents, mothers and fathers, in the next
phase of welfare reform.
\18\ Family Ties, supra, at 12 and 28.
\19\ Richard Wertheimer, Working Poor Families with Children:
Leaving Welfare Doesn't Necessarily Mean Leaving Poverty, Child Trend
Research Brief, May 2001.
\20\ Wendell Primus et al., The Initial Impacts of Welfare Reform
on the Incomes of Single-Mother Families viii-x, Center on Budget and
Policy Priorities (1999).
\21\ See, e.g., Julie Strawn and Karin Martinson, Steady Work and
Better Jobs: How to Help Low-Income Parents Sustain Employment and
Advance in the Workforce, Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation
(2000); Pamela Loprest, How Families That Left Welfare Are Doing: A
National Picture, New Federalism: National Survey of America's
Families, The Urban Institute, Washington, D.C. (Aug. 1999), http://
But while services for both parents need improvement, there is
clearly a difference in the amount of research available on the
effectiveness of strategies for serving low-income custodial parents,
mostly mothers, as compared to the effectiveness of strategies for
serving low-income noncustodial parents, mostly fathers.
There is a large body of research, spanning decades, on welfare-to-
work strategies targeting custodial mothers. We now know much more than
we did a few years ago about the circumstances of noncustodial
fathers.\22\ We know that some noncustodial fathers have very low or
irregular earnings, limiting their capacity to provide adequate,
regular child support.\23\ Indeed, research into the circumstances of
``fragile families,'' is finding, in the words of researcher Sara
McLanahan, that new unmarried parents are alike in having ``high
hopes'' for their children--but ``low capacities'' to provide for
them.\24\ However, there is only one completed evaluation of the
effectiveness of a program targeting low-income noncustodial parents,
the Parents' Fair Share Demonstration. Although some other projects are
underway, and will be evaluated, there is a need for additional
demonstration projects to identify the best ways to help this large,
diverse, but difficult to reach population.
\22\ There is little research about the circumstances of the 15
percent of noncustodial parents who are mothers.
\23\ For a summary of earlier research on noncustodial fathers, see
Irwin Garfinkel, et al., A Patchwork Portrait of Nonresident Fathers,
in Fathers Under Fire: The Revolution in Child Support Enforcement at
31-60 (Irwin Garfinkel et al., eds., 1998). For more recent research
see, e.g., Elaine Sorensen and Chava Zibman, Poor Dads Who Don't Pay
Child Support: Deadbeats or Disadvantaged?, Urban Institute No. B-30
(April 2001); Fragile Families Research Brief No. 3, Unwed Fathers, the
Underground Economy, and Child Support Policy, Bendheim-Thoman Center
for Research on Child Wellbeing and Social Indicators Survey Center,
Columbia University (January 2001).
\24\ Sara McLanahan, presentation at the Brookings Institution,
Stakeholder Seminar, Welfare Reform and Beyond, June 18, 2001. Compare
Aurora Jackson, Marta Tienda and Chien-Chung Hun, ``Capabilities and
Employability of Unwed Mothers,'' 23 Children and Youth Services Review
327-351 (2001), with Lauren Rich, ``Regular and Irregular Earnings of
Unwed Fathers,'' 23 Children and Youth Services Review 352-376 (2001).
H.R. 1471 would provide funding for a competitive matching grants
program for projects designed to promote marriage, successful
parenting, and to help fathers and their families avoid or leave cash
welfare and improve their economic status. Services must be directed to
low-income parents: fathers (and, under the nondiscrimination clause,
mothers) of children who are or recently have been TANF recipients or
whose own income is less than 150 percent of poverty, or, for up to 25
percent of participants, who are at risk of parenthood outside of
marriage. Grantees must make available to each participant information
about the causes of domestic violence and child abuse and local
programs to prevent and treat abuse. In the competitive grant process,
preference is to be given to programs that, among other things, offer
specific methods to encourage or sustain marriage; have plans for
actions to encourage or facilitate the payment of child support; have
cooperative agreements with other private and governmental agencies,
including the state TANF, child support, and child welfare agencies,
the local workforce investment board, and community-based domestic
violence programs; and have clear strategies for recruiting
participants, especially new parents. The bill provides funding for an
evaluation of projects by HHS, in consultation with the Department of
Labor, to assess their effects on marriage, parenting, employment,
earnings, payment of child support, and incidence of domestic violence,
using random assignment whenever possible.
We welcome the emphasis in H.R. 1471 on encouraging demonstration
projects that serve low-income parents, have strategies for increasing
payment of child support, work in partnership with other government and
community agencies, and address domestic violence. We understand that
many Members of Congress, in addition to increasing emotional and
economic support for children from both parents, want to promote
marriage. Indeed, marriage is a goal and a value shared by many low-
income parents.\25\ There is a risk, however, that requiring grantee
projects to promote marriage too aggressively or too early may make it
more difficult to reach the parents who need services the most, or
encourage relationships that pose risks to the other parent or
child.\26\ Programs that focus on helping young parents to improve
their job prospects, nurturing, and relationship skills, and address
domestic violence--as some have put it, making them more marriageable
\27\--may do more to promote good marriages than encouraging marriage
before parents are ready. We hope that this Subcommittee will make it
clear that such programs are eligible for funding under H.R. 1471.
\25\ Maureen Waller, ``High Hopes: Unwed Parents' Expectations
About Marriage,'' 23 Children and Youth Services Review 441-469 (2001).
\26\ Most of the unwed parents in the Fragile Families study were
involved in a relationship with each other at the time of the birth of
their child. However, among men who were no longer involved in a
relationship with the mother, the reported incidence of substance
abuse, mental health problems, and domestic violence was substantially
higher. Melvin Wilson and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, ``Health Status and
Behaviors of Unwed Fathers,'' 23 Children and Youth Services Review
377-401 (2001). See also Kathryn Edin, Testimony Before the
Subcommittee on Human Resources of the House Committee on Ways and
Means, Hearing on Welfare and Marriage Issues, May 22, 2001, http://
\27\ Testimony of Jeffrey M. Johnson Before the House Committee on
Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Human Resources, Hearing on Fatherhood
Legislation, October 5, 1999, http://waysandmeans.house.gov/humres/
H.R. 1471 will do much to help low-income mothers and fathers who
are struggling to provide for their children. A similar bill, H.R.
4678, passed the House last year with an overwhelming, bipartisan vote
of 405-18. We hope this subcommittee will act quickly and favorably on
Chairman Herger. Thank you very much for your testimony.
Now to inquire, the gentleman from Oklahoma, Mr. Watkins.
Mr. Watkins. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, to you and Mr. Cardin
for your commitment, and also to the entire panel. I have been
very impressed with the sincerity and commitment. I know Dr.
Haskins is truly a champion.
Welfare reform has been a truly remarkable piece of work. I
think it has been one of the things that has really changed
society. I totally agree with Dr. Johnson about employment.
Three of four of you have talked about employment, and that
is what I have been all about in my years of public service is
the fact that I think without question, the destruction of many
families has come about because they have had to go and search
for other jobs. I probably am a little harder about this than
most people, and I ask forgiveness of my Committee here and I
apologize to you, but I was born in dirt-poor poverty and my
family had to leave Oklahoma and go to California three times
before I was 9 years of age. It destroyed my family, and my
father became an alcoholic and died as an alcoholic. My mother
raised three of us children on a dirt-poor farm, and I had to
work three part-time jobs to get an education. So I know the
importance of that work.
I also had to work my way through college to get a college
education. So it can be done.
So I probably take a harder nose on this than I should be,
and I apologize for that. That is why I like to say we each
have to accept some responsibilities as we go along. I am not
saying that is the whole answer, but working and providing some
work. You are right. Child support is not near the amount that
it should be, and many times it is misused, a lot of times.
Most cannot make it on child support, but the person that is
responsible for bringing that child into this life should be
responsible and should be also working to make some payments,
whatever that job is, for the community or wherever it may be.
I think we found that out in welfare reform, and I know my
father did not pay child support. Lots of times, we did not
know where the next meal was coming from.
So I apologize for being a little stronger about this, but
I think let's do not miss that dimension; that we have to try
to make sure we provide the jobs for, yes, holding the families
together, but also to provide the jobs for that person to
accept the responsibility to know that they are working these
hours because they have brought someone in the world and they
are going to have to help pay for, the responsibility for that
So I do not disagree with the testimony I have heard here
at all. I think it is great, and let me say again the welfare
changes have been marvelous, just tremendous. Maybe we need to
tweak the child support situation more around work and some
responsibilities along that line.
So thank you very much for what you are doing each and
every day and for your testimony.
And, Mr. Byrd, may you have God's speed. It takes a lot of
strong will. My mother used to say, ``Wesley, if you have a
will, there is a way.''
Chairman Herger. Thank you, Mr. Watkins. Mr. Cardin to
Mr. Cardin. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and let me
thank all the witnesses for their testimony. I particularly
want to thank Mr. Byrd for being here, not just because you
come from, as Mayor O'Malley says, the best city in America,
Baltimore, but that you give a face to the issues.
A lot of times, we talk about statistics, number of people
that are impacted in the policies here, and we never get to see
the people that are individually impacted. We thank you for
being here because you add a dimension to this hearing that is
very important for us to see and here.
Dr. Johnson, I take it from your testimony--and I would
like you to respond a little more to this--that to the extent
that the noncustodial parent, the father, is employable or has
a skill means it is more likely that the mother would consider
the father a candidate for marriage. Is that a positive
Dr. Johnson. That is a definite positive correlation, and
it has been made by sociologists. It is being made by
economists right now. When fathers are made marriage-able, they
are attractive marriage mates.
It is interesting. We did have an opportunity to bring some
young fathers from Mr. Jones' program before the Committee when
Mr. Shaw was Chair, and one of the young men indicated, asked
Mr. Shaw, ``Would you want your daughter to marry me?,''
looking at his situation. In a situation where he was trying to
do the best he could, he had had some challenges in his life,
and that he really needed to get those things together to make
himself attractive. I think the thing that is often
overshadowed sometimes is the young father's willingness to be
the best man he can be, to be the best father he could be, and
to also in the future be a good husband.
I can recall when my older brother--I am from the Detroit
area originally. I have been in this area about 22 years. When
he got his first job at Ford Motor Company, when those jobs
were available, I can remember him getting the phone call from
Reverend S.L. Roberson from the Ford Motor Company down the
street from me, and he said that once he got the call that he
was going to get him a car, get him an apartment, and he might
even get married because he made a positive correlation between
his financial stability and being able to make those type of
choices. I think that given the chance--I think that Mr. Byrd
said, do not look at the cover of the book, look at what is
inside of the book, and here is a man trying to do the best for
himself, trying to do the best for his family, but we need
programs like the Center for Fathers, Families and Workforce
Development in place to create an on ramp for people like Mr.
Byrd so that they can reach their dreams and be the best
parents to children as possible.
Mr. Cardin. Thank you for that response.
Dr. Haskins, it is a pleasure to have you return to our
Committee, and I, once again, want to congratulate you on your
public service. You have reason to be proud, as we are proud,
of the accomplishments that we have made in reforming our
welfare system and our child support system, and you were by
far one of the key individuals. So I applaud you for that and
congratulate you on your public service.
I think my list, though, is longer than two in modification
of the 1996 law. I am one of those who supported those.
Dr. Haskins. Yes, but you have more than 5 minutes, Mr.
Mr. Cardin. That is true, also.
Let me also point out, I know that your quip about marriage
and Republicans--let me just tell you that I have been married
for 36 years, and my spouse and I are both Democrats. So there
are Democrats who do believe that marriage is a very important
But let me just caution you that we support--the Democrats
support, and I think there is a bipartisan agreement, the
importance of marriage and the importance of two-parent
families, but we also as Republicans have a concern about
spousal abuse and child abuse. We are concerned about safety of
families. We want to make sure that our policies are the right
policies for families.
You made a very interesting point, and I think it is worth
emphasizing. For a while, our policy was cost recovery. Now it
is really family support and bringing the family together. It
is really nice to see that from all sides, there is agreement
that passing through child support makes sense.
If you could just clarify for me why did we--we put
families first for families that left welfare on just about
everything except for the tax intercept program. Why didn't we
give them access to tax intercepts in 1996?
Dr. Haskins. In the 1996 legislation?
Mr. Cardin. Yes.
Dr. Haskins. Oh, very simple answer. The Senate would not
accept giving the entire amount to the families. So staff in
the middle of the night was casting about trying to figure out
a way that you could plausibly, logically divide up the money,
and we received information that about half the money came from
the tax intercept. So we used the tax intercept. States get to
keep all collections from the tax intercept, and the rest goes
to the family. That is 100 percent of the reason. It was just a
convenience, and as many things that staff thinks up in the
middle of the night, it cluttered up the----
Mr. Cardin. It just goes to show you should not work in the
middle of the night.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Herger. Thank you very much, Mr. Cardin.
I want to thank each of our witnesses.
Mr. Watkins. If I might make one comment. We are talking
about self-esteem here, trying--and what do we do, Mr.
Chairman, to help young men and young women develop a self-
esteem that they can achieve and they can do those things, and
that is inside. You can hardly measure that commitment or that
determination to do that, and how we can help our young people
develop more self-esteem is going to be very crucial for us to
Chairman Herger. A very important point. Thank you.
Mr. Byrd, again, it is good to have each of our witnesses.
It is particularly--I want you to know that we particularly
appreciate you being here. You had mentioned how you were a
little nervous. I think everyone is a little nervous who
perhaps is here, and, again, I commend you.
I would like to have you respond, if you would, to what
perhaps you have learned through the fatherhood program that
you are involved in, do you feel you have changed in any ways
because of that, and what are your hopes for the future.
Mr. Byrd. Well, actually, through the fatherhood programs,
I actually learned a couple of things about myself, and the day
someone directed me, it was like some things I do--I still have
a little immaturity in me, and I kind of like thought that I--I
honestly tried to like not look at it, but then I thought about
it. Some things I do, do, it is kind of immature. Then,
hopefully, in the future--well, actually, I will actually look
at--when I get out of school, maybe I might join a branch of
the government and then I am looking to buy a computer. I was
up in the Families Helping Families Center, looking at the
computers they had up there, and maybe in the future--I was
thinking about--they kept like haggling me about getting
married, and marriage was not something I wanted right now. It
is something that I look for in the future, but as you look at
it, a lot of people you see married, and you are like, ``I will
see this person for the rest of my life,'' and it is like you
really got to think on it because you do not want to rush into
nothing and that you cannot get out of, and then marriage is a
big responsibility. It is just like when you have a kid. You
always got that person. You always know you have to look after
that person. That person is going to be there for you.
Chairman Herger. Thank you.
Mr. Byrd. A lot of things I did learn was that if you are
down and you are trying to help yourself, if people see you
helping--if you struggling and you need help and you are not
trying to help yourself, no one is going to help you, but if
you ask for help and someone will help you if they see you are
trying to help yourself. Nobody is going to help you if you are
not trying to help yourself, and you cannot do--nobody cannot
make you do something you do not want to do. If you are going
to do it and you ask for help, they are going to give you the
proper guidance and the proper assistance for you to do
whatever task that you are trying to complete.
Chairman Herger. Good. Thank you very much, Mr. Byrd.
Again, I want to thank each of our witnesses for your fine
testimony this afternoon. I trust that each of you would
respond to additional questions on these issues for the record.
It has been a very informative hearing on an issue that is
important to members of this Committee and to the President.
With that, this Committee stands adjourned. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 3:32 p.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
[Questions submitted from Chairman Herger to the panel, and
their responses follow:]
National Council of Child Support Directors
Richmond, Virginia 23219
July 11, 2001
Hon. Wally Herger, Chairman
Subcommittee on Human Resources
U.S. Committee on House Ways and Means
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Herger:
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the Subcommittee's
follow-up questions to testimony I presented on June 28. The following
responses are presented in the order of the questions in your June 29
Q. A general trend several witnesses cited is the progression away
from a child support system focused on cost recovery to one that
promotes family self-sufficiency. What are some innovative programs
Virginia has developed that promote the goal of self-sufficiency for
families? How about other States? What implications does that have for
your office in terms of administrative workload? Expense? How have
those issues been addressed?
A. Since the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) in 1996, additional emphasis
has been placed on the importance of children having the financial and
the emotional support of both parents. Programs that provide services
such as education and training, job placement, parenting classes, and
mentoring are now viewed as critical to helping low-income children
Because welfare today is time-limited and child support is becoming
a key family resource, our focus has shifted somewhat from a cost
recovery program to one of preparing both parents to take
responsibility for the support of their children. In Virginia's child
support enforcement program, we are involved in several innovative
programs that vary by community in promoting self-sufficiency. For
example, we have fourteen of our seasoned child support staff co-
located in the local social service agencies. This offers the customer
``one stop shopping'' in that they can communicate with their
eligibility worker about benefits, and can communicate with the child
support worker to provide critical information that will assist our
staff in locating the noncustodial parent, establishing paternity and a
child support obligation, and collecting their support order. This co-
location also provides an opportunity for information sharing and
program understanding between the child support worker and the social
service worker. In other areas where co-location is not feasible, we
have child support staff who appear periodically at service points to
facilitate child support services for both custodial and noncustodial
Virginia is fortunate in that we are an administrative state, which
allows us to more efficiently process child support cases rather than
going through the courts. We issue 75 percent of all orders
administratively and preclude further judicial action, unless requested
by either party. This provides for services that are quicker, requires
no lawyers or judges, and gets the child support moneys to the
custodial parent much faster than if we had to process all actions
through the courts.
We know that many noncustodial parents take seriously their
responsibility to pay child support regularly. For the majority of
parents who do not readily meet their financial obligations,
enforcement tools such as income withholding, driver's license
revocation, or passport denial will encourage parents to meet their
financial obligations to their children. However, for a small minority
of noncustodial parents, even tougher enforcement tools have been
utilized. In Virginia, we have implemented enforcement tools such as
vehicle booting. As described in my testimony of June 28, 2001, this
enforcement technique was first utilized in Virginia in 1998. Since
it's inception, more than $420,000 has been collected from 79 bootings.
Another enforcement remedy, which is used, by Virginia and other
states is our KidsFirst Campaign which was first implemented in 1997
and offered limited amnesty to 57,000 of our most egregious support
evaders. To date, Virginia has collected more than $150 million in past
due child support as a result of this initiative. This initiative
enhanced our rapport with the law enforcement community and with the
Many of our courts utilize alternatives to incarceration such as
work release or in home incarceration. These programs allow the
noncustodial parent to avoid jail time by continuing to work and meet
their child support obligation as well as making them available to
provide emotional support to their children. This alternative is a
savings to the taxpayer and contributes to the self-sufficiency of the
Unique enforcement remedies, such as the two mentioned above, serve
us well in that they educate the public about child support services
that are available, the resulting press encourages other noncustodial
parents to pay their support to avoid these enforcement remedies and
the resulting child support payments assist the families in becoming
Several states, including Virginia, are involved in grants that
identify barriers to custodial parents applying for child support
services and also barriers to noncustodial parents contributing
financial support to their children. Since these studies have just
recently begun, I am not prepared to discuss findings or make
We currently have more than 70 community based fatherhood
initiatives underway in Virginia. One very recent example is the result
of a collaborative effort between Total Action Against Poverty (TAP)
and several agencies including child support enforcement, that provides
outreach to noncustodial parents under the age of 30, who are
unemployed or underemployed. TAP was successful in obtaining a $750,000
grant from the Charles S. Mott Foundation to target this populace in
the Roanoke, Virginia area. This grant will provide a child support
worker at the district office to identify fathers who might be eligible
for the program and refer them for services to enhance their job
skills, help them secure jobs and encourage them to become more
involved in their children's lives. One caveat to participate in this
program is to ensure the fathers acknowledge paternity and pay their
child support on a regular basis.
Many states, including Virginia, have entered into partnerships
with local Head Start associations. We provide literature regarding
child support services and periodically speak to Head Start
participants about our services and the importance of both parents
being involved in the financial and emotional upbringing of their
Some of our offices, particularly in rural localities, have entered
into agreements with faith-based organizations, community partners,
employers and local social services agencies under the Workforce
Investment Act. This partnership provides another opportunity to
distribute information on child support services and assist both
custodial and noncustodial parents in accessing these services.
Our core responsibility is to collect and disburse child support,
and we will continue to focus our efforts in that role, remaining
mindful that our partnerships with agencies such as those listed above
are crucial to furthering the self-sufficiency of families.
Unfortunately, our caseloads continue to increase, and we must remain
flexible in managing our resources while staying focused on our primary
mission, which is child support enforcement.
Q. The Department of Health and Human Services preliminary 1999
child support data tells us that collections were made in over six
million Title IV-D cases, up from 4.5 million in 1998. What actions can
Congress take to help States further improve the percentage of child
A. The Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act
1996 (PRWORA) provided states with powerful new tools to assist in the
collection of child support. The National Directory of New Hires and
the Federal Case Registry provide information not previously available
to states in their collection efforts. These new databases have allowed
states to increase the level of automation in their statewide computer
systems. The combination of the new tools and the improved automation
are primarily responsible for the increase in the percentage of
collections. Even for states, like Virginia, which have met all the
requirements for PRWORA, there is more that can be done to increase the
level of automation and improve on the use of the new tools.
There are two things Congress can do to help states further improve
the percentage of child support collections. One is to extend the
deadline for using the 80 percent enhanced funding for child support
computer systems. Congress designated a pool of 80 percent federal
funding to assist states in meeting these requirements. The deadline
for using the 80 percent funding is October 1, 2001. Many states will
not be able to use the full amount of the 80 percent money allocated to
them by the deadline.
Extending the deadline to October 1, 2005, will allow states to
take full advantage of enhanced funding to improve and enhance the
The second is to refrain from making major changes to the child
support program until the full benefits of the existing laws are
realized. In other words ``stay the course.'' Although passed in 1996,
the PRWORA changes were numerous and complex. States continue to expand
and increase their use of the new tools and laws. Major changes to the
program would divert valuable resources and prevent states from
continuing their effort to make full and complete use of the tools
provided by PRWORA.
Q. How do States handle the issue of access and visitation,
especially by divorced fathers?
A. The Grants to States for Access and Visitation Grant Programs
(A&V) are demonstration grants funded by the federal government in an
effort to increase parental involvement of noncustodial parents in the
lives of their children. Specific activities such as parent education,
counseling, visitation, development of parenting plans and mediation,
are eligible for funding. States are given oversight, monitoring, and
evaluation responsibilities for utilization of grant funds. Some states
are further along with their A&V programs, while others are just
beginning to implement programs to increase parental involvement.
Allocations are made to each state from a $10 million
appropriation. Each state must submit an application annually and
provide a ten percent match to receive the funds.
Each state is given the leverage to explore initiatives and
determine how families can benefit best from A&V funds. States
administer A&V programs based on the prevailing needs of their
Across the country, A&V programs are administered in different
ways. In California, A&V funds are used to help finance a statewide-
supervised visitation program. Missouri uses A&V funds to administer a
statewide mediation program for its citizens. One year, the State of
Michigan used A&V funds to develop an excellent two-part parent
education video presentation that demonstrated to fathers how to
effectively get involved with their children.
In Virginia, A&V funds are used to help finance community-based
programs, some of which are quite unique. In Northern Virginia, a
program that provides mediation, counseling, and education services to
teenage parents, primarily Hispanic, benefits from A&V funding. A
parent education and visitation program for incarcerated noncustodial
parents in Williamsburg, Virginia and surrounding counties received A&V
funding. In Newport News, A&V funding is used to help noncustodial
parents, who may have fallen victim to substance abuse or
incarceration, regain custody of their children. In Winchester,
Virginia and surrounding counties, a parent education program where
divorced parents are the predominant population served, A&V funds are
used to foster healthier relationships between divorced parents and
their children. Children also attend this program. At least four
supervised visitation centers across the Commonwealth receive A&V
We do not have information available on specific state efforts to
target divorced fathers. Typically, divorced fathers are included in
parent education, mediation, visitation, and counseling services
offered under A&V programs.
Q. On the issue of penalties on States that fail to meet the
administrative standards for their child support systems, I note you
have a proposal on Page 6 of your testimony. (Currently California,
Michigan and South Carolina are in penalty.) Could you give us more
information about the proposal you described? Relieving penalties in
this way would have the effect of raising federal spending as the
current penalty is subtracted from federal funds sent to the States to
operate their child support systems. Do you have any idea how much this
proposed change would cost? Are there other suggestions in this vein?
A. As I described in my written testimony to the Subcommittee, the
National Council of Child Support Directors (NCCSD) supports a policy
that allows a state, which is under automation penalties, to reinvest
those penalties into program improvements and system compliance. You
requested more information on that proposal. Therefore, I am including
the full text of the NCCSD resolution describing this reinvestment
approach. I am also including resolutions passed by the National
Governor's Association (NGA), the American Public Human Services
Association (APHSA) and the National Conference of State Legislatures
(NCSL), all of which support the same proposal for penalty
You also asked about the potential costs to the federal government
of the reinvestment proposal. It is difficult to know any exact costs
of reinvestment because penalties are in place only as long as a state
remains out of compliance with system requirements. Once a state
incurring penalties comes into compliance, the penalties end. Second,
any Federal costs will depend on how much a state elects to reinvest
into its program and system development. Under the proposal described
above, the penalty base is adjusted by the amount that a state spent
for information technology in the previous year. Thus, any potential
costs would depend on the amount that states incurring penalties are
expending on information technology costs. What is known is the
estimated penalty amount that states which are currently incurring
penalties will pay in this budget year: South Carolina: $5.3 million;
Michigan: $38.7 million; and California: $111 million. The estimated
amounts for the next fiscal year are: South Carolina: $6.4 million;
Michigan: $46.8 million; and California: $152 million. Importantly,
under this proposal any penalty amount reinvested is going directly
into the Child Support Program to support system and program
Finally, you inquired about other reinvestment suggestions. One
proposal currently calls for the establishment of a ``base year'' for
both penalty amounts and reinvestment amounts. Under this concept the
``base year'' would be the fiscal year before the penalty was applied.
The amount the state spent in that ``base year'' would be used to
calculate the penalty for every year the state is under the penalty. In
addition, the amount of the state's general fund spent in the previous
fiscal year that is in excess of the amount of the state's general fund
spent in the ``base year'' would be available for reinvestment. If
reinvested in the IV-D program, the state's penalty would be reduced by
the amount reinvested. This approach clearly corrects the unintended
consequence of penalizing someone for trying to fix a problem. For
example, California's penalty increased by 48.4 percent ($36.2 million)
this year alone just because it has increased program spending. In
Michigan, the penalty increased by 29.97 percent ($11.6 million) due to
increased program spending. In South Carolina, spending did not
significantly increase due to the state being in mediation with its
contractor. South Carolina expects spending to increase in the next
fiscal year in the 20-30 percent range. The cost of the reinvestment
component would be based on whatever the states choose to reinvest up
to the total amount of the penalty.
Q. Is Virginia promoting fatherhood programs through your State's
child support office? Are these programs receiving support through TANF
funds? What do other states do in terms of fatherhood program funding?
A. In Virginia, the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE)
partners with the Virginia Fatherhood Campaign (VFC) through a
Memorandum of Understanding between the two entities. DCSE grants funds
to VFC for the purpose of promoting responsible fatherhood throughout
the Commonwealth. VFC accomplishes this through seed grants to
community Fatherhood programs, workshops for service providers, media
advertising, printed materials and brochures for dissemination to the
general public. DCSE employs a Fatherhood Coordinator whose
responsibilities include educating the public about the child support
program and fostering positive working relationships between community
Fatherhood programs and DCSE. DCSE district offices are encouraged to
collaborate with community Fatherhood programs.
In Virginia, TANF accounts for 100 percent of the funding granted
to VFC through the Memorandum of Understanding between DCSE and VFC. In
other states, TANF funds can and are used as well as combinations of
TANF and State General Funds.
Q. In his testimony, Ron Haskins raises the issue that, as the
welfare caseload declines, there are fewer potential child support
collections for parents on welfare. This, as you know, has
traditionally been a partial funding source for operating child support
programs--when States retain and share with the federal government
collections for parents on welfare. Aside from simply expecting the
State or federal governments to provide more funds to fill this gap, do
you have any other creative ideas for addressing this problem, which is
likely to be with us for a long term?
A. There are no easy answers to the issue of funding the child
support program in the face of decreasing collections for parents on
welfare. A small piece of good news is that for the first time in
several years, these collections in Virginia did not decrease. The
National Council of Child Support Directors (NCCSD) recently conducted
a survey of child support directors to solicit funding ideas. Some
thoughts included increasing Federal Financial Participation (FFP) to
75 percent and eliminating the state share of retained collections,
developing creative ways to use TANF block grant dollars to fund the
child support program, and perhaps up-fronting the federal share of
program costs instead of reimbursing costs after the fact. Any new
concept will require additional analysis and study to assess the
impact. NCCSD encourages Congress to work with states, OCSE and
professional organizations to develop a viable funding structure to
ensure adequate and stable funding for this critical program. NCCSD
recently developed a resolution on funding for the child support
program. The recommendations are repeated here.
The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, Administration for
Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services (OCSE)
and Congress should provide for full and sustained Federal Financial
Participation (FFP) for all aspects of the Child Support Program at
current or enhanced levels.
Congress should ensure the continuation of 90 percentage FFP for
Congress should amend federal law to extend the use of 80 percent
FFP to October 1, 2005, for enhancements to automated systems required
by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act
of 1996, including implementation of the medical support notice which
is required by federal regulations issued in March 2001.
When states are required to implement new mandates, or make
substantial revisions to existing program requirements, Congress should
provide enhanced FFP to reduce the impact on the states' child support
To ensure timely and consistent implementation of any of the
Medical Child Support Working Group's recommendations that require
State child support agencies to assume new responsibilities, Congress
should provide enhanced 90 percent FFP for medical support activities
for a limited 5-year period.
OCSE and Congress should work with state IV-D Directors to identify
methods for ensuring that stable and adequate levels of investment in
the program by federal, state, and local governments advances the child
support program's evolving mission and improves outcomes. This
investment should reflect overall trends and future directions in the
nation's human services delivery system rather than a point-in-time
analysis, and adhere to a set of principles that properly relate
funding approaches to program needs, goals and performance.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to provide additional
information on your questions.
If I may provide additional information, please call me directly at
Nathaniel L. Young, Jr.
National Center for Strategic Nonprofit
Planning and Community Leadership
Washington, DC 20036
July 12, 2001
Hon. Wally Herger, Chairman
Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Committee on Ways and Means
Subcommittee on Human Resources
Washington, D.C. 20515
1. How do the fatherhood programs your organization operates
interact with the child support system? How do they treat the issue of
Our fatherhood development programs interact with state and local
child support enforcement agencies on a win-win basis. The child
support enforcement agency and community-based fatherhood development
program partnerships that have been developed under various fatherhood
initiatives are based on the premise that the well-being of children is
central to all--mothers, fathers, child support agencies, community-
based organizations, other public and private service agencies, and
others concerned in the community. At the core of the partnerships is
the relationship between child support enforcement and community-based
organizations. The challenge for these partnerships is to improve the
trust and the relationships between child support enforcement and
community-based organizations necessary for the child support program
to exercise state flexibility provided under PRWORA. This must be done
in a way that is consistent with the state's fiscal character.
In order to accomplish this under the Partners for Fragile Families
(PFF) Demonstration Project, NPCL created a Peer Learning College that
includes child support enforcement representatives from a number of
state child support enforcement programs. The Peer Learning College
provides a forum for child support professionals to learn about the
issues faced by low-income fathers and by community-based fatherhood
development programs designed to serve them and find ways to interact
with them and other public/private service agencies attempting to serve
low-income fathers and their fragile families. An important part of the
curriculum has been the participation of young fathers and community-
based fatherhood practitioners in all six sessions over the past three
NPCL has also held extensive orientation and training for
community-based organizations around the workings of the child support
system. Child support partners from the PFF sites have served as
instructors for many of these sessions. NPCL has developed the
expertise to coordinate the various agency partnerships in serving low-
income, low-skilled parents and their children.
NPCL has also invested in bringing considerable expertise,
including on-board staff, around the issue of child support to serve as
a resource for our community-based partners, and to enhance the
capacity of our state child support partners to work more effectively
with community-based agencies.
All of these efforts have reinforced the interaction between the
partners and built a common level of understanding and trust. This
understanding and trust has served as a platform for the partners to
negotiate systems and manage the risks associated with the fathers'
habilitation and participation in society.
How do they, our programs, treat the issue of marriage?
We instruct our programs that marriage is a special human
relationship. We are fortunate in having a number of men and women from
the clergy associated with our sites. As part of the training using the
Fatherhood Development Curriculum, the sites invite experts to come in
and discuss the issues surrounding marriage. When men proceed in
fatherhood development programs and express an interest in marriage, we
advise program staff to refer them to professionals in the field. These
are often faith-based partners responsible for the institutions where a
large number of marriages occur. They take the lead in this area. In
our programs marriage is perceived as a success.
A. What impact has this interaction had on fathers, children,
mothers, financial status of fathers, and the emotional connection
between fathers and children?
In many cases it has transformed their lives. Our fatherhood
development programs have seen fathers at all levels of
marginalization, alienated from families and friends, and civil
society. After enrollment in the programs, fathers actually confront
the many challenges to changing their lives and reconnecting with their
families and their children. Many have been able to surmount the
challenges, become financial contributors to their children,
establishing paternity and paying their child support, and most
importantly, emotionally attached and positively involved in the lives
of their children. Consequently, they enjoy recreational activities
with their children, participate in family outings and are engaged in
their child's nurturing, educational and developmental processes. Their
emotional involvement has also meant a singular reluctance to engage in
activities that would place them in jeopardy of returning to their
previous status and placing their children at risk.
2. How do programs work with noncustodial fathers to help them
better connect emotionally with their children and their children's
Our programs are designed to meet the multiple service needs of
fathers. Their operations are based on Fatherhood Development: A
Curriculum for Young Fathers. The curriculum was field-tested in
Public/Private Ventures' Young Unwed Fathers Pilot Project (see
attachment). Through a series of approximately 25 streetwise
discussions that provide support, information and motivation in the
areas of life skills, personal development, parenthood, relationships,
sexuality and responsible fatherhood, young fathers receive assistance
so necessary to their full participation in the lives of their
children. The programs are also designed to remove the social, legal,
economic, cultural, and institutional barriers to their involvement in
What positive changes have you seen?
Across the PFF demonstration sites, we have seen several instances
where young men are assuming full responsibility for the direction of
their lives. In one site we have seen a young Hispanic father, recently
out of jail, get assistance from our program, get training and a job in
asbestos removal. He is currently making well above minimum wage. He is
paying his child support, and the mother of his child, who had
disdained him when he was incarcerated, has allowed him to see the
child regularly and has even begun dating him again. Since his
involvement in the program, he stopped engaging in all at risk
behavior--smoking, drinking, gang banging and selling drugs.
In another site, we had a young man who had been ``in the life''
for many years, engaging in selling drugs and small-time thievery, and
having multiple children with the same young lady. Since his
involvement in the program he has ceased all at risk activities,
secured a job, and has married the mother of his children.
In still another site, a young man, recently out of high school,
through participation in the program has been intimately involved
throughout the pregnancy of his girl friend. He has been with her on
visits to the pre-natal clinics and on visits to the doctor, and is now
talking about marrying the mother of his child. The list is long across
the PFF sites. We have many success stories where young fathers,
through the efforts of our programs, have transformed themselves into
contributing members of the communities and wonderful fathers and role
models for their children.
3. How do you bring the fathers who are ``living below the radar
screen, outside organized society and out of the child support
enforcement system'' into your programs?
When we refer to fathers ``living below the radar screen, outside
organized society and out of the reach of child support enforcement,''
we are addressing that portion of the population that we call dead-
broke dads. These young men do not have attachment to the labor force.
Moreover, many of them participate in the underground economy. Further,
many of the young fathers we serve do not have a permanent address.
They move from a relative to a friend and then back to the relative
with great frequency.
For purposes of child support enforcement, establishing legal
notice is difficult and often impossible. As a result of PRWORA
however, the child support enforcement system can move forward even
when they have not established traditional effective legal notice. This
can lead to default orders with imputed incomes that are inconsistent
with the father's ability to pay. Arrears accumulate and with interest
up to 18% added in some states, child support debt can exceed a year's
wages. If these dads do find jobs and are identified under the new
hires reporting system, by the time child support enforcement can serve
an income withholding order, they have lost the job.
Our programs recruit through various sources. They include Head
Start programs, Alternative Schools serving young mothers, Healthy
Start projects and other programs that serve low-income mothers and
children. However, the best source of recruitment of these men is the
mothers of their children and often the fathers own mothers. And the
best method of recruitment is getting out into the community where the
There, through word of mouth, street outreach, a need to find a
job, the tireless work of outreach workers, or the desperate desire to
address a child support arrearage, or because the mother of their child
or their own mother has encouraged them, these clients present
themselves to programs. The word on the street will be that this
program can help you. It will not judge you. The program is a place
where, if you put in the time and effort, staff will assist you in
``straightening out your life.'' This is the best recruitment.
4. In your testimony, you mentioned that ``the average mother on
welfare receives about $33 per month in covert support from poor
fathers.'' Please define ``covert support'' and tell us how you arrived
at the $33 figure.
Covert child support is money, purchases, or services provided to
the custodial parent by the noncustodial parent and are not reported to
the child support system.
The $33 figure comes from ``Poor Dads Who Don't pay Child Support:
Deadbeats or Disadvantaged?'' a study by Elaine Sorenson and Chava
Zibman of the Urban Institute, and based on Assessing the New
Federalism's 1997 National Survey of America's Families.
5. You seem to focus a lot on never-married fathers and their
interactions with the child support system. Can you tell us about
efforts involving divorced fathers and their willingness and ability to
pay child support?
You are correct Mr. Chairman; the vast majority of our work deals
with that portion of the population that is low income, low skilled,
and never married. Young cohabiting couples produce one-third of all of
America's children. That is not one-third of all poor children, one-
third of all minority children, or one-third of any sub grouping that
you might name. It is a fact that one third of all American children
are the progeny of couples that have never been married. In addition,
about a quarter of all poor children are produced by couples who are
either cohabiting or couples in which the father visits the child at
least once per week. These visiting relationships tend to be an
important part of the parenting/living arrangements of young African
American families, while childbearing within cohabitation is more
typical of white and Hispanic couples.
The Partners for Fragile Families Demonstration was built on the
lessons learned from 25 years of publicly and privately supported
demonstrations in the field of responsible fatherhood, including the
Teen Father's Collaboration, the Young Unwed Fathers Pilot Project, and
the Parents Fair Share Demonstration Project. PFF was designed to
augment our research by gathering first party information on the nature
and substance of the relationships that exist in what we call fragile
families. We started first with research to determine if these fathers
fit the bad guy image, and if these children were the result of casual
relationships, as we so often heard.
This population was chosen because we had consistently heard from
the mothers of these children that these guys weren't bad guys, just
broke. We also had heard that interaction with the child support system
was a nightmare for this population. We wanted to know if specific
interventions moved these couples in the direction of more traditional
family formation. Could a better working relationship with the child
support system serve not to place additional strain on the
Moreover, we focused on this population because it is the fastest
growing family type in which poor children reside, and in many ways
constitutes a new pathway into child poverty; replacing the old, namely
divorce and separation of a previously non-poor, married couple
household. As we move into the future, we can expect children born to
fragile families to represent an increasing share of all poor children
and children born to previously non-poor married couples, which later
divorced leaving the mother and child alone and poor, to constitute a
diminishing share of all poor children. This latter portion will simply
age out of the population of poor children.
Finally, we emphasized this population because it is the population
where our current welfare and child support systems are having the
least success in reducing child poverty and improving child well-being,
even though these systems encounter (and will continue to encounter)
more and more of the children from this population every day.
I would say, Mr. Chairman that there are significant differences
between the way divorced fathers and fathers in fragile families
interact with families, welfare and child support systems. First,
divorced fathers tend to be older and have older children. As a result,
they are more experienced in the labor market and their relationships
with the mothers of their children are more deteriorated. Because they
have more labor market experience than fathers in fragile families, it
is difficult for our current work force development systems to boost
their wages above what they could already earn on their own.
Demonstration projects which have focused on divorced fathers have been
unable to improve the employment and earnings of these fathers and
therefore unable to raise the level of the child support payments they
are making. This frustrates efforts made by child support authorities
to accommodate the labor market barriers these fathers face, in
attempting to fulfill their responsibilities to families and taxpayers.
Moreover, because these fathers are older, have older children, and
older cases in the child support system, many are in arrears, and this
further complicates the efforts of child support enforcement to work in
a progressive way with these fathers. Finally, because their
relationships with the mothers of their children have long since
deteriorated, the prospects of getting the mother's cooperation in
involving the father in the life of the child is diminished. Therefore,
public investments with low-income divorced fathers will yield less in
terms of the improved financial and emotional well-being of children.
All this argues for focusing our efforts on young, fragile
families, whose educational skills, employment experiences, and family
relationships are still in the process of development and still subject
to positive redirection. Moreover, previous demonstrations have shown
greater success in improving the employment and earnings of these
fathers, and that they are less likely to have already accumulated
large amounts of arrears, so that child support enforcement
administrators face fewer obstacles in trying to accommodate the
employment barriers these fathers face. PFF hopes to build upon this
experience by examining a variety of locally based strategies to
further improve their employment and earnings and by making an improved
relationship between the young parents an explicit goal of our work.
6. The first attachment to your testimony (``NPCL Peer Learning
College,'' Page 3) discusses ``significant barriers to timely
modifications (of arrears for low-income noncustodial parents) during
periods of reduced ability to pay.'' What do you mean by these
``barriers?'' How might those be addressed?
Principal among the significant barriers is the fact that most
child support programs are severely under-funded. The capacity of the
child support system is insufficient to handle the caseload. Therefore
it is perfectly logical that CSE programs would work on the higher
priority items reflected in the new child support incentive measures.
Another significant barrier is that in the majority of our states
guidelines provisions are out dated. This means that even in states
that have a self-support reserve, the reserve may have been set in 1984
dollars and not updated to take into account the inflationary impact of
the last two decades.
The general public--including our target population--does not know
the processes and procedures by which one would obtain a modification.
Downward modification, particularly from a default order may require an
attorney. While a number of law schools have long proud histories of
working with low-income moms, very few work with low-income dads.
Finally, many state legislators do not know their level of
flexibility in setting child support guidelines. Instead, many believe
that the federal partner mandated the exact scheme that is in their
state law, which is not the case.
Jeffery M. Johnson, Ph.D.
President & CEO
Washington, DC 20036
July 25, 2001
The Honorable Wally Herger
2268 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairman Herger:
Thanks so much for inviting me to testify before your Subcommittee
about child support and fatherhood. It was a great privilege to appear
before your Subcommittee.
This letter is a response to the questions posed in your letter of
1. LWith regard to the fatherhood programs outlined in legislation
such as H.R. 1471, what do you think will be the most positive effects
of these programs on the communities where they are implemented? Do we
have evidence about positive changes seen to date?
First, with regard to the anticipated positive effects of
fatherhood programs, I think it is necessary to be humble about what
can be achieved in the short run. There are numerous fatherhood
programs throughout the nation, but very few have been the subject of
scientific evaluations. Many of these programs are aimed at helping
divorced fathers deal with issues of custody and visitation and
learning how to be better fathers when they cannot reside with their
However, based on the direction the Subcommittee has taken in
recent years, as well as legislation enacted by the House last year, I
believe that the major interest of Congress is in programs designed
primarily to help poor and low-income fathers. The legislation enacted
by the House last year attempted to promote programs that would help
poor fathers improve their employment prospects, become better parents,
and work toward marriage. There are far fewer programs of this sort,
and again very few good evaluations.
Even so, in large part because of actions taken by the Human
Resources Subcommittee way back in 1988, the Manpower Demonstration
Research Corp. (MDRC) has conducted a rigorous experiment on the
effects of a particular type of fatherhood program for poor fathers
called ``Parents' Fair Share.'' The Parents' Fair Share programs, which
enrolled about 5,600 fathers in seven cities, involved peer discussion
groups, employment and training services, and child support services;
the goals of the programs were to increase child support payments,
improve the fathers' employment and earnings, and increase the fathers'
involvement with their children. The MDRC research, which is the best
information available on the impacts of programs for low-income
fathers, operated in the seven cities between 1994 and 1996. MDRC has
now published several excellent reports on the results. Unfortunately,
the results are decidedly mixed. There is little evidence of increased
employment or increased contact with children, but some evidence of an
increase in the number of fathers who paid child support.
These were the first major programs that attempted to help poor
fathers be better providers and better parents. The history of
innovative social programs is one of major failures and minor
successes. Thus, the key to success is to keep trying, as the nation
did with welfare-to-work programs. Although the first generation of
programs for poor fathers produced only modest positive outcomes, they
did show that poor fathers were willing participants and that the
overwhelming majority of poor fathers indicated that they wanted to do
a much better job of having contact with children and providing support
for them. The fact that more poor fathers paid child support is
consistent with this conclusion.
Thus, it would be wrong to assert that fatherhood programs, based
on the knowledge currently at hand, can be expected to have major
impacts on parenting, employment, or marriage in the short run.
However, the results from the first round of programs is not entirely
discouraging. In fact, I believe that future programs may be able to
produce better results, especially if they begin around the time that
unmarried parents have their first child. A few programs of this type
are now being designed. I believe, as do many researchers familiar with
previous and current programs, that programs focused on helping these
young couples, about half of whom cohabit and well over 80 percent of
whom tell interviewers they are in serious, committed relationships,
could produce much better outcomes than the first round of programs
evaluated by MDRC.
2. LStates can use their TANF or even Social Services Block Grant
funds to operate fatherhood programs? Just from Federal and State TANF
funds, that's a potential pool of about $26 billion per year for
running such programs, along with all the other cash welfare programs
States run. Do we know how many States are using TANF funds for
fatherhood programs? What do we know about the results?
In your letter you also asked about whether states are now using
their TANF dollars to support programs for poor fathers. Here are two
answers. First, based on talks with state officials and staff members
with national organizations that represent state government, many
states are using some TANF dollars to mount programs for poor fathers.
However, as far as I have been able to find out, there is no formal
survey of these programs, let alone any kind of rigorous evaluation.
But as your letter implies, there is no question that states could use
their TANF money to design and implement programs for poor fathers.
Second, the Welfare-to-Work program, which is also under the
jurisdiction of the Committee on Ways and Means, supports many
fatherhood programs. A recent report by Shannon Harper and Christine
Devere of the Congressional Research Service found a total of 77 such
programs. To my knowledge these programs have not been evaluated and we
now have little information on whether they have been successful. It is
my understanding that the Department of Labor has worked hard to
encourage fatherhood programs to apply for the Welfare-to-Work funds
and that they are collecting basic administrative data on these
programs. It may occur to you that the Congressional Research Service
could summarize what is known about these programs from administrative
data. However, I doubt that the available information would provide
reliable data on whether these programs have had impacts on fathers'
employment, earnings, payment of child support, or marriage.
Information of this type requires random-assignment experiments, like
the Parents' Fair Share study conducted by MDRC, and as far as I have
been able to discover no such studies of the Department of Labor
programs are underway.
Having worked in this field for several years, I believe there is
growing recognition that fathers are critical to adequate child
development, that two-parent married families provide the best rearing
environment for children, and that the nation has entirely too many
single-parent families. But recent research shows that poor fathers
have serious problems in American society: they have high unemployment
and low earnings rates; they have high crime, arrest, and incarceration
rates; and they have difficulty establishing lasting relationships with
their children or their children's mother. It would be a public service
of huge proportions if Congress could provide the resources and overall
framework for programs that would help poor fathers avoid crime,
improve employment, improve parenting frequency and skill, and work
toward marriage. In my opinion, the legislation reported out of the
Ways and Means Committee and passed by the House (but not the Senate)
last year would, if enacted this year, be a major step in the right
Thanks again for the opportunity to provide information on child
support and fatherhood to the Human Resources Subcommittee. In addition
to this letter, MDRC has graciously agreed to send a complete set of
their studies of the Parents' Fair Share evaluation to your
Subcommittee staff director Matt Weidinger. I am happy to respond to
additional questions you or your staff might have.
National Women's Law Center
Washington, DC 20036
July 12, 2001
The Honorable Wally Herger, Chairman
Subcommittee on Human Resources
House Committee on Ways and Means
I appreciate this opportunity to respond to the additional
questions posed by the Subcommittee following the hearing on June 28,
1. Some members may believe that giving more child support money to
families on welfare will make it easier for them to stay on welfare,
rather than encouraging them to move off of welfare. How would you
respond to these members?
With the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), welfare became a time-limited
program.\1\ Giving more child support to families while they are on
welfare helps them to get this important source of income in place
before they leave welfare, furthering PRWORA's goal of making welfare a
transitional assistance program. Wisconsin's experimental policy of
passing through all child support to families receiving Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and disregarding all of it in
determining the TANF grant, has been demonstrated not to increase
welfare stays. On the contrary, Wisconsin's full pass-through and
disregard, as compared to a more limited pass-through policy, has
stimulated an increase in child support payments that has enabled
families to leave welfare more quickly, and provided additional income
that can help them avoid a return to welfare.
\1\ Congress set a 60-month lifetime limit on federally funded TANF
benefits and 20 states have adopted shorter time limits. State Policy
Documentation Project (SPDP), State Time Limits on TANF Cash
Assistance, (February 2000), http://www.spdp.org/tanf/timelimits/
To transform their welfare programs into programs of transitional
assistance, most states have adopted policies to encourage families
receiving TANF to develop the sources of income they will need when
they leave TANF. Given the flexibility to develop their own policies
concerning disregards for earned income, all but five states have
adopted earnings disregards more generous than those that existed under
the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.\2\ Although
these policies also, in theory, could make it easier to stay on
welfare, they have coincided with an increase in work participation and
a dramatic decline in the welfare rolls. In addition, programs that
increased family income as well as parental employment were found to
produce improvements in child well-being that were not matched by
programs that increased parental employment alone; and, the positive
effects of earnings supplement programs on children were most
pronounced for the children of long-term welfare recipients.\3\
\2\ SPDP, Financial Eligibility for TANF Cash Assistance (June
2000), http://www.spdp.org/tanf/financial/finansumm.htm; Treatment of
Earnings as of January 2000, http://www.spdp.org/tanf/financial/
\3\ Pamela Morris et al., How Welfare and Work Policies Affect
Children: A Synthesis of Research, ES-4-ES-6, Manpower Demonstration
Research Corporation (March 2001).
States have had less flexibility to experiment with giving more
child support to families because of the requirement that they repay
the federal share of all child support collections for children
receiving TANF. Wisconsin, however, was able to pursue a full pass-
through and disregard policy as part of its ``W-2'' program under a
federal waiver it received before the passage of PRWORA. In this
experiment, for most custodial parents receiving cash assistance, all
child support paid was passed through to the family and disregarded in
calculating their grant. A randomly assigned control group received
only a partial pass-through and disregard of child support.
Wisconsin's full pass-through and disregard policy was found to
increase significantly the percentage of noncustodial parents who paid
support and the amount of support paid.\4\ The effects were
particularly strong among parents of children without a history of AFDC
receipt, because they did not have expectations based on the old
system, in which payments went to reimburse welfare costs.\5\
Connecticut tested a more limited pass-through and disregard policy. In
its ``Jobs First'' program, all child support was passed through and
the disregard was increased from $50 to
$100. Average child support payments for ``Jobs First'' participants
were found to be higher than for the control group subject to AFDC
\4\ Daniel Meyer and Maria Cancian, W-2 Child Support Demonstration
Evaluation Phase 1: Final Report, Executive Summary, Institute for
Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin (2001), http://
\5\ Id., Volume II, Chapter 2, at 6-7.
\6\ Dan Bloom et al., Jobs First: Implementation and Early Impacts
of Connecticut's Welfare Reform Initiative 119, 117, Manpower
Demonstration Research Corporation (2000).
Under Wisconsin's full pass-through and disregard policy, mothers
received more child support than under the old rules, in part because
of the increase in child support paid and in part because they were
allowed to receive more child support income. However, refuting the
concerns that some members may have that such a policy would increase
welfare stays, the researchers found that:
receiving child support is associated with an increased
likelihood of moving to an upper tier [in which families
receive supportive services but not cash] or off the program by
the end of the first year. Thus, to the extent that the reform
increases support, it may also decrease W-2 participation.\7\
\7\ Id., Volume I, Chapter 4, at 49-50.
In addition, researchers found that the Wisconsin policy produced
no difference in overall government costs, because cost savings in
other programs offset the child support payments that were given to
families instead of retained.\8\
\8\ Id., Executive Summary.
Receipt of child support also reduces the length of time a family
receives welfare by helping families avoid a return to welfare and
increasing their well-being.\9\ Analysis of national data found that
women receiving any amount of support are less likely to return to
welfare; that support received by a young woman in the first years of a
child's life is positively related to her later self-sufficiency; and
that women who received support in each of the first five years after
exiting welfare were among those who achieved modest levels of economic
well-being.\10\ A study in Washington State found that good child
support payments were associated with lower recidivism rates, which
substantially increased time off of welfare.\11\ An analysis in Texas
found that for every $100 in child support received per quarter by a
caretaker who left AFDC, the probability of welfare recidivism in that
quarter was reduced by one percentage point, and the receipt of child
support had over a three times larger effect on recidivism than an
equivalent dollar amount of the caretaker's own earnings.\12\ After
reviewing all of the available research, the 1999 Report to Congress on
child support and welfare recidivism concluded:
\9\ See generally, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
(DHHS), Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), 1999 Report to
Congress: Analysis of the Impact on Welfare Recidivism of PRWORA Child
Support Arrears Distribution Policy Changes, http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/
\10\ Daniel Meyer and Marcia Cancian, ``Child Support and Economic
Well-Being Following an Exit from AFDC,'' in OCSE, XIX Child Support
Report (May 1997).
\11\ Carl Formoso, ``Early Findings of the Effect of Child Support
and Self-Sufficiency Programs in Washington State on Reducing Direct
Support Public Costs,'' in OCSE, XXI Child Support Report (January
\12\ Deanna Schnexnayder et al., The Role of Child Support in Texas
Welfare Dynamics 6, Center for the Study of Human Resources, Lyndon B.
Johnson School of Public Affairs (1998).
Based on research findings, even small amounts of child
support payments reduce welfare recidivism. . . . As the
residual [TANF] caseload decreases over time, it increasingly
comprises hard-to-place individuals who face substantial
barriers to employment. . . . [T]he relative value of even
incremental increases in child support will be greater for the
hard to place. Additionally, if these individuals reside in a
low-benefit State, the relative replacement value for the TANF
grant will be greater. This combination of factors suggests
that PRWORA distribution policies that increase child support
payments to these families may have an even greater effect on
\13\ 1999 Report to Congress, supra, Executive Summary.
Congress has recognized the importance of giving more child support
to families that have left welfare. PRWORA gave families leaving TANF
greater claims to their past-due child support than they had under
AFDC. This Subcommittee is considering H.R. 1471, which would eliminate
remaining exceptions to ``Family First'' distribution for families that
have left TANF. The changes to the post-TANF assignment and
distribution rules in H.R. 1471 certainly would increase the amount of
child support that families leaving TANF receive, and would help them
avoid a return to welfare. However, changes that also would make it
feasible for states to change the distribution rules for families while
they are on welfare could produce additional increases in the amount
and timeliness of the child support that families receive when they
leave welfare for two reasons.
First, if child support payments were passed through to families
while they were on welfare, there would be no disruption in payments
when they left welfare. Although families are legally entitled to
receive current support payments after they leave welfare, in practice
there have been delays of several months in some states in redirecting
payments from the state to the family.\14\
\14\ Vicki Turetsky, What If All the Money Came Home? 6, Center for
Law and Social Policy (2000), http://www.clasp.org/pubs/childenforce/
Second, the incentive effects on support payments are likely to be
greater if states are able to change the mission and message of the
child support program in a more comprehensive way. As noted above,
Wisconsin had a harder time explaining the new policy to families that
had experienced the old system, and the increases in payments, although
they occurred, were lower among prior recipients than among those new
to the system. This suggests that the incentive effect would be greater
if states could give parents a simple, consistent message: than
whenever noncustodial parents pay support, whether their children are
receiving assistance at the time or not, those payments directly
increase their children's well-being. This would complement the efforts
of programs working with low-income fathers to encourage and help them
to provide more economic and emotional support to their children.
In sum, the evidence shows that giving more child support to
families on welfare will make the child support program a more
effective tool for promoting self sufficiency. At a minimum, federal
policy should eliminate the barriers to states' adopting such policies.
2. In general, what are State policies toward passing through child
support to families while they are receiving TANF benefits? How many
States do you think would change their policy if H.R. 1471 were enacted
As of January 1999, the latest date for which complete state-by-
state information is available, slightly more than half the states (28,
including the District of Columbia) did not pass through and disregard
child support to families receiving TANF. Eighteen states passed
through and disregarded child support up to various amounts: $50 per
month (15 states), $40 (1 state), $75 (1 state), $100 (1 state). One
state passed through and disregarded all child support for TANF
recipients. Four states had policies other than a pass-through and
disregard that permit TANF recipients to benefit from child support
paid on their behalf. One of the four retained child support payments,
but increased the TANF grant by up to $50 per month for those on whose
behalf current support is collected. (This has the same effect on
family income as a $50 pass-through and disregard, but is administered
differently.) Three of the four had no specific child support
disregard, but allowed recipients to use other income, including child
support, to ``fill the gap'' between the state's maximum benefit and
the income eligibility standard. If the earnings of a family receiving
TANF did not fill the gap, child support income would be disregarded.
(Two states with a $50 pass-through and disregard also had fill-the-gap
\15\ Paula Roberts, State Policy Re: Pass-through and Disregard of
Current Month's Child Support Collected for Families Receiving TANF-
Funded Cash Assistance As of January 1, 1999, CLASP (1999), http://
The Congressional Budget Office estimates, based on conversations
with state representatives, that if federal law were changed to
eliminate the requirement that states reimburse the federal share of
child support collections passed through and disregarded for TANF
families, about half the states that do not currently have a $50 pass-
through and disregard would adopt such a policy (about 14 states). In
addition, 10 to 20 percent of states that have a $50 pass-through and
disregard would increase it (two to three states).\16\
\16\ Information about the assumptions CBO used in estimating the
cost of H.R. 4678 (106th Congress) and H.R. 1471
(107th Congress) obtained in conversations between NWLC
staff and CBO analyst Sheila Dacey in fall 2000 and spring 2001.
I know of no other estimates of the number of states that would
change their policies in response to the legislation. However,
organizations representing states have expressed both considerable
interest in experimenting in this area and concerns about fiscal
impacts in some states,\17\ suggesting that state responses will vary.
\17\ See, e.g., American Public Human Services Association,
Crossroads: New Directions in Social Policy 62 (2001, http://
www.aphsa.org/reauthor/crossroads.pdf; National Governors' Association
Policy Position, Child Support Financing Policy, Passthrough,
Sec. 14.3.1 (2001), http://www.nga.org/nga/legislativeUpdate/
3. Please expand on the importance of requiring review and
modification of child support orders for TANF recipients every 3 years
and for reviewing the child support cases of families leaving TANF.
Making an extra effort to ensure that families leaving TANF receive
appropriate child support and medical support would benefit families
and reduce returns to welfare (see research cited in response to
question 1, above). Unfortunately, few IV-D agencies are systematically
undertaking such an effort. Requiring that IV-D agencies conduct a full
review of the cases of families leaving TANF would ensure that states
make a priority of improving services to this vulnerable population.
Under PRWORA, periodic reviews of child support orders are no
longer required in TANF cases. States are supposed to notify all
parents, TANF and non-TANF, custodial and noncustodial, every 3 years,
of their right to request a review of their order. However, a 1999
review of state policies and practices in this area by the Office of
Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services found
that 18 states did not notify parents of their right to request a
review, and nine had no plans to do so, despite the requirements of
federal law. No state used proactive measures to promote review
requests from parents close to exiting public assistance. And, although
all states reported that it was their policy to check for and add
medical support to orders they reviewed, in seven of the ten states
visited by the OIG, the IV-D staff interviewed said that they did not
always pursue medical support if the order did not otherwise require
adjustment.\18\ Without adequate notice to parents, including the
financial information parents need to make an informed decision about
whether to request a review, the current ``on-request'' review and
modification system will not ensure that orders reflect the changing
circumstances of parents and children.
\18\ DHHS, OIG, Review and Adjustment of Support Orders 7-8, OEI-
Requiring that IV-D offices conduct a full case review for families
leaving TANF and take additional actions, if appropriate, to locate
noncustodial parents, establish paternity and support awards, review
and modify awards, and collect support, could produce significant
increases in child support. In 1999, only 24 percent of current
assistance cases had collections as compared to 42 percent of never-
assistance cases.\19\ The main reason for the difference was that fewer
current assistance cases had orders: 44 percent as compared to 64
percent of never-assistance cases. Once an order was established, the
difference in collection rates was smaller; 56 percent of current
assistance cases with orders had collections, as compared to 66 percent
of never-assistance cases.
\19\ OCSE, Child Support Enforcement FY 99 Preliminary Data Report,
Table 2 (2000).
Intensively working the cases of parents who are about to leave
welfare will require additional resources--but can produce results. In
Minnesota, for example, several years ago the state legislature offered
performance bonuses to counties for establishing paternities, reviewing
orders, and enrolling children in the noncustodial parent's insurance
plan. Hennepin County substantially increased its staffing in those
areas--and increased the number of paternities established each month
by 40 percent, conducted four times as many modification reviews, and
increased threefold the number of children enrolled in the noncustodial
parent's medical insurance plan. Moreover, results were obtained even
in the older AFDC cases.
``[C]lients are now better prepared for self-sufficiency
because more cases have orders and older orders now have higher
amounts. We were much better prepared for welfare reform than
we would have been without this program.'' \20\
\20\ OCSE, Compendium of State Best Practices and Good Ideas in
Child Support Enforcement 2000, Fifth Edition, ``Management Methods''
(Hennepin County Bonus Incentive Program), quoting Barry Bloombren,
Hennepin County Child Support Division Manager, http://
4. Dr. Johnson's testimony (in his attachment ``NPCL Peer Learning
College,'' Page 4) cites a report that suggests that. . . .
``. . . arrears will remain high unless child support
agencies enter realistic orders in low-income cases, compromise
uncollectible arrears, and work cooperatively with community-
based organizations and state agencies that can help
noncustodial parents overcome the underlying problems that
prevent them from getting and keeping the kinds of jobs needed
to support their children.''
Would you agree with his statement? What does it take to, for
example, ``compromise uncollectible arrears?''
I would agree generally with the statement, but emphasize that it
refers to low-income obligors and to arrears owed to the state, not to
custodial parents. Some arrearages accumulate because noncustodial
parents with the ability to pay have avoided paying child support;
however, those noncustodial parents and those arrearages are not the
subject of Dr. Johnson's testimony, or this response.
The large arrearages that many low-income noncustodial parents owe
to the state are a problem not only for them, but for custodial parents
and children, as representatives of both groups explained in the
``Common Ground'' project of the National Women's Law Center and the
Center on Fathers, Families, and Public Policy.\21\ Many states pursue
a variety of policies that create particularly high arrears for the
low-income parents of children receiving public assistance. For
example, the vast majority of states order noncustodial parents to pay
retroactive support in public assistance cases, and a few order parents
to reimburse Medicaid birthing costs, creating large debts to the state
as soon as an order to pay support is entered. Orders may be entered
that are unrelated to ability to pay; some states set a high percentage
of their orders by default, and set the amount of the award by imputing
income when the obligor's income or earning capacity is unknown. In the
case of low-income obligors who have very low and sporadic earnings,
these imputed orders may far exceed the obligors' ability to pay. Or,
awards that are realistic when entered may be difficult or impossible
to modify when circumstances change.\22\
\21\ National Women's Law Center and Center on Fathers, Families
and Public Policy, Family Ties: Improving Paternity Establishment
Practices and Procedures for Low-Income Mothers, Fathers and Children
9-11, 28, http://www.nwlc.org/pdf/commgrnd.pdf.
\22\ DHHS, OIG, The Establishment of Child Support Orders for Low-
Income Non-custodial Parents, OEI-05-99-00390 (July 2000); Paula
Roberts, An Ounce of Prevention and a Pound of Cure: Developing State
Policy on the Payment of Child Support Arrears by Low Income Parents,
Policies that create huge arrearages for low-income noncustodial
parents make it less likely that these parents will make current
support payments. The Inspector General found that noncustodial parents
who were charged for more than 12 months of retroactive support were
two and a half times more likely to make no support payments following
the establishment of an order than noncustodial parents who were not
charged retroactive support.\23\ Noncustodial parents that owe large
and face the prospect of having up to 65 percent of their wages
garnished indefinitely for repayment of the debt, may quit their jobs,
move, or join the underground economy, which is already an important
source of income for some.\24\ Programs that work with low-income
noncustodial fathers have found arrearage policies, along with policies
that give current support payments to the state instead of to their
children, to be major barriers to recruiting participants and
encouraging them to participate in the formal child support system.\25\
Thus, harsh and unrealistic arrearage policies can deprive children of
badly needed support, and ultimately increase public costs.
\23\ OIG, Establishment of Child Support Orders, supra.
\24\ Fragile Families Research Brief No. 3, Unwed Fathers, the
Underground Economy, and Child Support Policy, Bendheim-Thoman Center
for Research on Child Wellbeing and Social Indicators Survey Center,
Columbia University (January 2001).
\25\ Fred Doolittle and Suzanne Lynn, Lessons for the Child Support
Enforcement System from Parents Fair Share, Manpower Demonstration
Research Corporation (1998); Wendell Primus and Kristina Daugirdas,
Improving Child Well-Being by Focusing on Low-Income Noncustodial
Parents in Maryland, Abell Foundation (September 2000).
In addition to developing policies that prevent the buildup of
arrearages, some states have begun to consider compromising arrears
owed to the state. Under federal law, a child support obligation
becomes a final judgment when it comes due and cannot be retroactively
modified. 42 U.S.C. Sec. 666(a)(9). However, as with other judgments,
the individual or entity to whom the child support judgment is owed may
agree to a compromise. Thus, states already have the ability to
compromise arrearages permanently assigned to the state.\26\
\26\ David Gray Ross, Commissioner, OCSE, ``State IV-D Program
Flexibility with Respect to Low-Income Obligors,'' PQI-00-13 (September
States can consider a variety of factors in determining when and
how they will compromise arrearages owed to the state. For example, the
state could consider the source of the arrearage. Was it the result of
an on-going failure to pay a support order by someone with the ability
to pay? If so, compromise might be rejected. Or did it arise all at
once, as retroactive support or for Medicaid reimbursement? Was the
order, when set, based on unrealistic assumptions about the obligor's
ability to pay? Did the arrearage accumulate while the obligor was
unemployed, incapacitated, or incarcerated? States also could link
forgiveness of the debt to current behavior; for example, tying
adjustments to payment of current support or participation in a
program. States also might treat forgiveness of interest or fees
differently from forgiveness of the obligation, or limit forgiveness
policies to low-income obligors.\27\
\27\ For more details on these and other options see Roberts, An
Ounce of Prevention, supra.
Principled policies allowing the compromise of arrearages owed to
the state are consistent with the message of parental responsibility
that the child support program seeks to convey. They recognize that
some debts to the state are not only uncollectible today, but may have
been unrealistic from the beginning, and that securing parental support
for children should take precedence over cost recovery.
5. In his testimony, Ron Haskins raises the issue that, as the
welfare caseload declines, there are fewer potential child support
collections for parents on welfare. This has been a partial funding
source for operating child support programs. Aside from simply
expecting the State or Federal governments to provide more funds to
fill this gap, can you offer us any other creative ideas for addressing
this problem, which is likely to be with us for the long term?
I would emphasize to the Subcommittee that the financing gap that
is projected in the child support program is the result of declining
welfare caseloads; state child support agencies have increased their
collections per welfare case. If federal and state welfare policies are
to continue to emphasize family self-sufficiency, with only
transitional use of public assistance, then state and federal
governments must be prepared to provide adequate and stable financing
for the child support program to help families become self-sufficient
and enforce the legal responsibility of parents to support their
\28\ See Turetsky, What If All the Money Came Home, supra.
There is no easy alternative. Attempting to finance the child
support system by charging families for the child support services they
receive will not provide the child support enforcement system with a
stable source of financing and would significantly harm the low and
moderate income families who depend on the IV-D system. Over 75 percent
of the families served by the IV-D program have incomes below 250% of
poverty.\29\ They can ill afford to lose part of their child support
income. Agencies might consider charging fees only to higher income
families; but the small amount that could be collected from this small
group of families would hardly justify the administrative expense.
\29\ DHHS, ASPE, Characteristics of Families Using Title IV-D
Services in 1995 (1999).
It is for these reasons that few states make significant use of
fees against voluntary users of the IV-D system. According to a report
on the financing of the IV-D system done for the Department of Health
and Human Services, child support fees collected from parents
represented only two percent of the funds states use to finance their
child support programs. And, although when the study was conducted
state and federal governments were already aware that falling welfare
caseloads would mean falling welfare collections, it also found that
most states were not contemplating making greater use of fees.\30\
\30\ Michael Fishman, et al., State Financing of Child Support
Enforcement Programs, Final Report to DHHS/ASPE, Lewin Group (1999).
Some have suggested that fees could be paid by noncustodial parents
instead of deducted from support. In the end, this approach also is
likely to result in lower child support payments, especially for low-
income families. Excessive fees could discourage parents from paying
through the formal system, increase administrative costs as cases moved
in and out of the IV-D system, and increase tensions between custodial
and noncustodial parents. Child support awards could be reduced to
adjust for the amount being charged in fees. Finally, for low-income
noncustodial parents, assessing large fees could simply increase
uncollectible arrearages, and ultimately reduce the amount of child
Ensuring that children receive support from both parents by
enforcing support obligations and helping low-income parents to provide
support is a vital public function. Effective child support enforcement
not only increases family income and reduces reliance on public
assistance, but is linked to reductions in divorce and nonmarital birth
rates,\31\ and to increases in children's educational attainment.\32\
Moreover, child support enforcement is a function that must be
performed and financed jointly by the state and federal governments.
\31\ Irwin Garfinkel, Theresa Heintze, and Cheien-Chung Huang,
Child Support Enforcement: Incentives and Well-Being 14, Paper
Presented at the Conference on Incentive Effects of Tax and Transfer
Policies, Washington, DC (2000); Burt Barnow et al., The Potential of
the Child Support Enforcement Program to Avoid Costs to Public
Programs: A Review and Synthesis of the Literature 39-45, Final Report
Prepared for DHHS (April 2000).
\32\ Barnow, Potential of the Child Support Program, supra, at 46-
There are a number of important financing questions to consider:
how much of the funding should come through incentive payments and how
much through matching funds; whether the incentive system could work
more effectively if the pool of funds was not capped; when states
should be able to use TANF or TANF MOE funds for functions related to
child support. However, the focus should be on restructuring public
financing. Low-income families that are struggling to support
themselves without public assistance should not be expected to continue
to bear the burden of financing the child support enforcement program.
Vice President and Director
[Submissions for the record follow:]
Statement of John Smith, Research Analyst, Alliance for Non-Custodial
Parents' Rights, Burbank, California
Analysis of the Background Information
A problem cannot be solved until it is recognized and understood.
The information presented in the background section contains many
misunderstandings, myths and falsehoods.
CSE programs were established in 1975. Year after year, we hear of
record amounts of child support that has been collected. If child well-
being is proportional to the amount of money one has, then we should be
experiencing record-high child well-being. There has been a 100 percent
increase in collections from 1993 to 2000. Has child well-being
increased 100%? To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, ``Are children better off
today than they were in 1975?''
The 1996 welfare reform act is all too typical of child support
legislation. Its sole focus is on dollars collected, not child well-
being. If collecting money is so important for children, then why not
amend our laws to grant custody to the higher wage earner--usually the
father? This would also reduce the collection problem. Even though
noncustodial mothers have by far the worst child support compliance
rate, all things being equal, because their orders are systemically set
lower than a father's child support order,1 less money would
\1\ Farrell, Warren, Ph.D., ``Father and Child Reunion,'' Tarcher-
Putnam, 2001, p. 175, from an HHS study.
The 1996 welfare reform act still promotes the notion that one
parent can be replaced by money. Conservatives correctly recognized
that sitting at home collecting a welfare check was wrong, but failed
to recognize that sitting at home collecting a child support is just as
wrong. Child support contains no accountability on the part of the
custodial parent, as to how it's spent. Economists estimate that only
$1 out of every $5 in child support is spent on the child's
\2\ Comanor, William S., Ph.D., ``Child Support Feels Different on
Male Side,'' Los Angeles Times, Feb. 22, 1999.
Social science research has been showing us for the past 10-20
years that this is wrong. Kids need both parents. Money is not the
solution, it is the problem. Parental involvement is the solution. It's
what kids need. It reinforces each parent's responsibilities. We must
remove the profit motive from family disintegration.
A common myth is that poverty is the root of all these problems and
money is the cure for poverty (no distinction of earned versus unearned
money is made--a fatal flaw). Studies show an inversely proportional
relation between child support and child well-being. These studies show
states with the highest child support and welfare awards rank lowest in
child well-being, while states with the lowest child support and
welfare awards had children with higher child well-being?3
The key determinant is family structure. Child support and welfare are
single-mother household enablers. And don't use poverty as an excuse.
Recent immigrants living below the poverty line had children with
better academic performance and fewer behavioral problems than kids
living above the poverty line. The reason: the immigrant families
tended to be intact families. Poverty doesn't cause broken homes,
broken homes cause poverty.
\3\ Testimony of Cynthia L. Ewing, Senior Policy Analyst,
Children's Rights Council, before the US House of Representatives
Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Human Resources, Feb. 6,
Another major problem with using money is that in today's dynamic,
global economy--one's economic stability is unpredictable, as evidenced
by the stock market and the economy--last year, the sky was the limit.
This year, a constant stream of bad news. Our child support laws ignore
this reality, which is why many ignore these laws. If you remove the
specific monetary amounts from child support and simply let each parent
raise their child according to their own beliefs, we'd be much better
By forcing people to pay a fixed amount of their income (based on a
percentage, but not allowed to fluctuate with actual income), we ignore
reality. By basing child support NOT on what it costs to raise a child,
but on what the average person spends (USDA figures), we strip a person
of their individuality and force average values down their throats.
Since we have the second-lowest savings rate and one of the highest
debt rates of Western countries, this goal is nothing to aspire down
to. Ironically, it punishes the responsible (frugal) people the most.
The increasingly draconian measures passed by Congress now threaten
everyone's privacy and freedoms. The Financial Institution Data
Matching (FIDM) program scours everyone's bank account, whether they
have been part of this child support system or not. Ditto for the
National Directory of New Hires (NDNH). The Federal Parent Locator
System (FPLS) is used against fathers, but if the mother kidnaps his
children, it will not be used for the father. Blatantly sexist policy.
Paternity establishments have hit record levels, but there's a dark
side to this story which is now becoming very public. 28% of DNA tests
reveal that men accused of being the father are in fact, not the
father.4 In Los Angeles County, over 70% of paternity
establishments are done on a default basis.5 The DA's office
estimates that more than 350 innocent men are incorrectly named in
child support orders every month.6 This means the alleged
fathers were not present. Very often, the alleged father was never
notified. Paternity fraud perpetrators have not been prosecuted, while
innocent men are being driven into poverty and homelessness by child
\4\ American Association of Blood Banks 1999 Annual Report. See
also ``In Genetic Testing for Paternity, Law Often Lags Behind
Science,'' New York Times, March 11, 2001.
\5\ Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1998, B1.
\6\ Los Angeles Times, Oct. 11, 1998, A27.
Creating programs to ``improve the employability and earnings of
non-custodial parents'' is nothing short of slavery. It sounds nice.
Sounds like you're here to help them, but when you see that federal law
permits wage garnishment of up to 65% of their pre-tax wages, this
program is slavery. Enslaving men to perform labor to earn money which
is then blindly handed over to custodial mothers for use at their
Is the ``Child Support Distribution Act of 2001'' really seeking to
enhance the role of noncustodial fathers or to enhance the pocketbook
of custodial mothers? If the purpose is to enhance the father's role,
then money will be de-emphasized and parental involvement (visitation)
will be greatly emphasized.
The proposals want to promote marriage. This sounds well and good,
but when one considers what happens to married men in family courts and
child support, this becomes a specious goal. Dr. Sanford Braver of
Arizona State University points out the two distinct groups of
fathers--never-married and divorced:
``It should be obvious that the two groups should always be
separately addressed in any analysis or policy discussions. The
distinction, however, has been too infrequently recognized or
\7\ Braver, Sanford, Divorced Dads--Shattering the Myths, Tarcher
Putnam, 1998, p. 22.
If, for the first time in history, this government program (HR 6)
works perfectly as intended, we will have solved the unmarried portion
of the problem. Men will marry and take responsibility of their
Alas, some small flaws exist in this thinking. What do we know
about divorced fathers? We know that women initiate the vast majority
of divorces. And no, folks, these women are not ``trapped in bad
marriages'' or ``abusive relationships'' that many feminists with an
agenda claim (ironically these same feminists have never been married
or raised children). They had simply ``grown apart'' or ``didn't feel
appreciated.'' Dr. Braver questioned the women actually going through
the judicial system and they loved it. Why? Because they got whatever
they wanted and felt they were in complete control. We know that men
are helpless to stop this, thanks to no-fault divorce laws. We know
that the judicial system has a systematic bias against including these
fathers in their children's lives (known as the tender years doctrine).
We know that politicians believe men to be politically impotent and
therefore write gender-biased laws favoring women.
Once these poor, irresponsible fathers become middle-class,
responsible fathers, they will face the same unfairness of the child
support system. In the divorced group, it hurts even more because these
fathers were connected with their children, they are educated enough to
know they are getting screwed out of their money and children. So while
HR 6 is looking for ways to raise never-married fathers up, our system
forces divorced fathers into exile by placing into law excessive child
support awards and draconian punishments. Then politicians wonder why
we have a fatherlessness problem.
1. Shared Parenting
Make equal shared parenting the law of the land. Each parent would
get exactly 50% of the physical custody time with each parent, unless
the parents reach a voluntary agreement stating otherwise. Neither
parent is allowed to move away (outside the school district or county)
unless a voluntary agreement is reached. The concept of custody is
eliminated--neither parents owns the child. Because each parent is
spending equal time raising their children, the need to collect child
support disappears. Write the law in such a way that eliminates all
discretion from judges, as judges tend to write law from the bench. Any
judge that deviates from this statute should be removed without pay
until a full investigation is completed as to why she did not follow
the law (similar to an officer involved shooting).
2. Paternity Fraud
Prohibit courts and administrative agencies from prosecuting a man
whose DNA test results prove he is not the father.
Make DNA testing a prerequisite for opening child support cases.
Paternity will be based strictly on DNA evidence, not on actions
such as holding yourself out as the father, written or signed paternity
acknowledgements, confessions or statements. Since the man was given
fraudulent data to base his decisions on, any paternity decision
represents an invalid contract. Exceptions to the strict DNA rule would
be (1) when the father has legally adopted the child and/or (2) when
the child was conceived through a sperm donor.
Vigorously prosecute perpetrators of paternity fraud.
Allow the alleged father to have custody of the non-biological
child and make the mother pay him child support.
No statute of limitations placed on the alleged father for
challenging paternity or make the statute of limitation on paternity
determination the same length as those used for failure to pay child
support. For example, the statute of limitations might be 7 years from
the last time the mother or State asked for (not received) child
support--which was a fraudulent action.
Provide the victim the ability to sue the mother to recover any and
all child support, legal costs, other costs, lost wages, lost interest
and emotional damages. [Since the State provide enforcement services
for collecting child support, perhaps the State should be mandated to
provide for recovering this fraudulently obtained money.]
Allow family victims (e.g. second wives, parents) to sue the mother
for damages, including emotional damages.
3. Promoting Marriage
Instead of, or in addition to, creating new programs to promote
marriage, eliminate the existing programs that punish married men.
Eliminate no-fault divorce laws. Withhold federal funds to states
that do not repeal no-fault divorce laws (I believe the Feds withheld
highway funds to Arizona when the State failed to make Martin Luther
King's birthday an official holiday).
Withhold federal funding from any and all groups that provide no-
cost and low-cost divorce clinics. This is currently being done to
groups that provide abortions.
4. Promoting Fatherhood
In addition to making shared parenting law that national
standard, we need to recognize that:
Fathers are much more likely than mothers, to make sure the
children spend time with the other parent.
Fathers want to spend more time with family; Mothers want to
spend more time on their careers.
The more money a man earns, the more likely he is to marry.
Just the opposite is true for women.
Single-mothers are afraid to enforce rules and discipline as
they fear losing their child's love. This leads to kids that
respect nobody, feel they don't have to obey rules (they never
had to before) and there are no consequences for breaking
rules. The world revolves around them.
Fathers' rights groups are fighting for more responsibility
in their children's lives, while Women's rights groups are
fighting for less responsibility (e.g. govt funded daycare
We must stop granting women special privileges, often with
reduced responsibilities. For instance, pregnant women can
Have the baby and remain as an intact family.
Have the baby and charge the father with child support.
Anonymously drop off the newborn at designated centers,
without fear of prosecution.
Have an abortion.
Put the child up for adoption.
Why aren't men offered any of these choices? This reflects
the gender bigotry rampant in our society.
End gender bigotry. As Dr. Farrell points out, ``He gets
jail; She gets an array of social services offered to her.''
It's time we stopped blaming fathers (and men) for everything that
is wrong in the world. Until we do, we shouldn't expect things to get
Statement of the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support,
Inc., Sacramento, California
ACES has 47,000 members and almost 400 chapters located in 48
states. We are representative of the families whose 20 million children
are owed over $71.9 billion in unpaid child support. We have banded
together to work for effective and fair child support enforcement. ACES
believes that parents who fail to meet legal and moral child support
obligations should not benefit from federal government funding. We
support The Child Support Distribution Act of 2001, H. R.1471 which
will ensure that children benefit from support paid and simplified
support payment distribution.
There are 20 million U.S. children owed over $71.9\1\ billion in unpaid
State governments alone have been unable to collect
sufficient back-support due (see Chart 1)
\1\ Preliminary Statistics 1999, Federal Office of Child Support.
State governments have been unable to collect support in
interstate cases (see Chart 2)
New State government central payment systems are failing to
distribute all payments. States had over $634 million \2\ in
undistributed child support payments at the end of 2000 (see
\2\ Chart 10 shows $634 million in undistributed funds. $120
million of this could be due to the 2-day legal delay in distribution
of funds ($15.8 billion in 260 workdays/year).
Children who receive child support:
Are more likely to have contact with their fathers \3\
\3\ Argys, Peter, Brooks-Gunn, and Smith, ``Contributions of Absent
Fathers to Child Well-Being: The Impact of Child Support Dollars and
Father-Child Contact, University of Colorado (1996).
Have better grade point averages and significantly better
\4\ Graham, Beller, and Hernandez, ``The Relationship between Child
Support Payments and Offspring Educational Attainment'' in Child
Support and Child Well-being (Garfinkel, MacLanahan, and Robbins (eds),
Washington DC (1994).
Have fewer behavior problems.\5\
\5\ H McLanahan, et al, National Survey of Families and Households
Remain in school longer \6\
\6\ Chart 10 shows $634 million in undistributed funds. $120
million of this could be due to the 2-day legal delay in distribution
of funds ($15.8 billion in 260 workdays/year).
Receipt of child support is associated with significantly higher
expenditures on children than any other source of income.
About 20% of our nation's children have a parent living outside the
household and are entitled to child support. They are four times more
likely to be poor and five times more likely to receive food stamps
than children who live with two biological parents. Child support, when
received by low income families, accounts for 26% of family income.
Strong child support enforcement:
Reduces the divorce rate \7\
\7\ Nixon, Lucia, The Journal of Human Resources, XXXII-1, Winter
1997, Vol. 32, No. 1 and Barnow, Burt S., et al ``The Potential of the
Child Support Enforcement Program to Avoid Costs To Public Programs: A
Review and Synthesis of the Literature, U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, HHS 100-97-007 (2000).
Reduces the number of births to never married parents \8\
\8\ Case, Anne, Fathers Under Fire, Chapter 7, The Effects of
Stronger Child Support Enforcement on Nonmarital Fertility and
Plotnick, Robert D., et al, ``The Impact of Child Support Enforcement
Policy on Nonmarital Childbearing,'' University of Washington (2000).
Reduces teenage pre-marital childbearing \9\
\9\ Plotnick, Robert D., et al, ``Better Child Support Enforcement:
Can It Reduce Teenage Premarital Childbearing?''University of
New studies show that strong child support enforcement programs
have far-reaching positive social impact that reduces the number of
children living in fatherless households and promotes marriage. Many
recent studies have shown that strict establishment and enforcement of
child support obligations is leading to a lower divorce rate and fewer
illegitimate births. In ``The Effect of Child Support Enforcement on
Marital Dissolution,'' Lucia A. Nixon found that strong child support
enforcement reduces marital breakups, and in ``The Effects of Stronger
Child Support Enforcement on Non-marital Fertility,'' Anne Case found
that anything which increases the cost of fatherhood reduces the
probability of the children being born. ``The Impact of Child Support
Enforcement Policy on Non-marital Child Bearing,'' showed that in
states with a strong child support enforcement program non-married
women had fewer children.
States have more undistributed funds on hand than ever before: $63.84
Undistributed funds are payments collected not sent to families due
to problems identifying payee or payor, location of payee, or problems
determining how to distribute payments if the family was or is on
public assistance. This means thousands of families leaving the welfare
rolls are not receiving child support collected by the state. This
undermines their self-sufficiency efforts.
In February, 2001, ACES filed a Writ of Mandamus in State Appeals
Court against the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS).
ODJFS knowingly brought online a computer system in October 2000 that
miscalculates distribution of child support payments owed families in
order to avoid further late penalties from being assessed against the
State under Federal Law. The net effect is to reduce monthly payments
to families under terms mandated by the 1996 welfare reform law. In
doing so, ODJFS put the interests of the State ahead of those of
affected children. Legal action was taken only after negotiations with
ODJFS failed to produce an acceptable plan for fixing the problem.
Also, The Ohio State State Disbursement Unit, (SDU) is contracted
to Bank One who is paid $125 million out of interest collected on child
support payments which accumulates during the two days they are legally
allowed to hold money. Families throughout Ohio are experiencing delays
much longer than two days. ACES believes families, not Bank One or
ODJFS, are due interest on these delayed payments.
In Michigan, the lack of the state having valid addresses for
custodial parents has led to $303,000 being sent to the state's coffers
in 1999, then in 2000 after the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) was
established, $700,000 between October and December 2000. Another $2.75
million or more could go to the state coffers if not claimed by
families for 2001. The SDU is only operational in some Michigan
counties. The process used is for some employers in the state to send
child support withheld from employees pay to the SDU, where it is
recorded and then sent to the county Friend of the Court, the local IV-
D agency, for disbursement to the family. This cumbersome process of
transferring money between agencies rather than transferring records
and sending payments directly to families is responsible for some of
the undistributed funds. Additionally, the Michigan statewide child
support computer system funded 90% by the federal government for $327
million does not calculate family-first disbursement as required under
PRWORA, and these distributions are being done manually case by case.
This results in families receiving two checks for each payment made and
further increases the distribution errors.
Texas failed to implement family-first distribution until March
2001 when the law required it by October 1, 2000. California reports
the largest amount of undistributed funds at $176 million and no SDU.
Officials there tell us this amount is incorrect due to previous record
keeping practices. They are in the process of surveying each of
California's 58 counties to determine exactly how much there is in
Many states have systems whereby undistributed and unidentified
funds are sent to the state unclaimed funds. However, IV-D child
support recipients are not told of this process and it is not required
to be publicized.
Our members in North Carolina report delayed and missing payments
since September 24, 1999, when the new State Disbursement Unit went
into operation. Reasons cited are that Clerk of Courts bundled checks,
money orders, and cash brought in by non-resident parents and mailed
them to Raleigh without identifying information attached. Employers did
not use the new case numbers assigned to them for income-withholding
purposes. Each case was given a new number in the distribution unit
system. The number was neither parent's social security number nor the
court docket number. Rather than obtaining a list of names and
addresses from employers for whom the payments had been sent, the money
was returned to the employers. Other families report massive problems
because the statewide computer system cannot adequately interlink with
the state distribution computer system to determine payment
distribution in multi-family cases.
In Illinois, ACES members report the same types of problems as
experienced in North Carolina. County Clerks of Courts mailed checks
and money orders paid to them by non-resident parents to the state with
no identifying social security numbers. The state cancelled the
contract with Dupage County for the SDU and hired a private contractor.
They are in the process of replacing the current SDU and hiring a new
States chose to set up systems where all payments are sent to a
central intake and then disbursed. This process has made it more
difficult for parents to pay. The lack of adequate planning and testing
has led to missing payments, long delays, and other problems for some
of the poorest families in our nation. North Carolina made families pay
back emergency aid checks out of the first child support check issued,
after months of not receiving any payments. This newest bureaucratic
glitch has caused thousands of children to go to bed hungry.
In a survey done by the Inspector General, the percentage of states
that report the following problems with implementation of SDU's are:
100%--distributing payments for interstate cases
86%--identifying poorly labeled payment
86%--identifying payments with no case in the system
60%--redirecting payments mailed to wrong place
71%--meeting customer serve demands
60%--securing, training and retaining staff
31%--disbursing support within two days
40%--predicting volume for staffing purposes
34%--monitoring SDU performance
The Office of Inspector General recent report, Child Support
Enforcement State Disbursement Units, August 2000, reported that 38
states have fully implemented the federal law to centralize payment
processing of most child support payments. Indiana, Wyoming, and South
Carolina ask for waivers to link local disbursement units. Arkansas,
Georgia, Kentucky and Oklahoma report they have central payment
processing but are not yet using it for the federally required
caseload. Michigan and Nevada were granted extensions to implement
their SDU's until October 1, 2000 and October 1, 2001, respectively.
Alabama, California, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio and Texas report they have
not yet begun central payment processing.
ACES recommends changes in the federal law which require:
Families benefit from effective child support enforcement
ACES has been monitoring the current child support enforcement
system since 1984. In addition to obtaining information about the child
support enforcement system for our members, ACES operates a national
toll-free Hot Line for families with child support problems, issues,
and questions. We receive up to 100,000 calls per year from parents
throughout the U.S. From these calls and our members, we gather
statistics and data on the status of the current child support
The average ACES member is a single-parent, and she has two
children. About 50% of ACES members are divorced, and the other half
were never married. Members average income is $14,400 per year as of
the end of 1999, and 85% have, in the past, received some form of
public assistance. At present, about 33% of our membership receives
public assistance. ACES members report that collection of child
support, when joined with available earned income, allows 88% to get
off public assistance. Collection of child support enables our low-
income working-poor members to stay in the job force long enough to
gain promotions and better pay so that they can move their family out
of poverty, and on to self-sufficiency. The collection of child
support, when joined with earned income, means our members can pay
their rent and utilities, buy food, pay for healthcare, and provide for
their children's educational opportunities. Lack of child support most
often means poverty and welfare dependency. At the very least it means
having to work two or three jobs to survive. This leaves our children
with literally no parent who spends time providing their children
adequate nurturing, supervision, and the attention they need and
Parents have the ability to pay child support: 60% have an income of
Characteristics of Families Using Title IV-D Services in 1995, a
study by Matthew Lyon shows that 1% of families using IV-D services had
$0 income; 10% had an income of $1-$5,000; 18% had an income of $5,000-
$10,000; 15% had an income of $10,001-$15,000; 10% had an income of
$15,001-$20,000; 7% had an income of $20,001-$25,000; 8% had an income
of $25,001-$30,000 and 30.5% had an income above $30,000. In the book,
Fathers Under Fire, by Irv Garfinkel, data reported on the income of
non-resident parents showed that 20% had an income under $6,000; 20%
had an income of $10,000-$30,000; 10% had an income of $30,000-$40,000;
40% had an income of $40,000-$55,000 and 10% had an income over $55,000
Data from the 1997, National Survey of American Families showed
that of the 11 million fathers who weren't living with their children,
about 4 million paid formal child support while the other 7 million did
not. Of these 7 million fathers, 4.5 million have sufficient income to
pay support. 2.5 million were poor and probably unable to contribute
significant child support.
Government child support enforcement avoids costs to public programs
The principal finding of the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services study, ``The Potential of the Child Support Enforcement
Program to Avoid Costs to Public Programs: A Review and Synthesis of
the Literature,'' was that child support payments can decrease TANF
participation and increase labor participation. For example, a $1,000
increase in child support payments received by woman on TANF,
conditional on remaining unmarried, will decrease TANF participation
among these households and will increase the average hours worked. Part
of this change is mechanical, 61%, but 39% is a behavior change.
The study also finds the child support could have a long-term cost
avoidance and tax revenue implications because of its impact on
increasing the number of children who have access to higher education.
Educational attainment is a leading indicator of future financial and
social success. Individuals who attain higher levels of education have
a higher income and a more stable family life. Child support enables
families ability to afford to send children to private schools,
purchase tutoring services, and to invest money in a college fund.
Also, it allows families to purchase goods and services that increase
cognitive stimulation in the home and thus indirectly affects
Other studies outlined in the report find that collection of child
support avoids cost in the Title XX Child Care Program. For every
$1,000 in child support received it is estimated that a low-income
single mother would reduce work hours to 22-25 hours and with each
additional $1,000 received work hours would be reduced by 54 hours.
Since almost 50% of single parents who do not receive child support
work two jobs to support their family, this would also have the very
beneficial effect for children of having at least one parent being able
to spend more time with them, to nurture, assist with home work, and
care for the children in a way that day care cannot.
State child support agencies fail to collect significant amounts of
A whole generation of our children have not received adequate and
regular child support payments as promised when the Title IV-D child
support system was introduced in 1975. The system was supposed to
establish paternity, establish child support orders, and enforce
orders. Children born in 1975 were 9 years old when Congress acted to
improve the child support system for the first time in 1984. The number
of cases without orders was about 50% and the collection rate was 15%
when income-withholding laws, liens on property, posting of bonds,
attachment of tax refunds, and reporting of child support debt to
credit bureau laws were passed as part of the 1984 Child Support
Amendments. When the children were 13 years old in 1988, Congress acted
again because only about 50% of the children had orders and the
collection rate was only 18%. In the 1988 Family Support Act, income-
withholding was to begin at the time of divorce or establishment of
paternity, modification of orders were to occur every 3 years, child
support guidelines were required to be followed by the courts, and
paternity was to be established via genetic tests and through voluntary
When the children were 17 years old in 1992, about 50% of the
children still did not have orders and the collection rate was 19.7%.
Congress again acted in the Child Support Recovery Act to assist
children with interstate cases. The collection rate on interstate case
was less than 50% of the other cases. When the children were 18 in
1993, about 50% of the children still did not have orders and the
collection rate was 18.2%, Congress acted yet again. This time, medical
support orders were required and a better system for establishing
paternity was put in place as part of the budget. When the children
were 19 in 1994, about 50% of the children still did not have orders
and the collection rate was 19.4%. Congress enacted the Full Faith and
Credit Act in another attempt to correct problems with interstate
cases. When the children reached age 21 in 1996 and slightly fewer than
50% of the children still did not have orders and the collection rate
was 20%, Congress acted again as part of the Personal Responsibility
and Work Opportunities Act (PRWORA) establishing the New Hire
Directories, Case Order Registries, and State Distribution Units (SDU),
professional driver's and recreational license revocation, and required
states to adopt UIFSA (Uniform Interstate Family Support Act). UIFSA is
the third attempt to remedy interstate case problems.
The Federal Office of Child Support, in its preliminary data from
the year 2000, shows that collections rose from $15.4 billion to $18
billion, for families with cases open at a government child support
agency. 1999 data shows that slightly less than 50% of the children
still do not have orders and the collection rate is 37%. This increase
from 23% in 1998 is in part due to new reporting requirements for
states and new regulations which allowed states to close old cases
where collections had not been made. U. S. Census Bureau data from the
May 1999 Current Population Report, which includes data for families
with and without a government child support case, for the year 1998,
shows that the percentage of single-parent families who receive child
support (some or all support due in 1998) was only 32%. The collection
rate shows no significant improvement. The collection rate remained
The most recent data available from the Federal Office of Child
Support (Chart 4) shows that the total collections for 2000 are $18
billion up from $15.8 billion in 1999, up from the $14.3 billion in
1997, which was up from $13.3 billion in 1996. IV-D agencies spend $25
to collect $100, and 55.5% of collections are from payroll deductions.
In Chart 2, interstate collections are listed from 1993 to the
present. Collections have risen from 1993 (pre-PRWORA) $725 million to
$983 million in 1997, and to $1 billion in 1998 and 1999. Collections
on interstate cases have risen about $100 million/year before and after
PRWORA. UIFSA, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act required
PRWORA to be adopted verbatim by all states. PRWORA has not yet shown
itself to be of any assistance in processing interstate cases faster or
more effectively. In fact, ACES has been told by several state IV-D
agencies and state courts that it is more difficult to use than URESA,
its more complicated predecessor. Problems are being reported with the
provision for direct income-withholding. If a non-resident parent
receives an income-withholding order at their place of employment and
the order is for the wrong amount, wrong person, or contains some other
mistake of fact, there is no mechanism in place to resolve problems.
The state which sent the order is inaccessible to the non-resident
parent and the state IV-D agency in their state is not even aware of
the order or that a case exists in another state.
Families report PRWORA has not helped and has hurt!
Statistics indicate little or no effect from any portion of PRWORA.
Lack of results from the expanded Federal Parent Locator System with
the National New Hire Directory and Case Order Registry are
ACES members report no noticeable improvements since enactment of
PRWORA, even with the National New Hire Directory reporting that 3.5
million matches were found in 2000, more than triple the 1.2 million
matches in 1998. Our research shows that the majority of the 3.5
million data matches made by the National New Hire/Case Order Registry
have not been acted on by the State IV-D agencies. Certainly
collections have not tripled since 1998. For example:
Texas processed 2,481 income-withholding orders due to New
Hire information from the National Directory in three months.
Texas received over 300,000 matches from state and the National
New Hire directories.
Virginia reports averaging 100,000 matches/year with their
State New Hire Directory, resulting in collections of $7.5
million. This is $75/match. For 180,000 matches/year with the
National Directory, collections of $13 million resulted. This
Iowa reported 20,000 matches to date with the National New
Hire Directory and has collected $365,297. This is $18/match.
Arizona, in three months of comparisons with the National New
Hire Directory, located 11,218 matches. No data is available
for the number of cases where action was successfully taken to
collect support. The intrastate New Hire Reporting System
resulted in collections of $13 million on 45,083 matches. This
Minnesota, in FY 1999, had 39,078 matches with its state
directory, and collections increased by $11.6 million (3%).
This is $296/match. Minnesota is averaging 166 matches/day with
the National New Hire Directory, but no data is available on
the action taken on these matches.
The Federal Office of Child Support reports they have made matches
of delinquent parents with financial institutions for 900,000 accounts
since August 1999. The accounts are valued at about $3.5 billion. No
data is available about whether any of these accounts were successfully
attached to collect child support.
Problems exist with the bank account attachment process.
Administrative Process is used by 31 states to attach bank accounts; 12
states use Judicial Process; and 7 states use both. Twenty-six states
do not accept orders from other states, 2 states sometimes accept
orders from other states, 1 state leaves it up to the financial
institution, 8 states have not yet made decisions about whether or not
they will accept out-of-state attachment orders, and 2 states have
state laws which are silent on the issue.
Since the 1984 Child Support Amendment passed, Congress has been
giving states incentives and funding to put statewide computer systems
in place. Many deadlines have passed or have been extended. In the 1988
Family Support Act, states were told to have computers in place by Oct.
1, 1995 in order to receive 90% federal funding. When only 1 state met
this deadline, it was extended to October 1, 1997. When only 21 states
met this deadline, penalties were changed so that states could get
waivers to penalties if they were making sufficient progress on
The Federal Office of Child Support reports the following \10\
\10\ Certification Reviews of Child Support Enforcement Systems,
Division of Child Support Information Systems, January 6, 2000.
Montana was the only state to the meet the October 1, 1995
The October 1, 1997 deadline was met by Delaware
(conditional), Georgia (conditional), Virginia, Washington,
West Virginia (conditional), Arizona (conditional), Utah,
Connecticut (conditional), Wyoming, Mississippi, Louisiana
(conditional), New Hampshire, Idaho, Colorado, Oklahoma
(conditional), Wisconsin, Rhode Island (conditional), Guam, New
York (conditional), Iowa, and Alabama (conditional)
Certified in 1998: Texas (conditional), Arizona
(conditional), North Carolina (conditional), New Jersey
(conditional), Vermont (conditional), Puerto Rico
(conditional), Maine, Tennessee (conditional), Minnesota
(conditional), Kentucky, South Dakota, Arkansas, Massachusetts,
Florida, Missouri, and Hawaii
Certified in 1999: New Mexico (conditional), Illinois
(conditional), Oregon (conditional), Maryland, Pennsylvania
Certified in 2000: Washington DC, Indiana, Kansas, North
States NOT Certified (representing 4.6 million children owed
$24 billion in unpaid child support): California, Michigan,
Nebraska (report pending), Ohio, South Carolina, and the Virgin
Conditional Certification for many states is due to the inability
of their computer systems to process referrals. Because of lack of
action by the U. S. Justice Department, few charges have been filed
under the federal criminal non-support statue. In 1995, charges were
filed on only 82 cases. In 1996, charges were filed in 104 cases. In
1997, charges were filed in 212 cases. In 1998, charges were filed in
249 cases; and in 1999, charges were filed in 396 cases. In 2000,
charges were filed in 405 cases. There are 7 million children owed $25
billion in unpaid child support with interstate cases.
Poor customer service
The number one complaint that ACES receives from families is about
state IV-D child support agencies on our Hot Line is that they are
provided poor customer service from local agencies. Families report
that they are victimized by caseworkers who tell them, ``What do you
expect, you went out and got yourself pregnant?'' or ``What did you do
to make him so mad he won't pay?''. Not even one state has a system for
notifying clients of actions taken on their case. Families report that
they are unable to understand quarterly distribution notices, if
received, and that there is no system in place for the notices to be
explained to them. Families report that many IV-D agencies restrict
hours when they will accept phone calls from families to obtain or give
caseworkers information. This is a major barrier to families providing
agencies needed information about location and employment status of
non-payors. We have not found even one state which sends delinquency
notices to non-payors when they miss a monthly payment.
Liens on property not routinely used
Only 15 states report routinely placing liens on property of non-
payors. Twenty six states report that placing liens is a difficult and
technical legal action.
Suspension/revocation of licenses rarely used
Although proven effective, suspension or revocation of professional
licenses is rarely used by any states. Suspension/revocation of fishing
and hunting licenses is rarely used by states. Most states do not have
any effective system for recreational license suspension/revocation.
Several states identify non-payors who buy fishing or hunting licenses
and ask them to voluntarily report themselves when making a license
purchase at a local carry-out, sporting goods store, etc. This has been
very ineffective. Colorado recently did a study of suspension/
revocation of driver's licenses and their reporting to credit bureaus
for failure to pay child support. Support collections increased 20%
within the first six months following notices being sent to non-payors.
Only a few states have an on-going program for driver license
suspension and/or credit-reporting, and often these states only make
the threat action. Thousands may receive notices of potential
suspension but only a small percentage are actually suspended.
Expedited process and federal timeframes are not being followed by
state IV-D agencies
ACES members report a 1-3 year wait to establish paternity, 2 years
to establish an order, 6-9 months for an income-withholding, 6-9 months
for court hearing, 1-3 years for modification, 5 years for medical
support establishment and/or enforcement, 1 year for a Federal Parent
Locator results, and 1-2 years for action on interstate cases.\11\
\11\ ACES annual membership survey (2000).
Private child support collection agencies prey upon desperate families
``I signed the contract with a private child support
collection agency because the District Attorney office had done
nothing in two years to collect the $10,000 in child support
due to my children. I didn't realize that I had given the
company power of attorney so payments go to them not to the DA
and then onto me. I didn't realize the contract defined current
support as back support. I thought the private collector would
only get 33% of any back support collected as a recovery fee.
Instead, the contract gave them 33% and attorney fees so it
added up to 44% or more of any support collected. When I got my
first check, and 44% was missing. I called to complain and
found out the truth. Now I have to hire an attorney to try to
break this contract. I don't have the money to pay the
attorney. How can this company advertize one thing and do
another? My children are the real losers here and I was the
pawn''--a caller to ACES Child Support Hotline from Los
Angeles, CA (January 2001)
Families entitled to child support enforcement services, who are
mainly low income face a new problem--being preyed upon by unscrupulous
private child support collection agencies. The private companies are
not licenced or regulated by state or federal laws because child
support is not considered a debt under the Fair Debt Practices Act.
Private collection agencies have been soliciting families via TV and
Radio ads, promising much needed child support payments. Often they
require the custodial parent to sign a power of attorney and contracts
which are adhesion by legal definition. These contracts are almost
impossible to break, have many hidden clauses, and usually result in
the family losing 40-50% of the child support due to them to the
private collector as a fee for services.
Private collection agencies for child support do not work any
better than the government child support agencies. These agencies do
not and should not have access to confidential IRS information. They
should also not have access to state information; such as tax records,
employment records, worker's compensation records, and any other
protected government records. The private agencies collecting child
support are currently not regulated. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court
recently ruled that these agencies do not fall under the regulations of
the Consumer Credit Protection Act.
Custodial parents who have used private collection agencies have
encountered many problems:
The private collection agency collected payments from the
non-custodial parent but never sent the payments to the family.
This is literally stealing money from the children.
Private agencies have closed down and totally disappeared
after custodial parents have paid application fees of over
Private collectors take fees for money they had no part in
collecting. For example: The private collectors got paid by
taking their 30% fee from an IRS refund that the state
government child support agency attached.
Families owed support have had to pay additional court costs
and attorney fees on top of the 34% fee taken from the child
Defined current support as back support in the contract and
included language wich states that if even one payment no
matter the amount is collected in the first 12 months the
contract is binding until all support due, current and back, is
collected. This binds the family to the contract forever.
Other pending federal legislation ACES supports
H.R. 866, sponsored by Rep. Bilirakis (R-FL) would assist millions
of children. The intent of the bill is to ensure that children benefit
from federal assistance received by a low-income non-custodial parent.
Language needs to be added to the bill to make sure that receipt of
food stamps, TANF, medicaid and other means tested programs needed for
basic necessities are exempted. Other programs such as job training and
college education should not be affected due to the good cause
provision and the payment arrangement section.
Here are a few examples of federal programs where parents who fail
to pay child support currently can and do receive federal funding which
does not benefit their children. HR 866 is needed to prevent those who
neglect their children from receiving these types of federal
Creation and Presentation Grant money to creators for
literary publishing, cultural festivals, and various types of
artistic or cultural exhibits funds given by National Endowment
of the Arts.
Grants to Develop New Technology money to venture
capitalists for the creation of high risk technologies' funds
given by National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Business and Industry Loans Money to developers for
modernizing or purchasing land, building, machinery.
Heritage and Preservation Grant money to creators and
inventors for projects that present to the public conservation
of art or exhibits funds given by National Endowment for the
Money doctors for constructing medical facilities
incorporating new construction concepts' funds given by U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Money to Create Recreation Areas money to families to buy
their old farm for the creation of public recreation areas
funds given by National Park Service.
H.R. 1618 (Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA). The bill will allow child
support to be treated in the same manner as taxes by allowing the
custodial parent to receive a tax credit for unpaid child support and
essentially turning the unpaid support into a tax bill for the obligor.
H.R. 413 (Andrews, D-NJ 1st)--Will create child support
trust accounts to hold profits from sale of real estate in trust for
children, if the seller owes child support. This will stop non-payors
from profiting on real estate sales while avoiding their obligations to
H.R. 869 (Castle, R-DE) Will allow federal income tax refund
intercepts to be applied to child support that is owed for children who
are older than 18. This stops the incentive for active evaders to hide
from their families until the children reach age 18.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T4742A.005
IRS Offset Chart 5
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T4742A.006
Chart 4--IV-D Collections
Number of Cases: 16.4 Million
Dollars Collected: $15.4 Billion
$25 in costs for every $100 collected
55.5% from payroll deductions
Chart 4a--IRS Collections
Number of Taxpayers: 268 Million
Dollars Collected: $1.9 Trillion
$0.44 in costs for every $100 collected
83% from payroll deduction
Chart 6--IV-D Summary
New Hire reporting leads to payroll deduction in mainly
No system for collecting from self-employed
Lowest collection rate for interstate cases
26 state don't accept interstate bank account attachment
Major problems with SDU's and statewide computer tracking
Poor track record for customer service
Poor track record on collections: rare use of liens, license
revocation, referrals to the U.S. Attorney
Chart 7--IRS Summary
New hire reporting: payroll deduction in almost all cases
Collection system for self-employed taxpayers
Interstate cases not an issue
Bank account attachments routinely attached: 500,000 a year
Recent automation improvements
New customer service improvements: Taxpayer Bill of Rights
Good track record on collections: 83% citizens pay taxes
(17% are non-filers)
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T4742A.007
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T4742A.008
Statement of Reverend Dennis Austin, Salisbury, North Carolina
Attn: Chairman, Congressman Wally Herger
Chairman Herger and Members of the Subcommittee, although I am a
minister who runs a help-line for suicidal depressives, I have also had
experience dealing with non-custodial parents. Being able to speak here
allows me to share a unique perspective of the problem with child
support enforcement, both its causes and its costs.
If possible, I would suggest that your subcommittee recommend that
the G.A.O. investigate the true costs of collection. Typical of most
states are hidden costs incurred when states ``borrow'' attorneys from
their attorney general's office in order to prosecute non-payment.
Unfortunately, in Virginia, much as in Florida and many other states,
most who do not pay are unable to pay. The cost of incarcerating
Virginia fathers is not factored into the actual cost of collecting
their past due support. Nonetheless, when a member of Virginia's 1999
Child Support Quadrennial Review Commission motioned to have that
commission sponsor a bill to determine both the cost of incarceration
(versus the actual dollar amount owed) as well as the numbers of
fathers imprisoned (it has been estimated that 20-30% of Virginia's
county jails are comprised of support delinquent non-custodial
fathers), his motion was voted down by the judges, lawyers, and state
legislator who served with him.
That state's Director of Child Support Enforcement was made aware
of one stunning fact: when fathers are given adequate parenting time
with their children, child support payments reach almost 90%! It seems
that only Oklahoma, led by Governor Keating's determined effort to stem
the high rate of divorce in his state, has taken that into
consideration. Almost two years ago, he signed into legislation a
pedente lite bill that allows either separating or divorcing parent to
ask for shared residential parenting rights of his or her children.
That legislation has not only served to guarantee that children of
divorce will retain both parents. It also eliminates most child support
enforcement costs because both parents share child-rearing costs and
responsibilities. Most importantly, it removes a significant incentive
for divorce: the ``reward'' that follows the winner of sole custody.
Oklahoma's legislation accomplishes a number of other important
things. Among them is the fact that fathers--I say fathers because,
historically, mothers have been given sole custody in almost 90% of
cases, are not minimalized as parents. As a result, children do not
suffer the emotional and behavioral and educational deficiencies of
children raised in single parent homes. Such costs, those of addressing
the problems of fatherless children, must be factored in to the costs
attributable by the G.A.O. to child support implementation. It is
And not just to children raised in single parent homes. What must
also be considered are the hidden costs of the non-custodial parent's
lost productivity. And, worse than that, the tragic expense of human
life as measured by the number of suicides by fathers denied adequate
access to their children. Thanks to legislation like Oklahoma's, that
profound expense can be reduced to zero. And that is a number, Mr.
Chairman, that, I'm certain, both the G.A.O. and your subcommittee can
Responsibility for Child Support
When it comes to Child Support, most everyone recites the same
mantra. Fathers are to blame for children growing up without a Father.
The mantra goes something like this, if we can just get Fathers to be
responsible and pay the Child Support, then children and moms would be
right with the world. Even so-called Pro-Father statements include,
``promoting responsible Fatherhood''. What that really means is holding
Fathers accountable to pay Child Support.
But just who is responsible and who is irresponsible when it comes
to Child Support.
Mothers who deny visitation are not being responsible. Collecting
Child Support and denying the Father access is not being responsible.
Lawyers who seek maximum Child Support just so they can get paid
are not being responsible.
Guardian ad litems who routinely separate Fathers from their
children do not act in the best interests of the children and that is
not being responsible.
Judges who routinely treat the guidelines as minimums when awarding
Child Support are not being responsible.
Politicians (mostly lawyers) who know the current guidelines are
flawed are not being responsible.
Current Child Support guidelines do not leave the Father a living
wage. If a Father increases his income, he is further penalized. This
is a no-win situation. Mothers, lawyers, guardian ad litems, Judges and
politicians, by their irresponsibility, make their idea of a
``Responsible Father'' impossible. The notion of destroying a child's
Father is in the child's best interest is ridiculous and totally
[Attachments are being retained in the Committee files.]
Ledyard, Connecticut 06339
June 28, 2001
Allison Giles, Chief of Staff
Committee on Ways and Means
U.S. House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
RE: Child Support
Dear Ms. Giles and others,
Thank you very much for allowing my comments to be delivered to
Congress on this important topic.
I am a single father residing in Connecticut (formerly R.I.) with a
20-year old son living with his married mom in Massachusetts. The laws
of Massachusetts governed our divorce and subsequent modifications,
typically for child support. This process of modification has been
ongoing since generally 1983, about a year after our son was born.
I refuse to disparage anyone, and would prefer instead to offer
Congress some constructive ideas to address this former ``issue'' which
has evolved into a national ``phenomenon.'' The fact is that past laws
and legal wrangling only addressed a ``band-aid'' approach versus
looking squarely at the problem. I submit that this important issue be
standardized throughout the country, versus each state having differing
views and laws on this topic.
First, I must ask that society at large NOT view fathers as some
unnatural element of a child's family or future, as well as a
``paycheck.'' We individually and collectively have feelings towards
our own and other's children. We individually and collectively prefer
to be an influence in our children's lives. We individually and
collectively want the best for all children, including our own. It is
wrong to assign the negative elements of some arrogant, disruptive, or
even ``deadbeat'' dads to the whole, which appears to be society's
answer to fathers. I am not quite sure of the percentages of ``good''
versus ``bad'' dads, but I don't act nor care to be a negative
influence in my own son's life.
Second, it appears from this writer that most custodial parents
(usually mothers) see money as a motivating force against custody and
visitation for the non-custodial parent (typically fathers). You will
hear a lot about joint custody, and the influence of the father.
I might be different in this respect, but I do not condone joint
custody as that is meant by others, and I base this on first-hand
experience. Joint custody as probably meant by others is an almost
equitable schedule of parental visitation and physical control over the
life and mind of a child of that marriage. I submit that this is nearly
impossible to accomplish, for a variety of reasons: (1) the child gets
lost in the discipline of two or more households; (2) it is sometimes
impossible for parents to regulate schedules to accommodate the
``transfer'' of the child; (3) in some cases, the child suffers from
abuse (physical, and mental) which caused the original marital breakup;
(4) it introduces a new ``feature'', or person, into the parent-child
relationship, which may be good or bad, depending (for example, one
parent may now become indifferent to the child when the ``dating game''
commences)--where is the child when that happens?
Nonetheless, I firmly believe that children deserve the presence
and influence of the non-custodial parent, rather than a complete
obliteration of parental rights, which appears to be slowly evolving in
this country. I do feel saddened by those fathers who do not want any
relationship with their children, but I believe that their attitude
stems from having to awkwardly deal with their ex-spouse, which may
resurrect some animosity.
Another issue is finances. There appears to be a wide berth of
custodial guidelines among the various states, especially as they deal
with child support. For example, Massachusetts assigns a certain
percentage of ``gross'' income depending upon the age and number of
children to the marriage or adjoining marriage. Most other states that
I am aware of assign a percentage of ``net'' income. That is why, in
the 80's especially, many fathers from Massachusetts went to alternate
states for a change of venue in order to reduce child support
requirements. Rep. Barney Frank can attest to this, as he introduced a
bill--I believe in 1986--that disallowed such an adventure--regardless
if the custodial spouse had counsel present in her divorce.
Massachusetts support requirements are simply too expensive and it
could be for a variety of reasons (too expensive to live near Boston
versus the balance of the state or elsewhere; ``good'' fathers paying
for the sins of the ``bad'' fathers, to put it very simply, so that the
state does not have to bear the burden of increased child welfare;
legal costs, etc.). The father in the latter instance went to Florida
courts simply because he could not afford expensive support. I submit
he left because of the finances of the situation, and would have stayed
involved in his children's lives had there been more equitable
Does Congress realistically want fathers to be part of their
children's lives? Or must fathers travel elsewhere (or take on many
jobs) for financial reasons, and thus remove themselves away from their
sons and daughters?
In many instances, and because of expensive support requirements,
non-custodial parents (i.e., fathers) see their living arrangements
dwindle economically and substantially. Yet there is no incentive to
gain additional employment, because this additional income gets further
eaten up by the support requirements--regardless if their child's cost
of living hasn't changed one iota.
The result? Because of various support requirements (child support
@ 25% on average; federal, state, and local taxes @ approx. 30%; rent
or mortgage @ 25%; utility bills @ 10%, of a weekly paycheck), the
father generally has to live on just 5% of his net income. The mother's
income, however, increases because of the support, in most cases by
25%, admittedly less as a percentage of income if there is more income
in her household. There is quite a disparity between households . . .
especially if the custodial parent re-marries and lives in a mansion
because of her new combined income. This is not taken into account.
The added income would only replace what was taken; PLUS, because
of the added employment schedule, the visitation schedule is thereby
reduced concomitantly (the father never gets to see his child, often
because of two or three jobs). The custodial parent begins the cycle of
support modification yet again, because of the expected added income.
Again, no incentive for added income.
There ought to be equitable financial treatment in court orders, as
well (i.e., and I hate to use these words, but ``what's good for the
goose is good for the gander''). Too often I've seen judicial
modification orders where the father has to ``. . . report any and all
changes in income. . . ,'' yet the mother is not required to report her
changes in income--even though she is quite capable of work (and
sometimes is working via crafts, home businesses, etc.); the children
have grown and are no longer present during ``mother's hours''.
Discovery material and judgments ought to treat non-married parents
equally, especially as to work reporting requirements.
Another financial issue relates to unemployment. In some instances,
a non-custodial parent under court-ordered child support loses his
position, becomes unemployed, and begins receiving unemployment
compensation. Yet the court-ordered child support remains. The reply is
to return to court to reduce the payments. Yet to do so: (a) costs
money for lawyers; and (b) by the time any hearing comes, generally 6
months later, the non-custodial parent has started new work. The
support order during the unemployment phase eats up over 50% of the
unemployment compensation, AND, the other bills remain the same during
this period (WHICH INCLUDES FEDERAL TAXES). This forces the parent to
perhaps work ``under the table'' (which is illegal) just to maintain
bills, or go to work at menial jobs, and thus have to report this new
income (and new court modification) while he is out looking for a
better job (and cannot find time for an interview because he is working
at this menial job . . .). The custodial parent thus does not share in
the problems of the non-custodial parent, even if it was not of his own
Another issue involves a custodial parent using another state to
gain what she couldn't in the governing state. For example, using a
doctor-child privilege in an adjoining state to unwarrantedly disparage
the non-custodial parent, and bringing that evidence into the governing
state. The governing state thus orders new visitation, regardless if it
is warranted, but only under the supervision of the doctor in the
adjoining state. The doctor then suggests that they cannot enforce
another state's order--the non-custodial parent thus has to go to the
adjoining state's court for a similar court order, and for a few more
$$ thousand. Where is the justice in using adjoining states?
An important issue is arrearage--when does it begin?? I submit that
you have 501 House Members, with 501 different answers. Does it begin
at the moment of filing a complaint for modification? At the moment of
hire for the non-custodial parent? At the moment when the custodial
parent finds out about any new job of the non-custodial parent? At the
moment of the court order filing for increased support with the clerk
An example of this in action was when the non-custodial parent (the
father generally) was hired for a new job, and alerted the mother, by
phone and by correspondence with their child--not once, but on three
separate occasions, close apart. The mother delayed filing for a
modification of increased child support 5 months later. During the 5
months interim, she also telephoned the father (proven by phone
records) at his new place of employ (so she cannot state that she was
not aware of where he worked). Seven months later they were in court,
and the court retroactively assigned an increase in child support to
the date of hire--the father is thus in immediate arrears to the tune
of thousands of dollars, and is automatically told by his friends and
employer that he is a ``deadbeat dad''--even though he did everything
by the book!! He also had to forego subsequent tax payments in order to
pay child support or face incarceration, and is now in arrears with the
So when does arrearage begin?
Why incarcerate a legitimate ``deadbroke dad''? That only makes him
lose his job to begin with, and thus spiral ever downward. How can he
earn a living from prison? Again, a band-aid approach . . .
In summary, I want to request that child support be somewhat
standardized nationally (percentage of ``net'' versus ``gross'' income,
for example), AND, that fathers NOT be considered as merely a paycheck,
which is the personal bias of many, many judges--we want to be a direct
influence in our children's lives.
And so do grandparents. . . .
Robert E. Brien
Statement of Patrick R. Caffrey, Seeley Lake, Montana
Until constitutional guarantees are incorporated in national child
support policy, legislation presuming to provide for the children of
disassociating parents will fail.
The United States Supreme Court, from 1925 to the present, has
repeatedly and consistently held that the care, custody and control of
children by their parents is a fundamental liberty interest protected
by the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment.\1\
\1\ The presumption that children's interests override parental
rights in all cases leads to laws and regulations which place the
burden of proof on parents to show they are fit. Such impediments can
not be placed on fundamental liberty interests guaranteed by the
constitution, nor can these rights be compromised for administrative
convenience. The U.S. Supreme Court has established that, ``The State
cannot, consistently with due process requirements, merely presume that
unmarried fathers in general . . . are unsuitable and neglectful
parents. Parental unfitness must be established on the basis of
individualized proof.'' (Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645 (1972)).
``It is the government's burden to demonstrate an overriding interest
in order to validate an encroachment on protected interests'' (Elrod v.
Burns, 427 U.S. 347 (1976)). ``The only requirement being . . . the
best interest of the child . . . sweeps too broadly . . . The Federal
Constitution permits a State to interfere with (parents' fundamental
right to rear their children) only to prevent harm or potential harm to
the child.'' (Troxel v. Granville, (99-138) (2000)).
Congress should stop pretending the child support enforcement
apparatus, which treats parents worse than felons, isn't being used as
a welfare plan where parasite parents are enriched to advance personal
lifestyles while forcing slave parents out of their children's
\2\ Laws designed to bring a few deadbeats into parental compliance
are instead forcing millions of children to live with single parents
who subsist on ``child support'' which is, in its present form, a
welfare plan underwritten by non-custodial parents. It is public policy
that parents must work to serve their children. Diversion of support
money without accountability to provide for another adult, who is not
likewise required to work, runs afoul the U.S. 13th Amendment. Also, it
is a parent's constitutional duty to ensure that resources are directed
to their children. The state, acting as parens patriae, tells parents
to presume their money is benefiting their children, and that children
are enlightened to become model citizens when they see one parent
become a slave and the other a parasite.
For millions of Americans there is no American Dream. For them this
nation has become a gulag where they are stripped of their parental
authority in their children's presence, prohibited from pursuing
logical career decisions, and pre-empted from managing their own
finances for the benefit of their children, their estranged parenting
partners, and themselves. Their freedom to travel is at risk, and they
are subject to police harassment and imprisonment. Their constitutional
guarantees are routinely ignored in statute and practice. Even children
and the parents they live with most of the time are degraded by a
system that rewards immoral opportunism and vindictive motivations. In
short, national policy professes to operate for the best interests of
children, but the opposite effect is achieved. This policy increases
the adversarial tenor of incompatible parents who might otherwise
restructure their children's upbringing in a more positive and
Destruction of parental involvement increases with the
conscientiousness of the disenfranchised parent. Those most vulnerable
are those guilty of the following crimes:
Being a parent
Being a responsible citizen
Believing in our system of government
Caring for their children
Those of less integrity can evade their natural parental
obligations. The apprehension of some of them is of no real benefit to
their children, since money can never replace a parent. Meanwhile,
dedicated parents become financially and spiritually exhausted fighting
in a process where even eventual vindication guarantees government-
sponsored psychological child abuse.
The underlying cause of the problem is federal involvement. The
Family Support Act of 1988 generalized children's needs. States were
then mandated to implement presumptive rather than advisory child
support guidelines. The path of least resistance for judges and
administrators is to accept presumptions. This is the heart of the
problem, as it places the burden of proof on parents to rebut
\3\ The constitutional problems with federally mandated
presumptions are not insurmountable. There is no federal prohibition
that a state cannot by statute review worksheet awards that have been
found to be federally correct. States should be required to make
particularized written findings in ALL cases. To find for a presumptive
award as correct, a court should state ``the non-custodial parent is
unfit, neglectful, absent, or nonparticipating.'' This appears to
increase the judicial system's workload. More likely, a parent who is
not guaranteed windfall enrichment at the expense of the other parent
would be more rational and considerate of the children's needs,
reducing case loads.
Parents should spend their time and money on their children, not on
struggling to conform to arbitrary guidelines or proving to the
government that they merit constitutional protections.
Actual earnings are always acceptable for raising children of
married parents. We pay taxes on what we earn, not on what we could
have earned. Yet disenfranchised supporting parents are forced to pay a
percentage of what they presumably could earn.
Most state procedures calculate the amount of funding necessary to
replicate the family standard of living. They then assign all the money
to one parent. The only way the paying parent can maintain previous
parenting styles is to pay for them twice.
The ``best interests of children'' as a matter of public policy has
been regarded as the best interests of children as a constitutional
right. The two standards are not on par. Children do not have a
constitutional right that their best interests be met. If they did,
every family would be subjected to continual government interference to
determine and maximize benefits to their children. Parents would have
to choose between the interests of their children and the protection of
their individual rights. The constitution would force parents to become
adversaries to their own children. Sadly, this happens to divorcing
parents. Parental rights in this disenfranchised class of citizens are
subordinated to the presumed rights of their children. The pre-eminent
interest of children should be that the constitutional right of parents
to the care, custody and control of their children be preserved.
Otherwise, the State is telling children their parents don't have
rights, and neither will they when they have children.
Adversarial custody battles are now pursued, not to benefit
children, but to use children as a shelter from persecution by an
orwellian child support enforcement regime. Those who insist children
need government protection from hostilities between their parents have
created a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Our children deserve for two cooler heads to prevail.
When considering family legislation, please consider, ``Could I
force this upon married parents?''
Bridgton, Maine 04009
July 9, 2000
Allison Giles, Chief of Staff
Committee on Ways and Means
U.S. House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
FATHERHOOD ISSUES IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Modern Tools for Modern Families
Issues that must be consiered in the development of laws and
policies that impact fathers and children of divorce should include the
1. Fathers are taking increasing role in parenting.
The most recent U.S. Census Department data indicates that 22% of
single-parent homes in the U.S. are headed by fathers. That amount is
47% higher than the typical estimated amount used by policymakers in
the U.S. Numerous studies, notable by Barnett and Rivers, indicate that
(especially among younger fathers,) fathers are putting their parenting
obligation ahead of career and any other interests.
In Maine single-parent households headed by fathers is a high 27%,
which is estimated to be about twice the rate that fathers are assigned
primary custody by courts, and estimated to be about 4 times more
numerous than child support cases where men would be the recipients of
Fathers' actual role in parenting is probably twice to four times
greater than that presently recognized by the courts or support
2. By considering the roles of most fathers of divorced children in
the U.S. to be that of a ``non-custodial parent'', U.S. and state
agencies use a term of convenience; rather than a term that describes
an accurate role of many divorced fathers today.
``The structure of single-parent households has also been affected
by the fact that more parents have shared legal custody for their
children. This means that it is the right of both parents to be
involved in important decisions, like health care, even when the
children reside primarily with one parent. In addition, some parents
are deciding to take primary physical responsibility for one or more of
their shared children, and some states are no longer using the term
`custody,' but instead are allocating `parenting time' between the
mother and father.'' (The Medical Child Support Working Group Report,
June 2000, page 1-4)
Even the reports being issued US Office of Child Support
Enforcement, such as the report above, are recognizing that the term
``non-custodial parent'', is, in fact, obsolete in many situations.
3. Disenfranchisement of fathers from the policy process.
Few studies or panels that investigate divorce, parenting or child
support include representatives of fathers or non-custodial parents.
Fathers are under-represented, if at all, in the policy making process
that affects both them, and their relationship with their children.
In most states there are no programs available specifically
designed to assist divorced fathers.
In order to permit an air of legitimacy to the process of
developing laws and policies that affect fathers of divorce, fathers
will need to have their input considered, and adopted into the laws and
I thank you in advance for your consideration of these issues.
cc: Rep. Tom Allen
Sen. Olympia Snowe
Sen. Susan Collins
Statement of Daniel L. Hatcher, Senior Staff Attorney, Children's
Chairman Herger and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the
opportunity to submit this statement for the record regarding child
support and fatherhood proposals. The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) is
a private, nonprofit advocacy organization whose mission is to Leave No
Child Behind. We receive no government funds. CDF provides a
strong, effective voice for all the children of America who cannot
vote, lobby, or speak for themselves.
The effectiveness of the child support program is now steadily
improving, in large part due to the 1996 child support reforms.
However, poor children in families receiving welfare or leaving welfare
for work often receive little of the child support collected on their
behalf. The success of the child support system is significantly
reduced for poor children due to the continued use of child support to
recover welfare costs, and due to the fact that low-income noncustodial
parents often cannot afford to pay support.
Last year, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the
Johnson-Cardin Child Support Distribution Act of 2000 (H.R. 4678) by a
vote of 405-18. Billions of dollars in child support would have been
re-directed to children. The Act would have also provided funding for
much-needed programs to help low-income noncustodial parents improve
their economic status and provide better support for their children.
H.R. 4678 was referred to the Senate, and a similar Senate bill was
introduced. Unfortunately, the Senate did not take action on the bill.
The Johnson-Cardin Child Support Distribution Act has been
reintroduced in the House this year (H.R. 1471), and is also
incorporated into the Act to Leave No Child Behind (H.R.1990/S.940), an
omnibus bill for children supported by the Children's Defense Fund and
many other organizations and child advocates. It is crucial for
Congress to act quickly on this legislation. As TANF time limits run
out, and more and more families continue to try to follow the rules of
the new welfare law and work towards family independence, the child
support system must be changed to support, not hinder, the efforts of
custodial and noncustodial parents to support their children.
Performance of the child support program is improving.
Child support enforcement tools have been strengthened in recent
years. Wage withholdings were made mandatory in 1988, and then were
made more effective when the National Directory of New Hires was
established in the 1996 welfare law, the Personal Responsibility and
Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (``PRWORA''). Employers must now
report all new hires to state agencies that then transmit the
information to the National Directory of New Hires. Child support
offices can then check the directory against a list of noncustodial
parents with overdue child support. After a match is made, a wage
withholding order is issued to deduct automatically child support
payments from the noncustodial parent's paychecks.
PRWORA also required each state to implement centralized computer
systems for collections, made improvements to paternity establishment,
and provided uniform interstate child support laws to address
enforcement complications that exist when multiple states are involved.
With the strengthening of enforcement tools and increased
recognition of the importance of child support for child well-being,
the performance of the child support program has improved. $15.8
billion in child support was collected in 1999, a 10 percent increase
over fiscal year 1998, and according to the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, that number reached $18 billion in fiscal year
2000. Paternities were established and acknowledged for 1.5 million
children in 1999, about a 220 percent increase over fiscal year 1992.
The child support collection rate has doubled since 1995.\1\
\1\ Data is from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press
release, ``HHS Announces New Record Child Support Collections''
(January 17, 2001), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
Child Support Enforcement FY 1999 Preliminary Data Report (September,
2000), and an analysis by Vicki Turetsky, ``Families Participating in
the State Child Support Program,'' (Center for Law and Social Policy,
Continued improvements are needed to help low-income children.
Low-income children of current and former welfare recipients have
the greatest need for the additional family income possible through the
receipt of child support payments. The child support program can have a
significant anti-poverty effect--when it is successful in getting
support payments to families.
Among custodial parents receiving none of their ordered
child support, the poverty rate was 35.7 percent, whereas for
those receiving all the support due, the poverty rate was 15.2
\2\ U.S. Census Bureau, Child Support for Custodial Mothers and
Fathers, P 60-212 (October 2000).
For poor families who get child support, the child support
amounts to 26% of the family's budget, or $2000 per year.\3\
\3\ Vicki Turetsky, What if All the Money Came Home? (Washington,
D.C.: Center for Law and Social Policy, June 2000).
Even small amounts of child support going to families that
received TANF assistance reduce the likelihood that the
families will need public assistance again.\4\
\4\ Office of Child Support Enforcement, U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, 1999 Report to Congress: Analysis of the Impact of
Welfare Recidivism of PRWORA Child Support Arrears Distribution Policy
Changes (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human
Unfortunately, the bulk of the collections are not reaching those
children with the greatest needs. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of the
IV-D child support caseload is made up of current and former welfare
recipients, but the majority of the funds collected in FY 1999 were for
families who have never received welfare assistance. Of the small
percentage of owed child support that is collected for current TANF
recipients (9.3 percent), very little actually gets to the families--
the government kept $1.3 of the $1.5 billion collected in 1999. Former
TANF recipients are getting more of the child support collected on
their behalf ($3.8 billion out of the $4.83 billion collected), but
still over $1 billion of the amount collected did not get to the
children in families struggling to leave welfare for work.\5\
\5\ Paula Roberts, ``The Performance of the Child Support
Enforcement System: Two Points of View,'' (Center for Law and Social
Policy, November 2000).
The 1996 welfare law has made the cost recovery purpose of the child
support system obsolete.
In 1996, PRWORA changed the AFDC welfare program to encourage
family financial independence. Child support was seen as an important
part of a single-parent family's income package. As a result, the child
support program began to shift its primary purpose from recovering
welfare costs to encouraging both parents to support their children and
actually getting child support to the custodial families.
Unfortunately, the federal law requiring families who need
temporary public assistance to assign their child support rights
remains, along with a complex set of child support distribution rules.
The assignment and distribution rules are now in conflict with the
goals of encouraging family independence and support for children from
The current child support system withholds support owed to children who
need it the most--those in families struggling to make ends
meet who have had to rely on public assistance.
Families needing TANF must assign their child support rights to the
government under the outdated notion of welfare cost recovery. The
effect is that child support collections are then withheld from the
children, kept by state governments, who in turn pay a share to the
federal government. Children often get nothing.
States do have the ability to give some child support back to
families after assignment, but only after they pay the federal
government its share. Currently, only a small amount of the child
support is given back.
The Johnson-Cardin bill provides states with options and incentives
to create child support pass-through and disregard policies to promote
the goal of family financial independence. States can opt to pass
through up to $400 a month in child support collections to a family
receiving TANF; to the extent that the payment is disregarded in
calculating TANF benefits, the state does not have to pay the federal
government its share of the amount collected. Passing through at least
a portion of the current child support collected ensures a smooth
transition when families move from welfare to work. Often, when
families do not receive any child support while on welfare, there is a
considerable delay in starting direct child support payments after the
family leaves cash assistance. Child support payments made directly to
the family during and after TANF receipt prevent a delay in benefits
during the critical period of transition.
Intercepting tax refunds is the most effective way to collect past due
support for families leaving welfare--but the money is often
withheld from poor children.
When families are able to leave welfare for work, the assignment of
child support stops. The transition to work is a critical time where
families desperately need the extra income from child support payments
to achieve economic stability and avoid the need to return to welfare.
In addition to the need for reliable ongoing current support payments,
effective ways of collecting past due child support owed to families
leaving welfare are essential. At the end of 1999, $34.5 billion in
arrears was owed for families who formerly received public
\6\ Office of Child Support Enforcement, U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, Child Support Enforcement FY 1999 Preliminary Data
Report (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
Intercepting federal tax refunds owed to the noncustodial parent is
an increasingly successful method in collecting this past due child
support. Tax intercepts account for the majority of back support
collections made on behalf of families who have had to rely on public
assistance. For many low-income families, where noncustodial parents'
work is intermittent and child support payments irregular, intercepting
federal tax refunds may be the only real chance they will have of
getting past due child support.
Unfortunately, the child support system is taking this effective
enforcement tool away from poor children. When families leave welfare
for work, the assignment of child support stops but past due child
support is still often owed in part to the government and in part to
the family. Under current law, past due child support collected by
federal tax refund intercepts is kept by the government to pay itself
first--even when most of the child support is owed to the children.
Example (hypothetical): an eight-year old girl is owed almost
$20,000 in past due child support (from a $200/month order that
has never been paid). The girl's mother lost her job and
eventually needed temporary public assistance last year--at
that point, the girl had to begin assigning her right to child
support to the government. The family left public assistance
after just 6 months, and the child support assignment then
stopped--the government is now owed $1,200 in assigned child
support, whereas $20,000 plus current support is still owed to
the girl. If a $600 federal tax refund is intercepted this year
from the non-custodial father, the government would take all of
the money from the child to pay itself first.
As the example illustrates, the practice of the government paying
itself first from intercepted federal tax refunds can result in much-
needed additional child support income being withheld from families at
the critical time of their transition to work. H.R. 1471 would change
the child support distribution rules to ensure that child support
collected through federal income tax refund intercepts is paid to
families leaving TANF before the government takes its share.
Withholding child support from the children on whose behalf it is
collected further divides already fragile families.
Children in low-income families experiencing separation or divorce
need emotional and financial support from both parents. Most poor
mothers and fathers want to do right by their children, and work
together to support their children--yet the child support system itself
can sometimes stand in their way.
When poor noncustodial fathers \7\ are able to pay child support,
they want to know the money is getting to their children. Noncustodial
fathers become more alienated from their families when they must
struggle to pay child support they know is being kept by the
government. Some noncustodial parents will risk incarceration by
providing money to their children directly, rather than paying
government-owed support payments. Many noncustodial parents simply
decide to pay nothing and avoid contact with their children.
\7\ This testimony often refers to noncustodial parents as fathers
for purposes of simplicity, and because the majority of noncustodial
parents are men. There are also many female noncustodial parents and
male custodial parents.
When poor mothers and fathers attempt to reunify and raise their
children together, the system of assigned child support can
significantly block their efforts. Parents that reunify are often still
stuck with making payments to the government in the name of ``child
support,'' because of past due child support that was assigned to the
government when one parent received welfare during the period of
Many noncustodial parents are poor and face barriers to employment.
For many low-income families who have had to rely on welfare, the
noncustodial parents are often poor as well, limiting their ability to
pay child support. Poor fathers may face multiple barriers to
employment, including lack of training and education, incarceration and
criminal records, lack of transportation, disabilities, and substance
Poor fathers facing such barriers to employment may accumulate
significant back due child support. The problem of large child support
arrearages is heightened when states add Medicaid childbirth costs to
the initial order, which can amount to thousands of dollars. Large
child support arrearages may then create an additional barrier to
legitimate employment. Faced with seemingly insurmountable arrearages,
fathers may work in the ``underground'' labor market.
H.R. 1471 would prohibit welfare cost recovery for Medicaid
birthing costs, to reduce the creation of large state debts that may
reduce the likelihood of low-income noncustodial parents paying current
support. H.R. 1471 would also provide funding for demonstration
projects to work directly with ``dead-broke'' low-income noncustodial
parents to help them support their children financially and
emotionally. The funding would create a competitive matching grants
program for projects to promote marriage and successful parenting, and
to address barriers to employment and improve the economic status of
low-income noncustodial parents.
H.R. 1471 provides Congress the opportunity to stop the child support
system from withholding child support from poor children, and
to provide needed services to help poor noncustodial parents
better support their children.
H.R. 1471 provides a tremendous opportunity for Congress to fix the
child support system in order to get more child support distributed to
families who have had to rely on welfare, and to provide much-needed
services to low-income noncustodial parents. It is crucial for Congress
to take immediate action and seize this important opportunity to help
families struggling for financial independence--by making child support
more about truly providing support to children, and providing services
to poor noncustodial parents to help them become better able to provide
Statement of Bill Wood, and Jay Gell, Children's Legal Foundation,
Charlotte, North Carolina
Bill Wood is a Business Management and Technology Consultant
volunteering his time to help families and children in the State of
North Carolina and around the country. He is a principal custodian of a
9 year-old girl. Jay Gell is the Founder of the Children's Legal
Foundation in Charlotte, North Carolina. A small group of about 10
people formed after personal experiences with the excesses and abuses
of the divorce Industry. Its mission is to promote intact families and
create national alliances to change the child-destructive divorce
Affects of Fatherlessness on Children--Social Consequences.
``Children describe the loss of contact with a parent as the
primary negative aspect of divorce.'' 1 Meanwhile, society
is just now beginning to recognize on a widespread basis what children
have known all along--; father-absence is one of the most destructive
forces to children in our society. As has been noted ``[f]ather-absence
is the greatest social problem we face.'' 2 Father-absence
associated with divorce and sole maternal custody, is the primary
predictor of a host of societal ills affecting and destroying children.
\1\ J Kelly. Assoc. of Family and Conciliation Courts, California
Chapter Mtg, Sonoma, CA, Jan. 1991.
\2\ D. Blankenhorn. Fatherless America. (New York: BasicBooks,
1995), Title page.
``The decline of fatherhood is a major force behind many of
the most disturbing problems that plague America: crime and
juvenile delinquency; premature sexuality and out-of-wedlock
births to teenagers; deteriorating educational achievement;
depression, substance abuse, and alienation among adolescents;
and the growing number of women and children in poverty . . .
Fathers are the first and most important men in the lives of
girls. They provide role models, accustoming their daughters to
male-female relationships. Engaged and responsive fathers play
with their daughters and guide them into challenging
activities. They protect them, providing them with a sense of
physical and emotional security. Girls with adequate fathering
are more able, as they grow older, to develop constructive
heterosexual relationships based on trust and intimacy . . .
Why does living without a father pose such hazards for
children? Two explanations are usually given: The children
receive less supervision and protection from men mothers bring
home, and they are also more emotionally deprived, which leaves
them vulnerable to sexual abusers. . . . Even a diligent absent
father can't supervise or protect his children the way a live-
in father can. Nor is he likely to have the kind of
relationship with his daughter that is usually needed to give
her a foundation of emotional security and a model for
nonsexual relationships with men. . . .'' 3
\3\ D. Popenoe. ``Life without father.'' In: C. Daniels, ed. Lost
fathers: The Politics of Fatherlessness in America. (New York: St.
Martin's Press, 1998).
Promiscuity, teen pregnancy, child sexual abuse, and ongoing
difficulties in later family life are results of feminist
misandry infecting society with a ``father hatred'' causing
Single motherhood, once lauded by the feminist icon ``Murphy
Brown,'' has thoroughly produced its cultural ``poisoned fruit''
(Candace Bergen 4 and the feminists then attacked Vice
President Dan Quayle for his support of the family). White teenage
girls in 1988 were 72% more likely than their father-present peers to
become single mothers, while there was a 100% increase for black
teenage girls,5 other studies also reported up to a 600%
increase in teenage illegitimate births.6 Over 10 years
later, out-of-wedlock-births have reduced slightly and stabilized,
while the subject population has reduced accounting for much of the
difference.7 In contrast, more involved fathers protect
girls from engaging in first sex, lower the risk of using illicit
substances, and also reduce the risk of violent behavior.8
This protection ``from engaging in first sex,'' or promoting
abstinence, is the most certain way to reduce teenage pregnancy and
avoid a whole host of issues caused by promiscuity.
\4\ June 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle criticized the TV show
Murphy Brown for promoting single motherhood. Chaos ensued and he was
incessantly ridiculed by Hollywood and the media. Candace Bergen wins
an Emmy for her portrayal of Murphy Brown and begins another career
giving commencement speeches on University campuses. [Author
commentary] With the complete absorption of feminist, anti-family,
anti-father philosophy so deeply entrenched in Hollywood, the media,
and gaining a stranglehold over the courts, is it any wonder that
families are being destroyed, children are suffering, and our culture
\5\ S. McLanahan. Demography 25, Feb. 1988, p. 1-16.
\6\ Y. Matsuhashi et al. (1988). J Adolescent Health Care 10, 409-
\7\ Most WW2 baby-boomers are past child-bearing age and their
children are beyond teenage years.
\8\ K. Harris et al. Paternal involvement with adolescents in
intact families: The influence of fathers over the life course,
presented at the annual meeting of the Am. Sociol. Assoc., New York,
N.Y., August 16-20, 1996; Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
Chapel Hill, N.C., 27516, p. 28.
Father-absence creates increases in child sex-role
conflicts,9 and a 100% increase in gender identity
struggles.10 Before it became ``politically correct taboo''
to treat homosexuality as a potential malady or disorder,11
father-absence created a significant increase in the likelihood of
homosexual behavior in males as well as females.12
\9\ H. Biller, (1974). Paternal Deprivation: Family, School,
Sexuality, and Society (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath).
\10\ G. Rekers. Journal of Family and Culture, 2, No. 3 (Autumn,
1986), p. 8-31.
\11\ As was listed in the Psych profession's DSM-III before it was
removed through political pressure from the DSM-IV.
\12\ H. Biller, Paternal Deprivation: Family, School, Sexuality,
and Society (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1974), p.114.
The contrasts are striking because reversing the trend of
illegitimacy requires, above all, presence of a father in the daily
lives of children. It is not just ``participation'' of a father in the
lives of children. It is primarily the ``presence'' of a father:
``Fathers who actively engage in joint activities and
interaction with adolescents promote their educational and
economic achievement and fathers who maintain a close stable
emotional bond with adolescents over time protect adolescents
from engaging in delinquent behaviors.'' 13
Some of the additional ``poisoned fruit'' deeply planted and rooted
in young women by the ``enlightened, anti-marriage, male-hating
feminists'' include difficulty for girls in building a stable family in
adulthood,14 increased incidence of child sexual
abuse,15 and heightened incidence of fatal child abuse by
mothers.16 Teenage boys risk a 77% 17 to 100%
18 increase in the overall likelihood of fathering an
illegitimate child and therefore, as the research has shown,
perpetuating the father-absence cycle for another generation (or
generations to come). Teenage girls run a 92% greater risk of
continuing the divorce cycle.19 Infants and toddlers (two
and younger) proved up to 100 times more likely to be killed by
stepparents than by biological parents.20 Preschoolers
living without their biological father were 40 times more likely to be
a victim of child abuse as compared to those living with their
\14\ S McLanahan, L Bumpass. (July, 1988). Am J Sociol, 4, 130-152.
\15\ A Sedlak (August 30, 1991). ``Supplementary Analyses of Data
on the National Incidence of Child Abuse and Neglect'' (Rockville, Md.:
Westat) table 6-2, p. 6-5. see also, Gomes-Schwartz, Horowitz, and
Cardarelli, Child Sexual Abuse Victims and their Treatment, 1988 (69%
of victims of child sexual abuse came from homes where the biological
father was absent).
\16\ H. Biller, (1974). Paternal Deprivation: Family, School,
Sexuality, and Society (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath), p. 21f. see
also, Fatherless Families Spawning Virulent Form of Child Abuse,'' New
York Tribune, June 6, 1984.
\17\ W. Marsiglio Family Planning Perspective 19 Nov/Dec, 1987,
\18\ B. Christensen. The Family in America. Vol 3, no. 4 [April
1989], p. 3.
\19\ Warren Farrell presentation at NCMC conference, 1992;
\20\ Wilson and Daly, ``The Risk of Maltreatment of Children Living
with Stepparents,'' in Richard J. Gelles and Jane B. Lancaster, eds.,
Child Abuse and Neglect: Biosocial Dimensions, Foundations of Human
Behavior (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1987), p. 215-232.
\21\ Wilson and Daly in Child Abuse and Neglect: Biosocial
Even stepfathers do not foster improvement much better than outright
There seems to be little substitute for the presence of a caring
biological father. ``Receipt of child support does not appear to make a
significant difference'' and ``the presence of a step-parent does not
significantly improve a child's situation, either.'' \22\ Children
living with a mother and stepfather fared poorly on most
indicators.\23\ Child abuse occurs most frequently within stepfamilies,
and, in fact, most sexual abuse occurs in stepfamilies.\24\ Sexual
abuse of girls by their stepfathers can be at a minimum six or seven
times higher,\25\ and may be up to 40 times \26\ that of sexual abuse
by biological fathers in intact families. When it comes to the risk of
abuse with unrelated males, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead explains:
\22\ K. Harris. Reuters. Fathers' Care Benefits Children. N.Y.,
August 25, 1998.
\23\ National Center for Health Statistics, June 1991.
\24\ David M. Fergusson, Michael T. Lynskey, and L. John Horwood,
(1996). ``Childhood Sexual Abuse and Psychiatric Disorders in Young
Adulthood: I. Prevalence of Sexual Abuse and Factors Associated with
Sexual Abuse,'' Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry, Vol. 34, pp. 1355-1364.
\25\ Diana E. H. Russell, (1984). ``The Prevalence and Seriousness
of Incestuous Abuse: Stepfathers vs. Biological Fathers,'' Child Abuse
and Neglect, Vol. 8, pp. 15-22.
\26\ See Wilson and Daly, ``The Risk of Maltreatment of Children
Living with Stepparents,'' p. 228.
``Stepfathers also pose a sexual risk to children, especially
stepdaughters. They are more likely than biological fathers to
commit acts of sexual abuse, and are less likely to protect
daughters from other male predators. According to a Canadian
study, children in stepfamilies are forty times as likely to
suffer physical or sexual abuse as children in intact
\27\ M Daly, M Wilson. Homicide (N.Y.: Aldine de Gruyter, 1988), p.
It is worth noting that stepfathers cannot make up for the lack of
a biological father. In fact, Maggie Gallagher notes:
``Children in stepfamilies do no better on average than
children in single-parent homes. . . . Failing to understand
the erotic relations that are at the heart of family life, they
[sociologists] failed to predict what, sadly and surprisingly,
later research strongly suggested: Remarriage is not only not
necessarily a cure; it is often one of the risks children of
divorce face.'' \28\
\28\ M. Gallagher, (1996). The abolition of Marriage: How We
Destroy Lasting Love. DC., Regnery Pub, Chapter 6.
Father-absence promotes anti-social behavior as well as criminal
activity and psychological problems.
Delinquency of children, and in particular boys, is promoted by
father-absence.\29\ The problems with not having fathers in children's
lives can be so severe that they can cause an 86% increase in the
likelihood that a child will become a psychotic delinquent.\30\ Some of
the widely recognized statistics of the ills, and cost to society of
father-absence include; 90% of all homeless and runaway children,\31\
70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions,\32\ 75% of all
adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers,\33\ 85% of prison
youths,\34\ and talk about promoting a danger to women--up to 80% of
rapists, motivated by displaced anger.\35\ There is also a threefold
increase in the likelihood that a child will be involved in gang
\29\ M. Wynn. Fatherless Families: A Study of Families Deprived of
a Father by Death, Divorce, Separation, or Desertion Before and After
Marriage (N.Y.: London and Maxwell, 1964), p. 147.
\30\ R. Zagar. J Am. Acad. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 28
\31\ U.S. Department Health and Human Services Bureau of Census.
\32\ U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept. 1988.
\33\ Rainbow for All God's Children.
\34\ Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. Corrections,
\35\ R. Knight, R., R. Prentky. Criminal Justice and Behavior Vol.
14 (Dec 1987), 403-426.
\36\ Christensen at footnote 24.
Over the existing population, there is a 200% increase in the
likelihood that a child will require psychological treatment
37 with 85% of all father-absent children exhibiting
behavioral disorders.38 This is a crucial point for
consideration for every attorney, and every judge that separates a fit
father from his children. They are PROMOTING behavioral disorders. Low
self-esteem is suffered by both girls 39 and
boys.40 There is a 200% increase in attempted or successful
teen suicides41 with 63% of all [successful] youth suicides
from fatherless homes.42
\37\ N. Kalter. Am. J Orthopsychiatry, 57 (4), October, 1987.
\38\ Center for Disease Control.
\39\ E Wakerman. Father Loss: Daughters Discuss the Man that Got
Away. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, p. 109.
\40\ H Biller. Father, Child, and Sex Role. (Lexington, Mass.: D.C.
Heath, 1971), p. 3.
\41\ Prof. Victor R. Fuchs, Stanford Univ., LA Times, Oct. 24,
\42\ U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census.
Academic performance is severely affected.
Father-absence creates a significant decrease in school
performance,43 a significant increase in disruptive school
behavior,44 a significant decrease in performance on
aptitude tests, in cognitive skills, in terms of grades, and is
cumulative in nature; 45 and predicts truancy and grade
repetition.46 Fatherless children also account for 71% of
all high school dropouts.47 Some of the affects of this low
academic achievement can be seen in the substantial increase in men's
odds of ending up in the lowest occupational stratum 48
repeating the ``illegitimacy cycle,'' and ending up ``dead-broke''
unable to support their children.
\43\ M Thompson, K Alexander, D. Entwwisle. Social Forces, 67, Dec.
\44\ R Forehand et al. Journal of Behavior Therapy and experimental
Psychiatry, 18, (Dec 1987): 325-328.
\45\ H Biller, R Solomon. Child Maltreatment and Paternal
Deprivation: A Manifesto for Research, Prevention, and Treatment (Lex,
Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1986), p. 136.
\46\ G Bauer. Report to the President from the White House Working
Group on the Family. Feb., 1988.
\47\ National Principals Association Report on the State of High
\48\ T Biblarz, A Raftery. Am Sociol Review, 1 (Feb 1993), p. 97.
In contrast to this academic destruction of children, father-
present children ``are more likely to get mostly A's, to enjoy school,
and to participate in extracurricular activities if their nonresident
fathers are involved in their schools than if they are not.'' The
report laments that ``[t]he majority of nonresident fathers, however,
are not involved in their children's schools.'' 49 There are
ample studies to show (explored later) that this is not entirely by
\49\ U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational
Statistics, NCES 98-117 (June 1998).
Surprising CAUSES of Fatherlessness.
Certainly, no reasonable person would suggest that some fathers do
not abdicate, or completely avoid and abandon their responsibilities to
their child(ren). Surprisingly, that is not one of the larger causes of
fatherlessness.50 The largest causes of fatherlessness will
come as a surprise and shock to most. The single largest reason that
fathers do not see their children is a result of female-initiated
divorce for no ``good'' reason.51 There are a number of
studies and commentaries that indicate the reasons of female-initiated
divorce, and rates that may be greater than 80% while most of the
studies indicate 66%-75%.52
\50\ ``Non custodial parents, who are usually men, are likely to be
negatively affected in psychological ways. A most pervasive problem is
suffering caused by the feeling that they have lost their children.''
Increasing Our Understanding of Fathers Who Have Infrequent Contact
With Their Children. James R. Dudley, Professor, University North
Carolina, under a grant from Temple University, Family Relations, Vol.
4, No. 3, July 1991 pg. 279, col. 2, 2, lines 1-5.
\51\ This is a limited list as there is an abundance of sources:
Friedman and Percival (1976). ``Who sues for Divorce?''--5 Journal
of Legal Studies 61-82. see pages 71, 75, 78, 81.
Gunter and Johnson (1978). ``Divorce Filing as Role Behavior:
Effect of No-Fault Law on Divorce Filing Patterns,'' Journal of
Marriage and Family 571-574. see page 572.
Pettit, E.J. & Bloom, B.L. (1984). ``Whose decision was it: The
effects of initiator status on adjustment to marital disruption.''
Journal of Marriage and the Family, 587-595.
Stark (1991). ``Divorce Law, Feminism, and Psychoanalysis: In
Dreams Begin Responsibilities,'' 38 UCLA Law Review 1483-1531. see page
1514, note 149.
Braver et. al. (1993). ``Who Divorced Whom? Methodological and
Theoretical Issues,'' 20 Journal of Divorce and Remarriage 1-19.
Brinig (1993). ``The Law and Economics of No-Fault Divorce,'' 26
Family Law Quarterly 453-470.
Brinig and Buckley (1998). ``No-Fault Laws and At-Fault People,''
18 International Review of Law & Economics 325-340.
Brinig, M. and Allen D (2000). ``These Boots are Made for Walking:
Why most divorce filers are women.''
\52\ This is a limited list as there is an abundance of sources:
Weitzman, 1985. ``The Divorce Revolution: The Unexpected Social and
Economic Consequences for Women and Children in America,'' New York:
The Free Press, page 460.
Chambers, 1979. ``Making Fathers Pay--the wife is the moving party
in divorce actions seven times out of eight.'' Chicago: University of
Chicago Press. page 29.
Hite, 1987. ``Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress''
where it is stated ``ninety-one percent of women who have divorced say
they made the decision to divorce, not their husbands.'' New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1987, page 459.
Colorado Supreme Court--Task Force on Gender Bias in the Courts.
Gender and Justice in the Colorado Courts from the Task Force Report,
1990. Revealed that 7 out of 8 divorces are initiated by women (88%).
Fetzner, William of WFEJ clerk of the courts data from a five
county study of child custody and support assessments in Marian,
Howard, Hancock, Grant, and Rush counties (Indiana) in 1985. Petitions
filed by mother: 76.7%--of 2,033 dissolutions granted, 1,599 (76.7%)
were filed by wives, 474 (23.3%) were filed by husbands.
Joan Kelly, author of Surviving the Breakup, ``Divorce is sought
about three to one by women'' (cited in Joint Custody Newsletter,
Ahrons, C. (1994). The good divorce. NY: Harper Collins page 92.
``In reality . . . throughout most of North American history
wives have filed for divorce twice as often as husbands. . .
The proportion of divorces initiated by women ranged around
60% for most of the 20th century, and climbed to more than 70%
in the late 1960s when no-fault divorce was introduced: so says
a just-released study by law professor Margaret Brinig of
George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia and Douglas
Allen, economist at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University. The
researchers undertook one of the largest studies ever on
divorce, using 46,000 cases from the four American states that
keep statistics on which partner initiates the action. In
addition to women filing twice as often, the researchers found,
they are more likely to instigate separations and marriage
The Brinig-Allen study also explodes the myth of the brutish
husband, finding, for instance, that cruelty is cited in only
6% of divorce applications in Virginia, one of the few states
that still uses fault grounds for divorce. . . .
Arizona State University psychologist Sanford Braver provides
backup for the Brinig-Allen study. In his new book, Divorced
Dads: Shattering the Myths, Mr. Braver surveyed 400 divorcing
couples seeking causes for the breakdown of their marriages. He
found ``violence or abuse strikingly absent.'' Instead, less
dramatic factors prevailed, such as ``growing apart'' or
``spouse not able or willing to meet my needs.''
. . . In 25% of marriage breakdowns . . . men have ``no
clue'' there is a problem until the woman tells them they want
out. . . . [W]omen are more likely to file if the divorce rate
is high in their area or if their friends and families are
doing it. ``Where the divorce rate is low so there's a lot of
stigma attached,''. . . ``they won't leave. . . .''
``The rights of women in society have been pushed to such an
extent that they now feel if they're not happy, it's their
partner's fault,'' says marriage researcher Walter Schneider. .
. . ``That perception is heightened by the social conditioning
of men to be chivalrous. Men have to be protectors of women and
children, so they are reluctant to become involved in an
adversarial process against a woman. They're also less likely
to seek divorce because that would destroy their self-image as
providers and protectors of the family. It would destroy their
world; all they've sacrificed for would go down the drain.''
Mr. Schneider points to an Australian study indicating that .
. . divorced persons have the highest suicide rate. . . .
But according to Professors Brinig and Allen, [the mother's]
custody of the children may be the very reason her husband
provides so little support. There are three basic reasons
people file for divorce they say: (1) to stop being exploited
within the marriage, (2) to exploit the other spouse by running
off with marital investments, or (3) to establish custody over
children. They believe that determining which of the three
predominates could assist divorce law reformers.
If divorces result mostly from bad (or exploitive) marriages,
the Brinig-Allen study suggests, then divorce should be made
(or kept) easier; if divorces result mostly from a desire to
exploit the partner, then it should be made more difficult or
expensive; and if it is custody outcomes which most influence
divorce filings, a presumption of joint custody, except where
one parent can demonstrate the other is unfit, would ``mitigate
the incentive for one party filing for the purpose of gaining
unilateral control over the children and therefore the other
After analyzing 21 wide-ranging variables, the Brinig-Allen
study concludes that the person who anticipates gaining custody
of the children is the one most likely to file for divorce.
Therefore, Prof. Brinig speculates, if joint custody were the
norm, there would likely be fewer divorces, not more. . . .
In fact, however, divorce rates are plunging in states where
courts typically award custody of children to both parents. A
study headed by Richard Kuhn of the Children's Rights Council
based in Washington, D.C., found that states with higher levels
of joint custody awards in 1989 and 1990 ``have shown
significantly greater declines in divorces in the following
years through 1995, compared with other states.'' Overall
divorce rates declined nearly four times faster in high joint-
custody states compared with states where joint custody is
relatively rare. A large factor, the researchers believe, is
that joint custody ``removes the capacity for one spouse to
hurt the other by denying participation in raising the
\53\ Mclean, Candis. Look Who Doesn't Want A Divorce. New Studies
Indicate Women Are First To File, But That Joint Custody Keeps Families
Together. January 11, 1999.
Dr. Richard Warshak, among America's leading experts on father
custody, described the history of routine custody arrangements as
``In earlier times it was assumed that men, by nature, are
better suited to protect and provide for children. Since 1920,
it has been assumed that women, by nature, are better suited to
love and care for children.
``These assumptions, which so powerfully affect so many
children's lives, are based on nothing more than folklore and
sexual stereotypes. . . . As guidelines for custody
dispositions, folklore, sentiment, and stereotypes are poor
substitutes for factual information. In the last two decades,
social scientists have examined different custody arrangements
and their effects on children's development. If this
information is ignored, and we continue to allow myth and
sentiment to rule custody decisions, we short-change our
children and we short-change ourselves.'' 54
\54\ Dr. Richard Warshak, The Custody Revolution (1992) ppg. 33-34.
Excerpt as adapted from US House of Representatives written
testimony of Richard Weiss and William Wood.55
\55\ Serial No. 106-107--H.R. 1488, The ``Hyde-Woolsey'' Child
Support Bill, March 16, 2000.
Non-compliance with court ordered visitation is three times
the problem of non-compliance with court ordered child support
and impacts the children of divorce even more. And the picture
gets worse. When mothers are awarded primary or ``sole''
custody, 37.9% of fathers, end up with no access/visitation
rights.56 And another study found that 42% of
fathers fail to see their children at all after
divorce.57 The very narrow difference (~4% variance)
between these two studies where the COURTS remove the father,
and the overall loss of parental contact indicates that the
courts themselves are the biggest culprit in this.58
\56\ Census Bureau P-60, #173, Sept 1991. p. 6, col.II, para. 6,
lines 4 & 5.
\57\ Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr. and Christine Winquist Nord,
``Parenting Apart: Patterns of Childbearing after Marital Disruption,''
Journal of Marriage and the Family 47, no. 4 (November 1985): 874,
cited in Sylvia Ann Hewlett, When the Bough Breaks (1991) at 286-287.
\58\ While it is possible that the correlation between these two
studies may be anecdotal, the time frame is similar, and can the courts
continue to ``flirt with disaster'' in so many separations of children
from their fathers?
Non-compliance with court ordered visitation by custodial
mothers prevents 77% of non-custodial fathers from being able
to ``visit'' their children.59 40% of custodial
mother SELF-REPORTS indicate they interfered with the father's
visitation to ``punish'' children's fathers,60 other
fathers ``often experience intense conflicts with their former
spouses, and these conflicts typically interfere with their on-
going parent-child relationships.'' 61 Another study
reported that 25-33% of them outright DENIED visits (in
defiance of an established order) 62 ~50% see no
value in the father's involvement with the child,63
and many use the children to retaliate against the father for
their own ongoing personal problems.64 Sole
custodial mothers exert power and control to abuse court
orders, denying fathers visitation,65 and they would
also sabotage father's involvement in their children's
lives.66 And finally fathers absolutely WANT to be
with their children, or these child-destroying, spiteful acts
would be useless 67 without a ``control and power''
\59\ Visitational Interference--A National Study, Ms. J Annette
Vanini, M.S.W. and Edward Nichols, M.S.W. (September 1992).
\60\ Frequency of visitation by Divorced Fathers; Differences in
Reports by Fathers and Mothers. Sanford Braver et al, Am. J. of
Orthopsychiatry, 1991. p. 449, col. II, lines 3-6, (citing Fulton).
\61\ See footnote 50. Family Relations, Vol. 4, No. 3, July 1991
pg. 279, col. 2, 2, lines 15-19.
\62\ Frequency of Visitation by Divorced Fathers: Differences in
Reports by Fathers and Mothers--Sanford H. Braver, Ph.D., Sharlene A.
Wolchik, Ph.D., Irwin M. Sandler, Ph.D., Bruce S. Fogas, Ph.D., Daria
Zvetina, M.Ed. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry pg. 451, col. 2, 2,
\63\ Surviving the Breakup, Joan Kelly & Judith Wallerstein, p.
\64\ Journal of Marriage & the Family, Vol. 51, p. 1015, Seltzer,
Shaeffer & Charing, November 1989.
\65\ ``Unilateral abuse of parental custodial power is more common
in court ordered sole custody situations.'' Child Custody and Parental
Cooperation--Frank Williams, M.D., Dir. Psychiatry--Cedar-Sinai--
Presented to the American Bar Association, Family Law Section, August
1987 and January 1988 pg. 4, col. 1, 1, lines 17-20.
\66\ The Effect of the Post Divorce Relationship on Paternal
Involvement: A Longitudinal Analysis--Constance R. Ahrons, Ph.D., and
Richard B. Miller, Ph.D., American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Vol. 63,
No. 3, July 1993 pg. 442, Col. 1, 1, lines 23-27.
\67\ ``Most men were dissatisfied with the frequency of
visitation.'' Visitation and the Noncustodial Father--Mary Ann P. Koch,
Carol R. Lowery, Journal of Divorce, Vol. 8, No. 2, Winter 1984, pg.
54, 4 lines 5 also noted was ``70% of fathers felt they had too little
time with their children.'' pg 54, 4, lines 5-7.
The court system does not enforce orders for ``visitation''
68 but jails for non-compliance with a ``child'' support
order. This is a clear indication that the whole DIVORCE INDUSTRY
69 is about money 70 and children are just the
``poker chips'' in this high stakes ``game.'' Their destruction is just
``collateral damage'' for the marriage hating special interests pushing
their child destroying propaganda.
\68\ ``The court's failure to enforce or expand visitation
agreements were a frequently mentioned complaint'' Increasing Our
Understanding of Fathers Who Have Infrequent Contact With Their
Children--James R. Dudley, Professor, University North Carolina, under
a grant from Temple University, Family Relations, Vol. 4, No. 3, July
1991 pg. 281, col. 2, 2, lines 14-16.
\69\ This is a list of some who benefit or participate, financial
or otherwise, in the continued breakdown of the family, destruction of
marriage, or in the increased male acrimony (termed misandry--male
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T4742A.009
\70\ ``Few men can afford to legally contest every infringement of
the visitation agreement.'' Visitation and the Noncustodial Father--
Mary Ann P. Koch, Carol R. Lowery, Journal of Divorce, Vol. 8, No. 2,
Winter 1984--pg. 60, 3, lines 11-12.
As the Family Law Quarterly noted as early as 1984, the majority
view of the psychiatric and pediatric profession is that mothers and
fathers are equals as parents.71 There is an abundance of
studies indicating fathers are equally qualified parents.72
And fathers have been seeking to be involved in family matters for some
\71\ See J. Atkinson, ``Criteria for Deciding Child Custody in the
Trial and Appellate Courts,'' Family Law Quarterly, Vol. XVIII, No 1
\72\ Michael E. Lamb & Abraham Sagi eds., 1983) Studies show that
fathers can be ``just as sensitive and competent in care-giving as
mothers''; William Marsiglio, Fatherhood, Contemporary Theory, Research
and Social Policy (William Marsiglio ed., 1995) Men interact
differently with children but their ability to parent is just as
effective; Pamela Daniels & Kathy Weingarten, The Fatherhood Click: The
Timing of Parenthood in Men's Lives, in Fatherhood Today: Men's
Changing Role in the Family (Phyllis Bronstein & Carolyn Cowen eds.,
1988) (``Fatherhood Today'') Nurturing is not inherent in either a
mother or father, but must be learned and developed by both.
\73\ ``[A]part from any response to the women's movement, men are
also seeking increased emotional closeness with their infants as part
of a men's movement toward fuller personhood, and as a reaction against
the alienation and burnout of the purely instrumental role of family
provider.'' Michael W. Yogman, James Cooley, and Daniel Kindlon,
Fathers, Infants, and Toddlers, in Fatherhood Today.
The legal system uses an indeterminate criteria, pseudo-named a
``standard'' called the ``best interests of the child standard''. If
the courts were honest in their use of the ``best interests of the
child'' then so much social science information and information that
``[t]he primary negative aspect of divorce reported by children in
numerous studies was loss of contact with a parent'' 74
could not be ignored so easily. After all, there is a repeated
description of ``the dissatisfaction of so many youngsters who felt
they were not seeing their fathers often enough. If custody and
visiting issues are to be within the realm of the `best interest of the
child,' then such widespread discontent must be taken very seriously.''
75 When examining the undisputed child's viewpoint, cutting
through the hysterical feminist propaganda and hyperbole, and looking
at the child's viewpoint, there is only one tenable answer--; the
``best interests of the child'' dictates something akin to 50-50 shared
parenting. ``One clear message from the accumulated divorce research is
that children profit by continued [frequent] exposure to both
\74\ Hetherington et al., 1982; Kurdek & Berg, 1983; Wallerstein &
Kelly, 1980, Warshak & Santrock, 1983.
\75\ J. Wallerstein and J. Kelly, Surviving the Breakup, 142-143
(1980). See also, D. Luepnitz, Child Custody, A Study of Families After
\76\ M. Koch, C. Lowry. Journal of Divorce, Vol. 8, No. 2, Winter
Unfortunately it is the rule, rather than the exception that trial
courts are bound by the relics of antiquated stereotypes in their
dealings with child custody and visitation questions. Especially when
there are modern approaches that better serve the ``best interests of
Courts are ruthlessly efficient in establishing specific standards,
guidelines, criteria and rules for dealing with Child Support where the
state has a vested interest in collecting TANF funds provided by the
Federal Government. So much so that there are almost NO reasons that
some party cannot be found to PAY. Even in those cases where there is
CLEARLY fraud involved (such as in the case of an unfaithful spouse who
becomes pregnant and deceives the other).
Make TANF funds contingent upon a statutory presumption of 50-50
shared parenting with the rebuttal to that presumption being a
VOLUNTARY reduction by either party, OR a detailed finding of unfitness
by one of the parties.77 When mothers are awarded primary or
``sole'' custody, 37.9% of fathers, end up with no access/visitation
\77\ 1988 Census ``Child Support and Alimony'': 1989 Series P-60,
No. 173. pages 6-7. 90.2% of fathers with joint custody pay the child
\78\ Census Bureau P-60, #173, Sept 1991. p. 6, col. II, para. 6,
lines 4 & 5.
Require all, or at least a portion of the TANF funds to be used to
promote marriages and father involvement.79 [Federal and
State governments have an obligation of promoting ``a more perfect
union . . . establish[ing] justice . . . insur[ing] domestic
tranquility . . . promot[ing] the general welfare . . . secur[ing] the
blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.'' 80
Anything less is a violation of the INTENT AND PURPOSE of the U.S.
Constitution and is therefore, unconstitutional.]
\79\ 5 Wm. & Mary J. Women & L. 1 (1998)--HOW JUDGES USE THE
PRIMARY CARETAKER STANDARD TO MAKE A CUSTODY DETERMINATION. Page 37.
``Compared with those [children] raised in intact two-parent families,
adults who experienced a parental divorce had lower psychological well-
being, more behavioral problems, less education, lower job status, a
lower standard of living, lower marital satisfaction, a heightened risk
of divorce, a heightened risk of being a single parent, and poorer
physical health.'' (as cited from Paul R. Amato, Life-span Adjustment
of Children to Their Parents' Divorce, in 4 The Future of Children page
\80\ As excerpted from the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. This
preamble sets these principles forth as the GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR ALL
Tie TANF Funding to enforcement of visitation orders. Courts
ROUTINELY imprison for Child support under the GUISE of ``contempt''
(which could reasonably be argued as the forbidden ``debtor's
prison''), yet rarely prosecute for, or enforce visitation except under
\81\ 1988 Census ``Child Support and Alimony'': 1989 Series P-60,
No. 173. pages 6-7. 79.1% of fathers with visitation privileges pay the
child support due. Only 44.5% of fathers with no visitation pay the
child support due.
Tie TANF fund bonuses, and additional block grants to those states
that are successful in reducing divorce, and in promoting stable
families. If this is really all about the children, then a father's
wallet can no longer be a substitute for his presence. Change the
Health and Human Services mission to strengthening marriages and
parental relationships, away from ``divorce industry support.'' What
greater ``Human Service'' than promoting children's Health by
supporting marriage and fighting divorce??
Have the Federal Government begin gathering social studies data
once again.82 In spite of the studies listed in this paper,
the federal government no longer collects data on many family issues
and only the Census has given any indication of how bad the situation
\82\ Government studies in a number of family issues that were not
``politically correct'' were stopped in 1993 under the previous
In tying TANF funds to those things that are anathema to the
divorce industry the culture is stabilized, and the repair and
restoration of our children can begin. It also removes the pressure,
and the performance measures from the state to knowingly, or
unknowingly, advance anti-family, and anti-father policies. While no
``Family Law'' judge will admit it, it will also remove any incentive
or pressure upon them to ``maximize'' child support awards even if it
destroys one parent or the family.83 Additional benefits of
a 50-50 legal and physical custody presumption (akin to the Child
Support rebuttable presumption), are: (1) Reduces parental incentives
to carry out litigation; (2) Reduces judicial discretion; (3) Creates
greater incentive to settle outside of court; (4) Lowers acrimony and
``back and forth'' battles; (5) Lowers case backlogs and judicial
burden and thereby maximizes judicial economy; (6) Lowers some of the
incentives to divorce; (7) Reduces some of the struggles that children
must endure by being ``caught in the middle''; and a whole host of
\83\ All judicial pensions and retirements are tied to the State's
bonds, funds, and the general fund. When TANF funds are allowed in the
general fund, it supplements and supports the strength of their
retirements and is a strong motivator for potential abuses by some
(though certainly not all) unscrupulous judges.
No matter how mighty America may be, and no matter what this
country may believe, there is no nation in recorded history that has
long survived the destruction of its families and culture. There will
certainly be those who are opposed to these recommendations, but
careful scrutiny will quickly reveal that they have some vested
interest (usually financially) in the continuation of the current
family destroying, and child injuring system.
In the shining light of the evidence, government and judicial
policies that reduce fathers to little more than ``wallets'' and do not
promote involvement as their PRIMARY focus, serve to undermine the
Constitution's purpose of ``a more perfect union . . . establish[ing]
justice . . . insur[ing] domestic tranquility . . . promot[ing] the
general welfare . . . and secur[ing] the blessings of liberty to
ourselves and our posterity.'' Fatherlessness studies can no longer be
ignored for the effects it has on our ``posterity.'' The government and
the judiciary MUST change their ``automatic-men-at-fault'' policies
lest our posterity look back upon this and see today's policies as an
attempt to undermine the Constitution and the country. There is enough
data to suggest that any policy OR PRACTICE by government, or its
agencies, that prevents father involvement, whether by legislation or
judicial decree, is promoting child abuse and may violate the intent of
the United States Constitution (noted in the preamble) making it
Statement of David L. Levy, President, Children's Rights Council
Our Children's Rights Council has been involved in proposals to
strengthen families since 1985. Our proposals have led to legislative
reform (including the first ever block grants to the states to promote
child access/visitation to non-custodial parents), and greater
awareness, through 13 CRC conferences, evaluation of data, and reports,
on why, for children, generally, ``The Best Parent is Both Parents.''
Our chapters in 32 states, Washington, D.C., Europe, Asia and Africa,
have also been the catalyst for improvements in children's lives.
In announcing the hearing, Chairman Herger, you said that ``We also
will learn more about current proposals to enhance the role of fathers
in their children's lives.''
The Children's Rights Council suggests the following:
(1) A recognition that just as there are ``deadbroke dads,'' there
are also ``deadbolted dads,'' a term coined by noted author Gail Sheehy
in a New York Times article June 21, 1998.
``The newer reality is the Deadbolted Dad--locked out of his
children's hearts after divorce . . . ,'' said Sheehy, with ``little
attention paid to enforcing or honoring their visitation rights.''
Some of these parents walk-away from their children, but as Sheehy
stated, many are deadbolted out. Many divorced mothers are deadbolted
out, as well.
CRC believes that much of this disconnect between children and
previously involved married parents occurs within 2 to 3 years after
the divorce, just as many never-married parents disconnect from each
other a few years after the birth of the child.
Remedy: An understanding of what ``deadbolted dads'' (and moms)
means, coupled with an expansion of federal funds for mediation,
counseling and other low-cost programs to promote access of children to
their non-custodial parents.
$10 million a year was provided in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act for
access/visitation programs, and because these activities have operated
for the past four years, a total of $40 million has been spent in the
states for these access programs. Each state receives about $185,000 a
year, the largest federal program to date to encourage contact between
children and non-custodial parents.
And don't forget that there are nearly 3 million non-custodial
mothers, many of whom (like many dads) are deadbolted out of their
children's lives, unable to make phone or personal contact, access
(visitation) interfered with or denied, the custodial parent moves far
away with the child, a child is given denigrating messages by one
parent against the other parent, etc.
(2) A recognition that the states with the highest amount of shared
parenting (including Montana, Kansas and Connecticut) subsequently had
the lowest divorce rate. See data from the National Center for Health
Statistics and the Census Bureau first reported by CRC in the
Children's Rights Council newsletter, ``Speak Out for Children,'' Vol.
12, No. 4, Fall 1997/Winter 1998 issue, available from CRC; later cited
in the Indiana Law Journal, Spring 1998, Vol. 73, No. 2, by Margaret
Brinig and F. Buckley, law professors at George Mason University,
Shared parenting (joint physical custody) is defined by researchers
as at least \1/3\ of the time spent between a child and a parent on a
year round basis. The knowledge that parents will have to continue to
be involved with each other for the sake of the child is apparently the
inducement that enables some parents to avoid divorce in the years
following the liberal awarding of shared parenting in their state.
One of the first acts of President Bush when he became governor of
Texas was to sign a presumptive joint custody law on June 16, 1995 (see
Vol. 10, No. 3 of ``Speak Out for Children.'')
One of the remedies to help reduce the number of divorces and to
increase financial child support compliance:
Increase contact between children and their non-custodial moms and
dads. Federal government data has shown a correlation between financial
and emotional child support.
(3) A recognition that ``Safe Haven'' Child Access Centers are
helping children and families.
When parents appear before a judge, they sometimes disagree as to
whether access (visitation) has taken place or not. So the judge will
order the transfer at a ``Safe Haven'' if one exists, or possibly at a
police station if one does not exist. CRC operates 14 ``Safe Haven''
Child transfer Centers in 6 states and Washington, D.C. They are
located in church day care centers. At the sites, parents peacefully
transfer their children from one parent to another for the weekend.
Some children are seeing their parents for the first time because
of these sites. Even if CRC does not have a grant to manage a
particular site, we do not charge the parents. We do not believe a
parent should have to pay to see his or her child. A surprising 40
percent of parents who use these sites are women, and about 40 percent
are never-married parents. The churches often provide the monitors, but
any grant is supervised by CRC. Supervision of the grant by CRC
insulates the church from direct funding by the government, but the
church helps to deliver the family services. Some sites are developing
parent education components.
Remedy: Again, expand the access/visitation block grants to the
states to $40 million a year; also provide funds in the ``Fatherhood''
bills to provide services such as these.
Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony.
Citizens Against Paternity Fraud
Decatur, Georgia 30034-1853
August 10, 2001
Allison Giles, Chief of Staff
Committee on Ways and Means
U.S. House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Honorable Allison Giles:
I write to you to include our comments in the record for the
upcoming ``Hearing on Child Support and Fatherhood Proposals''
sponsored by Congressman Wally Herger (R-CA), Chairman, Subcommittee on
Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means.
We specifically would like to address the increasing and confirmed
reports of child support fraud also known as the ``Paternity Fraud
Trap'' in the Title IV-D section of the Social Security Act as it
Establishment of paternity--no requirements for accurate
Contested Paternity--DNA evidence that confirms non-paternity and
deception by mothers is disregarded to extort money, property and
assets from non-paternal man under the color of law.
The current system has virtually no safeguards to restrict access
to federal money incentives to those states that have default
judgments, acknowledgement of paternity at hospitals while the man has
no legal representation nor proof of paternity (predatory practice) and
falsified paternity affidavits from mothers.
The states that want federal money have met the requirement to
obtain large numbers of established paternity (by any means possible)
and the appearance of increased collections (even from parents that
were already meeting their obligations to custodial parents). But most
of these states do not provide a means of relief for ``Paternity Fraud
Victims'', and actively jail and extort money from these men after
confirming non-paternity using DNA or blood testing.
We propose that the current system be revised to provide financial
incentives to states that honest and accurate paternity establishments
while preventing fraudulent mothers from collecting child support from
any non-paternal man father unless child is result of written agreement
for artificial insemination or legal adoption after notice requirements
are met to the biological father. While insuring that constitutional
rights of alleged fathers are not violated during the process of
establishing and dis-establishing paternity.
Carnell A. Smith
Founder & Director
TWO STANDARDS EXIST
PROBLEM: WHEN WOMEN ARE VICTIMS OF ASSIGNMENT TO WRONG
When mothers are the victims of maternity fraud aka baby switching,
does anyone say the real biological mother should just forget about her
child and go on her merry way?
(July 31, 1998, AP Story Charlottesville, VA ``Custody Petition
Filed in Switched Babies Case'' The problem was not discovered until a
paternity test revealed no biological connection to the mother nor the
alleged father in a child support case--Exhibit 1). NO, in fact this
problem of baby switching/kidnapping has forced the entire Hospital and
Birth Industry to change its practices (Feb 23, 1999 CNN/AP story,
Orange, CA ``Baby-Switch Hospital plans electronic security'', ``The
mix-up was not an isolated incident, but part of a systemwide problem''
SOLUTION: ACCOUNTIBILITY AND CHANGES WERE MADE--Promptly
In many cases, the guilty parties have been held accountable for
their actions--some have been fired, sued or settled out-of-court and
finally the biological mother is reunited with her biological child.
PROBLEM: WHEN MEN ARE VICTIMS OF ASSIGNMENT TO WRONG
When men are routinely released from jail/prison that were innocent
of rape or murder using DNA testing, why is justice denied for
paternity fraud victims using DNA?
The national paternity fraud rate of men tested was 28% in 1999 and
30% in 2000 per the annual Parentage testing report from the American
Association of Blood Banks mentioned on CBS News Early Show TV reports
on 4/18/2001. This trend is going the wrong way!
SOLUTION: ACCOUNTIBILITY AND CHANGES WERE MADE--less than
The Georgia Appellate court (Georgia Department of Human Resources
v. Pinter, 241 Ga.App. 10, 525 S.E.2d 715 (Ga.App. 11/18/1999) [Exhibit
3] says, ``it is not the policy of this state to extort money from men
who are not the fathers''. This is great in theory but it is not
applied in most Georgia courtrooms nor in other states.
The national media refers to men like Carnell Smith as ``Duped
Dads'' (The complications for ``duped dads'' By Ellen Goodman, Globe
Columnist, 4/29/2001 Exhibit 4), but rarely is anything said about the
root cause of paternity fraud (fraudulent mothers).
According to the Georgia Deputy Director of DHR (Robert Swain),
``30% of the 45,000'' (May 2, 2001, Creative Loafing Atlanta ``Who's
your daddy? Paternity fraud foes make their pitch for reform'' BY GREG
LAND--Exhibit 5) Georgia mothers named the wrong man with ZERO
We believe that men would ask for a DNA test, if he knew there were
other potential fathers. The mother is the only party that knows (100%
certainty) of her other intimate relations near the conception date
before saying ``you're the father'' to the alleged father. This is
where Fraud begins!
As one of our United States Officials, our National organization
looks forward to your written reply to the following:
What is your official position on including protections against
child support fraud and paternity fraud in HR-6? If against, please
What is your official position on requiring mothers to make full
disclosure of all potential fathers to the alleged father in all
divorce and child support cases? This would limit surprises later by
DNA tests. There must be consequences for any concealment of material
facts, deliberate or accidental.
What is your official position to require mandatory DNA testing
immediately after birth? This is a pro-active solution that stops the
paternity fraud problem, exposes the truth and restores parity to the
paternity establishment process.
The paternity fraud victim finds that it is extremely difficult to
prevail against the child support system that has one goal ``collect
maximum dollars'' regardless of actual paternity, make him choose
between pay or go to jail and NEVER hold the fraudulent mother
responsible for her actions.
Paternity fraud victims, their wives, fiances or girlfriends with
the same question ``what can I do?'' are contacting me with increasing
frequency. The victims of this great nation deserve an answer that our
duly elected officials are equally concerned about protecting our
What shall we tell the people?
Custody Petition Filed in Switched Babies Case
By The Associated Press
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP)--The maternal grandparents of a 3-year-
old girl who was switched at birth are seeking sole custody in a bid to
deny visitation to the child's biological mother, relatives say. The
custody petition filed in juvenile court involves Rebecca Grace
Chittum, who was taken home from the University of Virginia Medical
Center and raised by Kevin Chittum and Whitney Rogers.
Two of Chittum's sisters, Roxane Cullen and Pamela Miskovsky, said
Wednesday that the petition was filed this week by Tommy and Linda
Rogers, the divorced parents of Ms. Rogers who now help raise Rebecca.
Tests have determined that Rebecca is actually the biological
daughter of Paula Johnson, who gave birth about the same time as Ms.
Rogers. Ms. Johnson returned from the hospital with Callie Conley and
raised the infant as her child. DNA testing has revealed that Callie's
biological parents are Rogers and Chittum. The couple died in a July 4
car wreck shortly before their families learned of the switch in June
The switch was discovered in blood tests ordered for a child-
support case brought by Ms. Johnson. Since then, the families involved
have met, and the two girls have played together.
Both families have said they want Callie and Rebecca to stay with
the families who raised them, and each suggested liberal visitation
rights for both sides. But Ms. Cullen said in today's Daily Progress
that she believes the Rogerses want sole custody ``to block any
visitation with Paula Johnson.'' She said the relationship among the
families has deteriorated.
Other family members could not be reached for comment by the paper.
Police and state health investigators are investigating how the baby
switch happened. The hospital has since added new security measures.
CNN--Baby-switch hospital plans electronic security--February 23,
Baby-switch hospital plans electronic security
Parents Iliano Bravo and Brian Lambert were given the wrong newborn
to take home on February 14
ORANGE, California (CNN)--A new electronic security system for
ensuring that newborn babies are never given to the wrong parents will
be installed at a Southern California hospital where two newborn boys
were accidentally switched earlier this month.
St. Joseph Hospital announced on Monday that mothers and babies
will wear encoded wrist bands that cannot be removed until a scanner
makes sure they match.
On February 14, new parents Iliana Bravo and Brian Lambert were
allowed to leave the Orange County hospital with the wrong child, while
their son Aaron was given to another mother.
It was the other mother who first noticed the mistake.
The mix-up was not an isolated incident, but part of a systemwide
problem, according to hospital president Larry Ainsworth. He said there
have been three other accidental switches in the last year, but the
mistakes were straightened out before the babies left the hospital.
The two nurses responsible for February 14 incident have been
fired. The hospital is under investigation by California medical
authorities for the baby switches.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Nurse error cited in switched baby case
February 16, 1999
Genetic test confirms half of Virginia baby switch
August 18, 1998
Family authorizes genetic test in baby switching case
August 6, 1998
Families of switched babies seek custody solution
August 4, 1998
Switched babies may stay put
August 4, 1998
Babies switched at birth: On purpose or accident?
July 31, 1998
Georgia Department of Human Resources v. Pinter, 241 Ga.App. 10,
525 S.E.2d 715 (Ga.App. 11/18/1999)
Georgia Court of Appeals
A99A1600; 241 Ga.App. 10, 525 S.E.2d 715, 1999.GA.0043710
November 18, 1999
G. ALAN BLACKBURN, Presiding Judge, specially Concurring.
I write to point out the absurdity of the present state of the law
that requires a putative father to pay child support after he has
scientifically proven that he is not the biological father. As I stated
in Smith v. Department of Human Resources, 226 Ga. App. 491, 493 (487
SE2d 94) (1997), ``the law should not punish a purported father for
failing to insist on a paternity test when he has no reason to believe
that he is not the father.''
Not only has the putative father been cuckolded, the law adds
injury to insult by requiring him to pay child support even after he
establishes that he is not the biological father.
Once non-paternity is scientifically established, courts cannot
ignore such fact by relying on policies developed when no such proof
was possible. To create a fiction in this matter does not make the male
the biological father of the child; it simply makes him the victim of
the law. It also makes an ass of the law.
While the courts may preach their false policy, they lose the
respect of any citizen with common sense. The legislature should
address this issue.
The complications for `duped dads'
By Ellen Goodman, Globe Columnist, 4/29/2001
IF HE WERE in jail for mass murder, he would have been sprung by
now. After all, the DNA evidence proved that he was the wrong man.
So how come a man who has been proven scientifically not to be the
biological father must go on paying child support? How come the same
DNA test that can force one man into paternal obligation can't
automatically free another?
This week, a Massachusetts man joined a fraternity that now has
members as far flung as Florida and Texas, Georgia and Ohio. They are
known in the media lingo as duped dads.
These are men who discovered that the children they believed were
their biological offspring were not. And then they discovered that in
some courts, DNA is not necessarily destiny. There is really little new
about duped dads. Throughout literary history, the man tricked into
raising another's child was a stock figure of cuckolded buffoonery. But
in the eyes of the law, the husband in any marriage was legally the
Now biological certainty intrudes into legal precedent and new
scientific tests produce new legal tests. In the fallout of divorce and
child support, courts are being asked to decide what's fair for men and
what's best for children. And they are also being asked what exactly
makes a man a father.
Life, it turns out, is nowhere nearly as clear-cut as biology. In
the Massachusetts case, the unwed father had passed up the chance for a
DNA test. He signed on the dotted paternity line when Cheryl was born.
Over many years and despite many suspicions--rumors and infertility
problems in a later marriage--he was called ``daddy'' and acted as one.
His parents were her grandparents, and twice he sought more rights to
visitation. In short, as the court noted, ``Cheryl grew to know and to
rely on him as her father, and he enjoyed her love and companionship.''
Only after the mother asked for more money did he take the DNA test and
head to court.
But the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided that he was
too late to resign from fatherhood as if it were genehood. ``No
judgment can force him to continue to nurture his relationship with
Cheryl,'' acknowledged the justices in a unanimous decision, ``or to
protect her from whatever assumptions she may have about her father.
But we can protect her financial security and other legal rights.''
This ``victory'' for the child is cast as a defeat for the man. The
duped dads lawsuits are, after all, brought into courtrooms under the
flag of men's rights. They are testing men's rights to cut their
fatherhood ties and responsibilities.
As men cry fraud, several states have either passed or are
considering laws that would automatically end a man's child support
obligation. A South Dakota court ruled that a deceived man should be
reimbursed by the woman.
Creative Loafing Atlanta / NEWS / WHO'S YOUR DADDY?
NEWS / FEATURE
Who's your daddy?
Paternity fraud foes make their pitch for reform
BY GREG LAND
An ancient Chinese parable recounts the tale of Hakuin, a Zen
master who was presented with a child by a young village woman who
claimed he was the father. ``Is that so?'' replied Hakuin who, saying
no more, took the infant and cared for it. One year later, the child's
mother confessed that the father was, in fact, a young fisherman. When
her abashed parents went to Hakuin's house to reclaim the child and
apologize, the monk's response was, again, ``Is that so?''
Zen tales are wont to conclude with, ``and he (or she) was
A bit of high-tech enlightenment for an age-old dilemma was on the
minds of those at a hearing last week on legislation targeting
``paternity fraud.'' The hearing offered several local men--and women--
the opportunity to rail against a system which frequently forces men to
pay for the upkeep of children they may not have fathered, and whom are
often barred from even seeking a DNA test to answer that very question.
``The judge refused to allow me to have DNA testing done at all,''
says Buddy Everhart, a software consultant who currently pays $2,500 in
monthly child-support for five children. ``Even though my ex-wife and
her boyfriend admitted on the stand that two of those children may not
be mine, the court said, `You will pay.' ''
The issue is even thornier for men who think they've fathered out-
of-wedlock children and agree to pay support, only to find out later
that another man is actually the father. Carnell Smith, director of
Citizens Against Paternity Fraud, says some women actively decide whom
to name as father on the basis of income.
``So then,'' says Smith, ``the question becomes, `How did [she]
pick me?' '' Such a deception, says Smith, ``is the very definition of
Earlier this year, Rep. Stan Watson, D-Decatur, sponsored a bill
that would allow presumed fathers to seek legal permission to conduct
DNA testing to determine actual paternity. Under the bill, if such
tests proved that someone else fathered the child, the presumed father
would be able to stop paying further support, and might also be let off
the hook for lapsed or unpaid support. (Watson's bill does not include
provisions forcing restitution of previously paid support, but he does
plan to introduce companion legislation mandating penalties for women
who knowingly misidentify their children's fathers.)
It would also remove the courtroom stumbling block that Everhart
tripped over; under current law, any of several actions--signing a
birth certificate as the ``father,'' acknowledging paternity in child-
support affidavit, marrying a woman to whom one has been paying child
support, and so forth--provide a ``strong presumption of legitimacy''
that even direct evidence may not overturn.
The number of people affected by paternity fraud is potentially
enormous. CAPF's Smith points to figures provided by a company that
performs DNA screening for the Georgia Child Support Enforcement
Administration showing that, of 9,650 paternity screenings performed
last year, 2,919 men--30.2 percent--had been erroneously identified as
``We use DNA to convict or free criminal suspects all the time,''
he says. ``Why not free these men from paying for children that aren't
The Georgia Department of Human Resources, which oversees child-
support enforcement efforts, seems to agree. DHR Deputy Director Robert
Swain says studies confirm that, of the 35,000-to-40,000 unwed Georgia
mothers who fill out affidavits of paternity each year do, about 30
percent name the wrong man as father. Swain sees Watson's bill as a
potential tool in helping ensure that children are properly supported.
``The bill, although not perfect, is not one we'll complain
about,'' says Swain.
Even so, while the legislation easily passed the House, its
progress halted when it got to the Senate.
There, Sen. Charles Tanksley, R-Marietta, chairman of the Special
Judiciary Committee, found himself troubled by a couple of points. ``My
concern was that it virtually did away with any kind of closure on this
sort of issue. . . . It allowed a challenge at any time, regardless of
whatever other agreements might have taken place prior to that. The
bill that the House sent over had no limitation period at all.''
Tanksley notes that Texas, for instance, has a statute which allows
one year for a challenge to a paternity claim. Under the Watson bill,
Tanksley says, ``one could decide--for any number of reasons, many
years later--to go back and retroactively undo whatever had been done
in the past, whether in good faith or bad faith.''
He also thinks the law should include provisions for men who may
have knowingly shouldered a parental responsibility in the past, but
later decide to rescind that commitment.
A decision by Massachusetts' Supreme Court last week illustrates
just how such limitations may impact future paternity suits. When a man
had his 5-year-old daughter DNA tested and found that he was not the
father, a lower court said he could stop making payments. But the
state's high court reversed, ruling that he'd waited too long to
Tanksley has appointed a subcommittee to study and recommend some
changes to the legislation, but Watson is adamantly opposed to any
further limitation. ``Under state law, we have to take care of a child
until the child is 18; [Tanksley] wants to go in and put a limitation
on the time that can pass before you can go in and get a DNA test.
That's not fair.''
For Vickie McLennan, a lobbyist for several Georgia affiliates of
the National Organization for Women, paternity fraud is an important
issue but, she says, Watson's bill needs to be carefully studied. ``I
understand how somebody who might've gotten stuck with support
[payments] by some girl who slept with three guys a night then said,
`Oh, this one's making good money. I'll make him the daddy,' would be
angry, and would want action taken. I would,'' she says. ``But this is
an elephant gun to deal with a very narrow issue. It does need to have
a deliberative process.''
Maybe so. But the folks who cheered Smith's description of current
law as ``involuntary servitude'' that tosses men into ``debtor's
prison'' begrudge every day they're asked to wait. In fact, the only
light note during last week's hearing was struck when Rep. Henrietta
Turnquest, D-Decatur, popped in to express her support. As she left,
she wagged a finger at the assemblage.
``You single men out there, you know what you need to do,'' she
said. ``You do right, now.''
And the mood--for a moment--was enlightened.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California 93106-9210
June 27, 2001
Congressman Wally Herger
Chairman, Subcommittee on Human Resources
Committee on Ways and Means
United States Congress
Rayburn House Office Building, Room B317
Washington, D.C. 20515
Re: Hearing on Child Support and Fatherhood Proposals
June 28, 2001
Dear Congressman Herger:
I appreciate the opportunity to submit this letter for the Hearing
I strongly support the President in his efforts to enhance the role
of non-custodial fathers in the lives of their children. There is a
growing body of scientific evidence that the lives of children are much
improved when they are raised by their fathers as well as their
mothers. My own research demonstrates that a father's presence in the
home significantly reduces the prospects that his son will be charged
with a crime between the ages of 14 and 22. There are various proposals
to enhance contact between fathers and children, and I hope that your
committee will lead the way.
Among the major benefits that follow from continued contact between
a father and his children is the payment of child support. There is
also evidence that fathers who frequently see their children are more
likely to make these payments, while those who have little contact with
them often neglect these responsibilities. Data indicate that among
fathers who do not see their children at all, only 16.2 percent pay any
child support, while among fathers who see their children more
frequently than several times a year, 64.2 percent make these payments.
[Judith A. Seltzer, ``Relationships Between Fathers and Children Who
Live Apart,'' Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 53, February
1991, p. 86.]
The problems of child support collection and continued contact
between father and children are not separate issues but rather two
sides of the same one. For this reason, I commend your efforts to deal
with these matters in a coordinated fashion.
I am submitting this statement on my own behalf, and not for any
client or organization. Furthermore, my views do not necessarily
reflect those of the University of California.
William S. Comanor
Professor of Economics
DADS of Michigan, P.A.C.
Southfield, Michigan 48034
June 27, 2001
Chief of Staff
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Ways and Means
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
As often is the case, unintended adverse results occur from well-
intended legislation. Such were State reactions to the 1996 Welfare
Reforms including the infamous ``Bradley Amendment.'' With regard to
the specific reform objectives: (2) increase the percentage of non-
custodial parents identified, and (3) implement more techniques to
obtain support collections from non-custodial parents, it would appear
State reactions have been collectively successful.
However, while several states 1 have heeded the
available data and research by implementing very effective, just
legislative statutes and agency programs, unfortunately many other
states including Michigan deliberately continue with unjust, failed,
and flawed legislative statutes, agency policies, and practices.
\1\ Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, South Carolina,
Connecticut, Ohio, Maryland, Colorado, Iowa, and Louisiana.
Specifically, the 1996 welfare reforms have encouraged Michigan
(and other states) to introduce statutes, policies, and procedures
2 to increase voluntary paternity establishment of unmarried
births at state agencies and hospitals. As a result, few unmarried
fathers are adequately apprised of their rights to paternity testing
and/or traditionally feel uncomfortable with challenging the paternity
allegations of the mother. One third of all births in Michigan are to
unmarried mothers.3 However, recent data demonstrates that
nearly a third of all paternity tests EXCLUDE the alleged
father.4 Additional research indicates that at least 10% of
marital births EXCLUDE the husband.4 Yet, Michigan's
legislative statutes, agency policies, and practices continue to omit
mandatory paternity establishment of child support claims resulting in
thousands of innocent victims of Extrinsic Paternity Fraud. Further, by
facilitating the completion of documents fraudulently identifying the
alleged paternity of man without appropriate verification, the State
inadvertently acts as a coconspirator to a felony in nearly one fourth
of all child support cases and, along with the mother, is also guilty
of a misdemeanor.5
\2\ ``State Launches New Program Improve Paternity Establishment'':
Detroit Free Press, 2/14/01.
\3\ Michigan Department of Community Health, 1999.
\4\ Annual Report Summary 1999: American Association of Blood
Banks, www.aabb.org; ``Who is daddy and Who is Not,'' 2/25/00: Men's
Health Network, ``http://www.menshealthnetwork.org''>
\5\ Michigan Compiled Laws: MCL 333.2824, MCL 722.714, MCL
722.1004, MCL 722.722, and MCL 750.218.
The 1996 Welfare Reforms (via incentives) have also encouraged
Michigan (and other states) to infringe upon and violate
constitutionally protected rights in an effort to increase child
support collections from non-custodial parents. The Michigan
Legislature continues to attempt legislation 6 that results
in violations of the U.S. Constitution.7 Michigan State
Courts routinely use state statutes 8 to automatically
terminate a parent's (typically the father) constitutionally protected
right to the care, custody, and nurturing of his/her children simply
because of a no-fault divorce filing; primarily in order to establish
maximum child support for the custodial parent. Michigan state child
support enforcement and state court administration officials decline
new innovative approaches in use by other states to reduce child
support arrearages in favor of only increased punitive
measures.9 Michigan's total child support arrearage exceeds
$6.3 Billion with the national state average at $1.4
\6\ Michigan Senate Bill 757 enacted into law 10/2000 with bond
amendment from 100% to 25% of arrearage owing.
\7\ U.S. Constitution, Amendment VIII.
\8\ Michigan Compiled Laws: MCL 552.15.
\9\ ``Failed visitation policy harms kids,'' The Detroit News 6/24/
01; USHHS, OCSE, 9/14/00, PIQ-00-03.
\10\ U.S. Department of Health & Human Resources, Office of Child
Finally, the 1996 Welfare Reforms (via incentives) have served to
discourage Michigan State Court Administration officials to use the
federally mandated and heavily subsidized quadrennial Child Support
Formula Guideline review 11 to thoroughly evaluate its use
of the ``Income Shares'' base model in use now for fifteen years. Newer
base models (e.g. Cost Shares 12) are now available which
eliminate the flaws, inequities, and over-assessments of the current
model 13 in use while providing greater compliance with the
federal mandates. Additionally, Michigan State officials appear to not
yet fully embrace the concept of responsible fatherhood education and
job programs as significant contributors to increasing child support
compliance and father involvement in their child's life while reducing
child support arrearages 14, along with many other societal
maladies.15 Sadly, efforts continue to fix blame to either
``deadbeat'' fathers 16 or Michigan's Friend of the Court
agency. We feel there are many in Michigan (and Washington) who must
also share the blame for our child support failures.17
\11\ Michigan State Court Administrative Office: Invitation to
Bid--Review of Child Support Guideline 3/2001.
\12\ ``Cost Shares Child Support Guideline: A working, superior
alternative to current guidelines,'' R. Mark Rogers Economic
Consulting, CRC conference May 5, 2001.
\13\ PICSLT Initial Review of Michigan Child Support Law, 2/15/00:
Support Conflict of Interest & Overassessment: ``http://www.acfc.org/
\14\ U.S. Census Bureau, Child Support for Custodial Mothers and
Fathers: 1997 (P60-212).
\15\ Divorce and Fatherhood Statistics Summary, ``http://
\16\ ``Sheriff targets Deadbeat Dads''. . . for mother's day
crackdown, The Detroit News 5/11/01; ``Strained Agencies fail Michigan
Children'', The Detroit News 5/20/01.
\17\ See Special Report dated 6/08/01 attached.
It is hereby recommended that federal legislation such as H.R. 1488
or other appropriate welfare reforms be adopted and include provisions
ensuring equal protection of Constitutional rights for both
mandatory paternity establishment for child support claims;
enforcing parenting time (visitation) compliance equally as
child support payment compliance;
encouraging innovative, non-punitive techniques for reducing
child support arrearages; \18\
\18\ USHHS, OCSE, 9/14/00, PIQ-00-03.
requiring states to completely and thoroughly review Child
Support Guideline base models every four years;
promoting faith and community-based responsible fatherhood
and job programs.
DADS OF MICHIGAN 19 and DADS OF MICHIGAN PAC are
responsible fatherhood advocacy organizations dedicated to keeping both
biological parents actively engaged in the lives of their children
despite divorce and custody, in most cases. DADS OF MICHIGAN is the
developer of the Dads Toolbox Series of
responsible fatherhood education for teenage, divorced, and unmarried
[Attachments are being retained in the Committee files.]
Los Angeles, California 90036
July 6, 2001
Allison Giles, Chief of Staff
Committee on Ways and Means
House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
If the committee is truly interested in promoting responsible
fatherhood, it should not allow state courts to systematically strip
fathers and their children of access to one another. ``Judicial
discretion'' in determining ``the best interests of the child'' is
consistently resulting in the exclusion of fathers from children's
DENY STATES FEDERAL TANF FUNDS UNLESS THEY PASS LEGISLATION
REQUIRING A PRESUMPTION OF EQUAL JOINT PHYSICAL CUSTODY OF CHILDREN FOR
BOTH DIVORCED AND NEVER-MARRIED PARENTS.
The Family Support Act of 1988 required states to implement child
support guidelines. Unfortunately, these guidelines have resulted in
arbitrary and grossly excessive child support awards, far in excess of
the actual costs of raising children. Most child support is actually
long-term alimony for the custodial parent. States are using child
support guidelines to micro-manage families by redistributing income on
a massive scale.
DENY STATES FEDERAL TANF FUNDS UNLESS THEY BASE CHILD SUPPORT
AWARDS ON THE ACTUAL MARGINAL COSTS OF RAISING CHILDREN, BASED ON PEER-
REVIEWED, SCIENTIFIC STUDIES.
Richard M. Green, M.D.
San Ramon, California 94583
July 8, 2001
Chief of Staff
Committee on Ways and Means
U.S. House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Attn: Hearing Clerk
Dear Ms. Giles:
RE: family law, fatherhood and child support
My comments are the result of experience within the family law
system, knowledge of other men's experiences, and a recent reading of
the California Judicial Council's Child Support Guideline Review for
I'd like to briefly discuss several issues. They include:
1. child support guideline levels
2. custodial parent move away cases
3. provisions for enforcement of visitation
4. false allegations of physical and sexual abuse
5. the ``best interests of the child'' principle
6. the punitive way men are dealt with by states--courtesy of the
Child support guidelines are too high--the California averages are
23% of aftertax income for 1 child (36/45% for 2 and 3 respectively)!
My daughter's mother moved to Vancouver, B.C., against my wishes.
However, because British Columbia's support levels are so much more
reasonable, I pay slightly over half what I would pay if my child
support was set by the California guideline.
Related to this are the increasing use of default judgments and the
cavalier, assembly line attitude that prevails among some enforcement
agencies. Errors get made, and they aren't so easy to correct. I hear
stories frequently of men who have incorrectly been identified as
fathers and ordered to pay retroactive child support. I've even heard
of a case where a man was in jail when a default judgment was entered
incorrectly (he wasn't the father). Because his pay is now being
garnished he doesn't have enough money left to hire an attorney to
remedy the situation!
It is outrageous to allow custodial parents (CP) to move away from
the area where they lived at the time of divorce/separation. This
severs the bonds between fathers and children and courts need to
recognize that the bonds are fragile after a physical separation takes
place. Any more separation than is necessary is damaging to the
Courts need to stop piously proclaiming ``it takes two parents to
raise a child'' when it's time to award child support and look the
other way later when disputes around visitation crop up. The reality is
that once one parent is awarded custody of the child, and the non-
custodial parent (NCP) moves out, the NCP's relationship changes
drastically for the worse. I have one child who lives apart from me and
one who lives with me so I speak from experience. It's disingenuous to
maintain otherwise and order men to pay a majority of a child's support
and upkeep, but fail to vigorously enforce their visitation rights. Has
anyone ever heard of a woman being prosecuted for obstructing
visitation or alienating the children from their father? I certainly
can't remember such a case.
The subject of false allegations of physical or sexual abuse is
similar. This area is known to be the atomic bomb of divorce and
custody battles. The person who alleges it knows that even if the
charge is shown to be false, so much damage usually occurs that a man's
relationship with his children is permanently harmed. And, like
visitation disputes, I can't remember ever hearing about a woman being
prosecuted for this either. Evidently another case of possession, or,
similarly, custody, being nine tenths of the law.
The concept of best interests of the child borders on best
interests of the mother much of the time. The status quo power
possessed by the CP is mighty strong and, as one lawyer here in the Bay
Area puts it on his radio show, ``a woman has to be a crack addict and
a hooker to lose custody in CA.'' If this perception is close to
accurate, what does this say about mens' prospects in court and hopes
for justice when disputes crop up? If this message is imparted to men,
and appears to be true, who could blame a guy for being despondent
about prospects about having a relationship with his kids? Why is it
that the child's interests are given paramount importance when there
are three parties involved? Why shouldn't the state be concerned about
all three? The real problem is that in elevating the child, the
custodial parent's (usually the mother's) status usually gets elevated
inadvertently too. These statutes should be rewritten to include
assurances of equity to all parties involved when courts are choosing
between options as long as the best interests of the child are not
Recently it seems that two policies from 10 to 15 years ago are
being revisited: mandatory minimum criminal sentencing guidelines and
zero tolerance policies in schools for drugs and violence. It seems
that dealing with complicated issues in a mechanical way results in
unfair and perverse outcomes. I would like to suggest that the
federalization of family law issues and the vilification of fathers
belong in the same category. It became (or maybe still is) fashionable
to denounce and advocate harsher penalties for ``deadbeat dads.''
However, the truth is a bit more complicated. Research has shown that
fathers with joint custody pay child support at close to 100%. It has
also shown that large numbers of custodial mothers admit to actively
impeding the father's access to their children. Many of the cases where
children no longer see their father are the result of a campaign of
alienation where the father just gives up rather than continue to
fight. It shouldn't be surprising that in some cases like this, men
stop paying child support too. Other ``deadbeat'' dads are either
unemployed, incarcerated, or broke. Research is beginning to reveal
these facts--the California Judicial Council's report mentions them.
It's time to stop vilifying fathers and repeal the punitive federal
laws that forced states to practically criminalize fatherhood via
inflexible and unrealistic child support guidelines. At the same time,
it would be beneficial for society to debate the best way to encourage
men to stay involved with their children. In my opinion, a necessary
first step should be to make the system truly fair to all parties
Statement of Jacqueline K. Payne, Policy Attorney, and Martha Davis,
Legal Director, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, New York, New
NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund (``NOW Legal Defense'')
appreciates the opportunity to submit this testimony on child support
reforms and fatherhood initiatives, especially as they pertain to low-
income families. We stand firm in our belief that there is an important
federal role for providing support for parents and families, especially
those living in poverty.
NOW Legal Defense is a leading national not-for-profit civil rights
organization with a 30-year history of advocating for women's rights
and promoting gender equality. Among NOW Legal Defense's major goals is
securing economic justice for women. Throughout our history, we have
used the power of the law to advocate for the rights of poor women,
focusing on increased access to childcare, reduction of domestic
violence and sexual assault, and employment and reproductive rights. In
pursuit of gender equality, we have steadfastly advocated for social
and legal change to support fathers increased participation in the
lives of their families.
Five bills pending in Congress include some combination of child
support reforms and fatherhood initiatives: the Child Support
Distribution Act of 2001 (H.R. 1471), The Child Support Act of 2001 (S.
918) the Responsible Fatherhood Act (S. 653, H.R. 1300), and the
Strengthening Working Families Act (S. 685). NOW Legal Defense heartily
supports the child support reforms contained in H.R. 1471, S. 918, and
S. 685, which will help low income families provide for their
children's basic needs, help families move out of poverty, and remove
draconian policies that penalize low income men and their families.
NOW Legal Defense shares Congress's interest in supporting fathers.
We applaud Congress's interest in addressing the barriers to low income
men's economic self sufficiency, and back programs designed to provide
supports to low income individuals so that they may escape poverty.
Moreover, we encourage and support Congress's articulated interest in
encouraging men to fully participate as parents, and hope that this
heralds a shift towards paid parental leave, as well as other
meaningful legal and policy changes that would make it possible for men
and women across all income levels to fully share parenting without
suffering social or economic penalties.
Despite these shared goals, NOW Legal Defense cannot support the
pending fatherhood initiatives as they are currently drafted. While
these proposals are laudable in their goals, they ignore or misperceive
the underlying causes of poverty and fail to adequately deal with
issues such as domestic violence and gender inequality. Moreover, the
bills' emphasis on marriage suggests a disturbing willingness to
transgress the privacy rights of low income individuals.
Child Support Reforms are Needed
Genuine reform of the child support and welfare laws is overdue.
For many years these laws have been overly punitive to poor, non-
custodial fathers without providing assistance to the custodial mothers
and their families. Child support should be first and foremost about
securing support for children from their non-custodial parent. However,
the current system does far too little to help these children. Instead,
all of the support paid by non-custodial parents whose children receive
public assistance, and much of the support paid by non-custodial
parents whose families ever needed assistance, goes to the state. The
``child support'' system under Title IV-D is a state recovery system
that penalizes poor fathers and fails to help their children. Men
earning marginal wages, whether absent or present in the family, will
not be able to provide enough support for their children to lift them
out of poverty.
Under the current child support system, children whose families are
on welfare receive no additional money even when child support payments
are made. This reflects a change in Federal law, which had previously
required states to pay families the first $50.00 of child support and
disregard it in determining the welfare payment. Moreover, children
whose families were ever on welfare often find they cannot receive the
support owed them because the state insists on being reimbursed for
past welfare assistance before the family can receive their support
payments. The present child support system, therefore, does very little
to help poor children or increase the economic self-sufficiency of
It is critical that child support be reformed to: (1) ensure
appropriate levels of obligation for non-custodial fathers; (2) ensure
that families on welfare receive the money paid by the fathers (both to
encourage payment by fathers and to ensure some improvement in economic
conditions for the children by virtue of the child support payment);
(3) disregard any child support payments passed through to the family
receiving benefits; (4) and ensure that families that have transitioned
off welfare receive all child support they are owed before the state
reimburses itself for past assistance.
The Child Support Distribution Act (H.R. 1471) includes important
child support reforms. The bill requires states to pay former
recipients any current support owed, as well as any arrearages not
assigned to the state. The bill also offers financial incentive to
states to pay state-owed arrearages to the custodial parent; pass
through child support to families currently receiving benefits; and
disregard the amount of child support received by a family when
determining that family's TANF grant amount. Unfortunately, these
provisions would not become effective until 2006. NOW Legal Defense
urges Congress to make those reforms mandatory, rather than at the
state's option, and to remove the delay in implementation to hasten the
benefit to low income children.
The bill also includes a modification to the rule requiring
assignment of support rights as a condition of receiving TANF. The
amendment clarifies that applicants are only required to assign that
support which accrues during the period that the family receives
assistance under the program. While NOW Legal Defense heartily supports
that change, we believe Congress should remove the requirement
altogether. Most TANF recipients will want to pursue child support
enforcement once states modify their laws so that child support will
directly benefit the children. Forcing a low income woman to establish
paternity and cooperate with child support enforcement in exchange for
subsistence benefits infringes upon her privacy rights and her judgment
about what is best for her family. In many cases, it will also threaten
Study after study shows that up to 60% of women on welfare have
been victims of intimate violence during their adult lives, and up to
30% have experienced domestic violence within the last year.\1\ Despite
these statistics, studies indicate that only about 7% of women on
welfare seek good cause waivers from child support requirements \2\ and
many of those waivers are not successful.\3\ This is due to a
combination of factors, including lack of information and training for
caseworkers, lack of information for recipients, and distrust of
untrained workers. Many survivors on public assistance appear to want
to enforce child support \4\ but doing so can open up a can of worms.
Studies show that abuse often escalates when survivors seek child
support enforcement. Moreover, child support proceedings open up the
issue of visitation and custody and provide the abuser access to mother
and child. According to a 1996 report by the American Psychological
Association, custody and visitation disputes are more frequent when
there is a history of domestic violence.\5\ Perpetrators of domestic
violence are more than twice as likely as other fathers to fight for
custody of their children.\6\ When batterers seek custody, they win
more often than not.\7\ The risks attendant on pursuing child support
in an abusive relationship coupled with the lack of effectiveness of
good cause waivers in this area create powerful arguments that child
support cooperation should not be required of all recipients.
\1\ See Tolman, R.M. & Raphael, J., Univ. of Mich. & Center for
Impact Research, A Review of Research on Welfare and Domestic Violence,
Journal of Social Issues, 56(4) 655-682 (2000), ``Prevalence'' sec.
\2\ Id at ``Child Support'' sec.; Eleanor Lyon, National Resource
Center on Domestic Violence, Welfare, Poverty, and Abused Women: New
Research and its Implications 10 (Oct. 2000).
\3\ Lyon, supra note 2.
\4\ Tolman & Raphael, supra note 1, at ``Child Support'' sec.
\5\ See American Psychological Association, Violence and the
Family: Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential
Taskforce on Violence and the Family, 40 (1996).
\6\ See id.
\7\ See D.G. Saunders, Child Custody Decisions is Families
Experiencing Women Abuse, 39 Soc. Work 391, 51-59 (1994).
The marriage-based fatherhood legislation pending in Congress (S.
653, S. 685, H.R. 1300, H.R. 1471) was conceived of as the next step in
welfare reform--the promotion of married fatherhood as the solution to
out of wedlock births and single-parent families.
This approach is problematic for several reasons: (1) it fails to
identify and attack the true cause of poverty in America; (2) it
unrealistically assumes marriage is the solution for everyone and, by
requiring programs to promote marriage, economically coerces low income
individuals to trade their constitutional right to privacy in exchange
for services; and (3) fails to appropriately deal with the high rate of
domestic violence among poor women and the danger forced reunification
has for these women and their children.
1. Making Fathers More Self-Sufficient, While Laudable, is Not the
to Poverty in America
Poor education, lack of opportunity, racism, high rates of
incarceration and other poverty inducing factors affect men as well as
women, crippling men's ability to rise much above the poverty level and
contributing to the economic devastation of entire communities.
Congress should support programs that address these obstacles and offer
supportive services to empower all men and women to realize economic
security. In doing so, however, Congress must not perceive father's
economic security as the answer to women and children's poverty.
The fatherhood legislation proposes using TANF money to provide
grants to programs to help low income fathers and their families avoid
or leave cash welfare and improve their economic status by providing
such activities as work first services, job search, job training,
subsidized employment, career-advancing education, job retention, job
enhancement, and other methods. While in general two incomes are better
than one, and thus more likely to move people off welfare, Congress
should use TANF dollars to address the reasons why women and their
children still make up the vast majority of people living in poverty
and on welfare--despite sharing common experiences with their male
counterparts.\8\ Factors such as lack of useful education and training,
discrimination in the labor market, primary care giving responsibility
without attendant employment protections, the lack of quality,
affordable, accessible childcare, and domestic violence keep women from
being economically self sufficient and reduce chances for all families'
to escape poverty. Moreover--due to death, domestic violence, divorce,
and job instability--focusing on fatherhood and marriage will not
assure women and children's economic security.
\8\ United States Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, Series
No. p60-210, Poverty in the United States: 1999 (2000), available at
In America today, the vast majority of women with young children
work outside the home.\9\ Despite their efforts, the families of waged-
working women are punished by gender discrimination in the workforce.
The gender wage gap persists: Unequal pay means that white women make
71.5 cents for every white man's dollar. This impact is even greater on
African American women who make 65 cents on that dollar, and even more
so for Latinas, who make only 52 cents.\10\ As a result, women of color
are disproportionately poor.\11\ In addition, jobs that are held
predominately by women consistently pay less than jobs that are held
predominately by men.\12\
\9\ See Statement on Equal Pay, Submitted to the Senate Comm. on
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, June 22, 2000 (statement of
Irasema Garza, Director of Women's Bureau, U.S. Dep't of Labor)
[hereinafter Statement on Equal Pay]. According to the TANF Report to
Congress 2000, 59% of low-income single mothers with kids under the age
of 18 are employed.
\10\ National Committee on Pay Equity, The Wage Gap: 1999,
available at http://www.feminist.com/fairpay/f__wagegap.htm.
\11\ Statement on Equal Pay, supra note 9, at vi.
\12\ See id.
Furthermore, even where both parents are present, women are still
overwhelmingly expected to act as the primary care giver--for children,
other family members, and the home. The combination of women's role as
primary caregiver (work for which they are not paid) and their relative
economic disadvantage in paid work as compared to men has had serious
negative consequences for women and children in our society: 41% of all
women and children in America today live below the poverty line;\13\
one out of every five children is raised in poverty.\14\
\13\ See United States Census Bureau, Current Population Survey
(206-207), Poverty in the United States (1998).
\14\ See Arloc Sherman, Children's Defense Fund, Poverty Matters:
The Cost of Child Poverty in America, 1 (1997).
As Congress looks to solutions for families, supporting fatherhood
programs without simultaneously addressing these challenges to women's
economic security will likely exacerbate--not solve--the problem for
poor families. Without proper protections such programs could:
Result in economically empowering men at the expense of poor
women. A similar program, called the Work Incentive Program
(WIN), was enacted under the Social Security Act Amendments of
1967. Excitement over father involvement resulted in a work
program that trained and employed a disproportionate number of
men. For example, in 1971, although women headed 90 percent of
AFDC households, 38 percent of participants in the work program
\15\ Gwendolyn Mink, Welfare's End 38-39 (Cornell Univ. Press
Exacerbate the current problem with women on welfare being
steered into traditional women's work--work that pays
substantially less--instead of training them for living wage
jobs with benefits--jobs that are traditionally held by
\16\ See Institute for Women's Policy Research, Working First But
Working Poor: The Need for Education and Training Following Welfare
Reform, ch. 7 (to be released Sept. 3, 2001) (report to the NOW Legal
Defense and Education Fund).
Contribute to the increasing wage gap between men and women
among the lowest waged workers. Under welfare reform, women
have been leaving the welfare rolls and entering the lowest
paid jobs thereby increasing the wage gap. Introducing men into
job training and referral programs without ensuring women are
trained and placed into nontraditional jobs will further
increase the disparity between men and women's wages.\17\
\17\ See Wendell Primus, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,
What Do We Know About Welfare Reform?, Coalition on Human Needs
Briefing, Apr. 26, 2000.
2. Marriage is Not the Solution for Everyone, Nor is it the Solution to
Our country consists of diverse family structures: those in which
parents are married, single (including those who were never married,
widowed, teen, or divorced), remarried, gay and lesbian, foster, and
adoptive.\18\ These families have built loving, healthy relationships
with their children and cooperative relationships with other
caregivers, and deserve to be valued and respected as they are.
Nevertheless, all of the fatherhood bills pending in Congress require
the fatherhood programs to promote marriage. Programs may do so through
such activities as: counseling, mentoring, disseminating information
about the advantages of marriage, marriage preparation programs,
premarital counseling, marital inventories, divorce education and
reduction programs, including mediation and counseling.
\18\ See CNN, Survey: Only a Quarter of U.S. Households of
``Traditional'' Families, Nov. 24, 1999.
Marriage may be the best choice for some individuals, but it is not
the best choice for everyone. In any case, marriage is a
constitutionally protected choice. The Supreme Court has long
recognized an individual's right to privacy regarding decisions to
marry and reproduce as ``one of the basic civil rights of man,
fundamental to our very existence and survival.'' \19\ Significantly,
this constitutional right equally protects the choice not to marry.\20\
This right of privacy protects an individual from substantial
governmental intrusion into his private decision. The marriage
promotion mandate in all of the bills essentially coerces economically
vulnerable individuals to trade in their fundamental right to privacy
regarding marital decisions in exchange for receiving job and life
\19\ Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 541
\20\ Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967).
Fatherhood programs should not be forced to invade parents' most
fundamentally private decisions regarding marriage as a condition for
receiving these federal funds. Children benefit greatly from the love
and support of adults who are committed to their well being, regardless
of whether those adults are in an intimate relationship with each
other. They flourish in a safe, loving, healthy environment where their
caregivers, including custodial parent(s), non-custodial parent(s),
step-parent(s), and other caregivers, cooperate in a respectful manner
to raise them with consistent messages about rules and expectations.
The goal of ``fatherhood initiatives'' should be to foster this
atmosphere of respect and cooperation between parents and/or
caregivers, to give them the tools they need to provide for their
children emotionally and financially, and to create a safe, loving,
healthy environment for their children. Supportive services should be
made available to all families, regardless of their marital status or
family composition, including services to help improve employment
opportunities, budget finances, promote nonviolent behavior, improve
relationships, and provide financial support to children. Where parents
choose to engage in an intimate relationship, resources should be
available to help ensure that it is a safe, loving, and healthy one. As
explained below, there are some situations where the non-custodial
parent may endanger the welfare of either the custodial parent or child
and in those situations cooperative parenting is not in the best
interests of the child or of the custodial parent.
3. Domestic Violence
The promotion of marriage requirement in these bills endanger
lives. Violence against women both makes women poor and keeps them
poor. The majority of battered women attempt to flee from their
abusers.\21\ Over 50% of homeless women and children cite domestic
violence as the reason they are homeless.\22\ Many depend on welfare to
provide an escape from the abuse. As noted above, study after study
demonstrates that a significant proportion of the welfare caseload
(consistently between 15% and 25%) consists of current victims of
serious domestic violence \23\ and half to two thirds have suffered
domestic violence or abuse at some time in their adult lives.\24\
\21\ See Patricia Horn, Beating Back the Revolution, Dollars and
Sense, Dec. 1992, at 21.
\22\ See Joan Zorza, Woman Battering: A Major Cause of
Homelessness, 28 Clearinghouse Rev. 383, 384-85 (1994).
\23\ See Jody Raphael & Richard M. Tolman, Taylor Inst. and the
Univ. of Mich. Research Dev. Ctr. on Poverty, Risk and Mental Health,
Trapped by Poverty, Trapped by Abuse: New Evidence Documenting the
Relationship Between Domestic Violence and Welfare, 12 (1997).
\24\ See Mary Ann Allard et al., McCormack Inst., In Harms Way?
Domestic Violence, AFDC Receipt and Welfare Reform in Mass., 12, 14
(1997) (64.9% of 734 women); Ellen L Bassuck et al., The
Characteristics and Needs of Sheltered Homeless and Low-Income Housed
Mothers, 276 JAMA 640 at 12, 20 (1996) (61.0% of 220 women); William
Curcio, Passaic County Study of AFDC Recipients in a Welfare-to-Work
Program: A Preliminary Analysis, 12, 14 (1997) (57.3% of 846 women).
For these women and their children, the cost of freedom and safety
has been poverty. Marriage is not the solution to their economic
insecurity. For them marriage could mean death; it will almost
undoubtedly mean economic dependence on the abuser or economic
instability due to the abuse. Between one-half and one-third of
battered women surveyed said that their partner prevented them from
working entirely.\25\ Those who are permitted to work fare little
better: 96% percent reported that they had experienced problems at work
due to domestic violence, with over 70% having been harassed at work,
50% having lost at least three days of work a month as a result of the
abuse, and 25% having lost at least one job due to the domestic
violence.\26\ In short, domestic violence creates and exacerbates
\25\ See United States General Accounting Office, Report to
Congressional Committees, Domestic Violence: Prevalence and
Implications for Employment Among Welfare Recipients, 7 (1998).
\26\ See Joan Zorza, Woman Battering: High Costs and the State of
the Law, 25 Clearinghouse Rev. 421 (1991).
Even interactions between the batterer and his child can be
dangerous--both for the child and for the mother if she is forced to
have contact with him. In some cases, batterers intentionally injure
their children in an effort to intimidate or control their partners; in
other cases, children are injured during attacks on their mother.\27\
Whether or not there is physical abuse, there is nearly always
emotional and psychological abuse; 80-90% of children living in abusive
homes are aware of the violence and abuse.\28\ Children commonly report
feelings of worry, fear and terror.\29\ The abuse affects their
relationships with their father; those relationships are often a source
of pain, resentment, disappointment, confusion and ambivalence.\30\
Unfortunately, separation increases the danger of abuse for battered
women.\31\ Because much of this violence is perpetrated before and
after visits with the child, children's exposure to this violence is
increased.\32\ Not surprisingly, those fathers who were physically or
sexually abusing their children prior to separation continued to do so
in post-separation visits.\33\
\27\ See Einat Peled, Parenting by Men Who Abuse Women: Issues and
Dilemmas, Brit. J. Soc. Work, Feb. 2000 at 29.
\28\ See Janet Carter & Susan Schechter, Family Violence Prevention
Fund, Suggested Components of an Effective Child Welfare Response to
Domestic Violence (1997).
\29\ See Peled, supra note 17, at 27.
\30\ See id.
\31\ See id. at 28.
\32\ See id.
\33\ See Peled, supra note 17, at 28.
While supervised visitation centers have been utilized as an avenue
for allowing visitation between batterers and their children, there are
not enough supervised visitation centers and in many cases the security
in those centers is inadequate, staff is not trained in domestic
violence, and women and children are abducted, harmed, or killed. Thus,
even supervised visitation centers are not always safe.
Clearly, most fathers are not abusive. But domestic violence
impacts approximately one million women \34\ and their children each
year, and the incidence of domestic violence is particularly high
within the population Congress seeks to reach with this
legislation.\35\ Thus Congress must not promote father involvement
without recognizing that some fathers will have a history of domestic
violence and that, in some cases, father involvement is not in the best
interest of the children. Contrary to the position of some fatherhood
advocates, the mere presence of one's biological parent is not the most
important factor in a child's successful upbringing. Countless studies
show that children who witness violence and those who are victims
themselves suffer enormous physical, psychological, and social
\34\ See Callie Marie Rennison & Sarah Welchans, U.S. Dep't of
Justice, Intimate Partner Violence 8 (May 2000). According to the U.S.
Department of Justice, intimate partners commit 937,490 violent crimes
against women and 144,620 against men annually.
\35\ See U.S. Dep't of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of
Intimate Partner Violence, 33 (July 2000).
\36\ See Lucy Salcido Carter et al., Domestic Violence and
Children: Analysis and Recommendations, 9 The Future of Children 3, at
Children who have been abused and neglected are more likely to
perform poorly in school, to commit crimes, to experience emotional and
sexual problems and to abuse alcohol and substances.\37\ Any
``fatherhood initiative'' should explicitly recognize this reality and
should ensure that father involvement is not promoted for fathers with
a history of domestic violence in the same manner as it is for other
\37\ See Joy D. Osofsky, ``The Impact of Violence on Children,''
The Future of Children: Domestic Violence and Children, Winter 1999, at
Given the emphasis on marriage and unification, the pending
fatherhood legislation fails to sufficiently resolve key domestic
violence concerns. While the original sponsors have made commendable
efforts to address the problem, the bills nevertheless fail to
adequately protect domestic violence victims. The Responsible
Fatherhood Act (S. 653, H.R. 1300) findings address the issue well. S.
685, S. 653 and H.R. 1300 require fatherhood programs to coordinate
with a domestic violence program. They also suggest that one of the
ways in which a program can fulfill its requirement to promote marriage
is by teaching on how to control aggressive behavior and disseminating
information on the causes of domestic violence and child abuse.
The Child Support Distribution Act (H.R. 1471) also suggests
disseminating information on the causes and treatment [sic] for
domestic violence and child abuse as one means of promoting marriage
and requires every fatherhood program to give information and referrals
on the matter. Given the proclivity for batterers to seek visitation
and custody of their children as a means of prolonging the abuse, all
of the bills include a key prohibition on use funds for court
proceedings around visitation or custody, and legislative advocacy.
While well intentioned, the language does not provide essential
safeguards. Where collaboration is required, the bills do not ensure
collaboration with a recognized expert in the field of domestic
violence, nor do they fund the mandated collaboration. H.R. 1471 does
not even require such collaboration, and instead relies on its national
fatherhood program to piece the materials together for distribution to
the other programs. None of the bills require that program employees be
trained by recognized experts in the field of domestic violence on
domestic violence and its impact on children. Nor do they require the
fatherhood programs to assess whether participants in the program have
a history of domestic violence, or describe procedures for dealing with
such participants--including, among other things, how the program would
alter its policy of promoting marriage or father involvement for such a
participant, and what precautions would be taken to ensure that any
involvement with the child was safe for the mother and child.
Where the very lives of these women and children are at stake, we
cannot afford to encourage the involvement of fathers who have a
history of domestic violence without taking every reasonable
precaution, and without recognizing that in some cases father
involvement is not appropriate. Unfortunately, these bills continue to
promote marriage and father involvement without these precautions. This
Congress has consistently recognized that domestic violence is a
serious national problem and has made efforts to minimize the severe
risk to women and children from that violence. We urge you to reject
fatherhood legislation without these important safeguards.
Congress should be concerned with ending poverty and supporting
economic security for all. Addressing the barriers to economic security
for low income noncustodial parents and other low income individuals is
a laudable step towards that goal, but Congress should not raid TANF
dollars to do so. TANF money must continue to address the barriers
directly affecting those who make up the welfare rolls: custodial
parents and their children.
We applaud Congress' proposed child support reforms and hope to
assist Congress in ensuring that when child support can be paid and
safely collected, it will be passed through to the children.
Furthermore, NOW Legal Defense supports Congress's continued interest
in and support for men's increased responsibility for contraception,
childcare, and positive, healthy relationships with their children, as
well as cooperative co-parenting between custodial and non-custodial
parents. Such programs should be available across income levels and
should be crafted to ensure safety and advance gender equality. We look
forward to working with Congress to achieve these goals.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15220
July 11, 2001
Allison Giles, Chief of Staff
Committee on Ways and Means
U.S. House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Subject: Public Hearing on Child Support and Related Issues
Dear Committee on Ways and Means:
Thank you for allowing me to express my strong and urgent support
in favor of changes to legislation that eliminates gender bias and
corruption in Family Law matters relating to Child Support Guidelines
and rightfully making Presumptive 50/50 Joint Custody the rule and the
I am a father of two daughters who are 9 and 4 years old. I have
been blessed to obtain 50/50 joint custody from the time the oldest was
5 years and the youngest was 7 months old. I could tell you much about
the difficulties and hardship I was confronted within the family court
system in the related divorce, custody and support process but I'd
rather thank God for allowing my parent rights to look after the girls
and the good success that both their mother and I see in them. It was
an initial challenge to co-parent but it became easier in time for me
because I believed we both got a chance to know that each of us
tremendously loved our children. Therefore, I must take this
opportunity to speak in support of other fathers who are denied their
rights and access to parenting their very own children. I am going to
assume that most people are not aware of the dangers facing children
who live apart from their fathers. It is my hopes and prayers that
there is more than sufficient evidence available to you to now know the
truth and that you will do the right thing in making Presumptive 50/50
Joint Custody the law and practice as well as the stopping the
unconstitutional extortion of monies from responsible law abiding
citizens through gender biased child support guidelines and systems.
The Case for Presumptive 50/50 Joint Custody
We have heard much over the years of so-called deadbeat dads and we
now understand the myths surrounding this stereotype have been
shattered. Now we must raise awareness of the tragic problem in the
area of emotional child support--namely, the phenomenon termed
``DEADBOLTED DADS'' which was coined by Gail Sheehy in a 1998 New York
Times article and refers to dads who are locked out of their children's
lives with no way of getting back in after divorce or family breakup.
Deadbolting can also happen to non-custodial moms.
Sociology Professor David Popenoe wrote in ``Life Without Father''
if present trends continue, the percentage of American children living
apart from their biological father would reach 50 percent in the next
I believe we are well ahead of that disastrous pace when
considering the April 18, 2001 published article ``Unwed Mothers Set A
Record for Births'' by The Washington Times. The article states ``a
record 1.3 million babies were born out of wedlock in 1999 marking the
first time that a full one-third of all U.S. births were to unwed
mothers, the federal government said.'' If there are custody disputes
the facts are that 80 percent or more of the time, the mother is
routinely given sole custody in violation of the inalienable human
rights of the child to also enjoy the love and nurturing relationship
with their father.
Couple this with the fact that 50 percent of the 2.6 million
children born in wedlock or about another 1.3 million, through divorce,
will find themselves in the same victimized role of the children born
out of wedlock and subjected to the same 80 percent sole custody mother
violation of the child's basic human rights to know the love and
nurturing of their father. Two thirds of these 1999 born babies may
find their lives void of the love and security of their father if we do
not act now.
Also, when we consider that this does not include children born
before this 1999 report and are nevertheless, victims in the same
proportions, the numbers are staggering and in at least the 15 to 20
million children range.
This is a problem that Americans care about ``according to a 1996
Gallup Poll, 79.1 percent of Americans feel the most significant family
or social problem facing America is the physical absence of the father
from the home. This number is up from 69.9 percent in 1992.'' (MSNBC
website: ``Labor Day: where are the fathers'', 1999).
When there is an absence of 50/50 joint custody, extended families
are cut off, too. Loving grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers,
aunts, uncles and cousins all suffer when a child is unnecessarily kept
away. A whole heritage is lost to these children.
We must acknowledge the truth that fathers love our children just
as much as mothers do. We have forgotten this simple truth because we
are bombarded with negative images and stereotypes of fatherhood such
as runaway dads, absentee dads and deadbeat dads when the reality is
that dads are deadbolted, and in most cases broken-hearted over the
loss of their beloved children. Furthermore, the children are missing
their dads, too because they love their dads as much as they love their
Why is if so important to immediately reunite children in the homes
of their fathers which the presumption of 50/50 joint custody will
facilitate? Consider this:
Children of fatherless homes account for:
63% of youth suicides
71% of pregnant teenagers
90% of homeless and runaway children
70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions
85% of children that exhibit behavioral disorders
80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger
71% of all high school dropouts
75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers
85% of all youths sitting in prison
Many children who are victims of crimes are raised in a fatherless
home and the perpetrators who commit these crimes are themselves raised
majority of the time in a fatherless home.
These horrible statistics are even twice as worse for African
Americans who in the same year 1999 have twice as many children born
out of wedlock at almost 70 percent. There is a direct correlation
between: the number of African American children born out of wedlock,
the number of African American sole custody mothers, the number of
fatherless African American fatherless homes, the disproportionately
high number of African Americans in jail and the criminal justice
system, the disproportionately high number of African Americans in
In regards to child abuse, The U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services states that there were more than 1 million documented child
abuse cases in 1990. In 1983, it found that 60% of perpetrators were
women with sole custody. 50/50 Joint Custody can significantly reduce
stress associated with sole custody, and reduce the isolation of
children in abusive situations by allowing both parents to monitor the
children's health and welfare and to protect them.
In regards to poverty, The National Fatherhood Institute reports
that 18 million children live in single parent homes. Nearly 75% of
American children living in single parent families will experience
poverty before they turn 11. Only 20% in two parent families will
experience poverty. (Melinda Sacks, Fatherhood in the 90's: Kids of
absent fathers more at risk, San Jose Mercury News (10/29/95)). Also,
the feminization of poverty is linked to the feminization of custody,
as well as linked to lower earnings for women. Greater opportunity for
education and jobs through shared parenting can help break the cycle.
(David Levy, ED., The Best Parent is Both Parents (1993)).
In regards to kidnapping, family abductions were 163,200 compared
to non-family abductions of 200-300. The parental abductions were
attributed to the parents' disenchantment with the legal system. (David
Levy, ED., The Best Parent is Both Parents (1993)), citing a report
from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice (May
How did we wind up in this current destructive position? The
current family law court system has done an injustice to all of our
constitutional rights as mothers, fathers, children, legislators and
citizens. Many attorneys, not all, engage in unethical practices that
result in significant and usually unnecessary litigation to extort
money from both mother and fathers. But the fees for the fathers are
usually incurred at an even higher level than the fees incurred by the
mother, as much as 6 times more or higher. The public is not aware of
the excessive litigation that occurs and how difficult it is for
fathers to keep going back to court again and again to get some form of
custody. Dads become emotionally and financially drained. They are
forced to spend thousands of dollars just to be able to see their
children. This is tragic.
Many of these unethical attorneys do not represent the interest of
their client the father by withholding information pertaining to
options and rights that they have full knowledge of in order to
generate more billable hours at the expense of the children and their
These attorneys are sometime aided by Domestic Relation Officers
who are biased against fathers and routinely issue support orders
without the establishment of custody orders that must be appealed if
the father is knowledgeable and financially able.
Sometimes we have judges who will not stand for such injustices and
biases, may they be blessed forever, and will issue the right and
honorable court order of 50/50 joint custody. But most of the time this
may not happen due to their heavy caseloads and undue pressure from
attorneys who may have various associations and relationships with the
We have the chance today to turn this cycle of disaster into a
cycle of opportunity for love, growth, safety, and stability for our
children and all the citizens they affect in our nation. We can take a
giant step forward in the best interest of our children's health and
1. Passing legislation on Presumptive 50/50 Joint Custody.
This will minimize and ultimately eliminate the impact of
unethical attorneys, prevent and eliminate the premature and
biased actions of Domestic Relation Officers, remove undue
pressures from judges, lighten the judge's caseload for
attention to the more serious cases of custody that are the
exception to parents who have the law abiding character and
ability to receive the responsibility of Presumptive 50/50
Joint Custody or any other agreement between the parents that
they believe is in the best interest of the children through a
2. Committing to working with the federal government on a
Uniform Parental Rights and Enforcement Act. This will enable
consistent presumptive joint 50/50 laws to be enforceable
across all of these United States of America. We will eliminate
the complications, delays, risk to the children, and costly
expenses to the parents and taxpayers due to the separate
custody laws of each state. American children are American
children. They have an inalienable right to give and receive
love from both of their parents regardless of which United
States of America they have been unlawfully transported to.
3. Committing to special efforts to reverse the cycle of
fatherless homes in African American communities where our
children in these United States of America suffer the greatest
disproportionate share of death and destruction in the life
issues of health, economics, education, self esteem and safety.
Presumptive 50/50 Joint Custody represents an excellent tool to
proactively educate African American fathers of the joy and
benefits accrued to their children when they step up and accept
a 50/50 joint custody role, free of prejudices and biases faced
in the current family law system.
In summary, the issue of Presumptive 50/50 Joint Custody is not
about women versus men or moms versus dads. The issue is about the
physical, emotional, spiritual and financial health and well being of
our children. Children need both parents. We need fair and equal
treatment in the courts for all men and women, and recognition of the
human rights of children to know, love and share the lives of both
parents. Unnecessary and unjust intervention by the courts into the
private realm of family life and parenting must stop. We must pass
Presumptive 50/50 Joint Custody legislation.
Gender Biases in Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines
I am a very concerned citizen and feel my comments are very
important to modifying Pennsylvania's Support Rules of Court in
particular and the erroneous national support guideline model in
general. With all due respect and a pursuit of what is good, right and
justifiably fair, I humbly submit my comments on the ``anonymous''
Committee that implemented the Pennsylvania Support Rules as an example
of the national child support guideline model flaws and biases as
Rule 1910.16-1 Amount of Support. Support Guidelines
Commentary on Rule 1910.16-1
(a) The support of a spouse or child is a priority obligation,
however, the expectancy of a party to adjust her or his expenditures to
meet this obligation can force a good hardworking honest citizen into
It is grossly unfair when the party who was abandoned and did not
initiate the breakup of a family finds herself or himself, suddenly in
a support hearing, before any custody ruling or action has been
determined, and gets hit with a devastating support judgment, effective
immediately, with no chance to adjust other expenditures, simply
because you earn more money than the other spouse. It is a cruel and
In the case where a spouse has abandoned the other spouse and files
for support where there has been no ``evidence of abuse'' (more than
the filing of a Protection From Abuse--PFA which requires only an
accusation and no facts) but merely because this spouse has decided to
selfishly pursue their own desires at the expense of the abandoned
spouse and even using the children as a way to finance this break-away,
does not represent a stable person with the best interest of the
children, and therefore, should not be awarded any support until a
custody hearing and ruling has been completed.
In fact, everyone should have to prove ``just cause'' of why the
children should not remain under the custody of the spouse who has been
abandoned in a presumed stable environment.
Therefore, the burden of adjusting of expenditures should
justifiably be shifted more heavily to the party who has made the
decision to abandon the family unit, not on who earns more money.
In fact, the one earning more money will tend to have the
expenditures that are more fixed in nature and more difficult to
adjust, i.e. mortgage, auto loans, education and consumer loans, etc.
The priority of support should be for maintaining the children in
their stable living environment. When a person decides to leave a
marriage because they ``feel like'' they need to pursue other interest,
they should not be entitled to remove income from the marital household
that is available for the children and remaining spouse, regardless of
whether the remaining spouse is the man or woman, higher income earner
or lower income earner.
Further, when such a person decides to leave a marriage because
they ``feel like it'' they are entitled to do so with their share of
the marital property because no one can make them stay, but this person
should not be entitled to spousal support especially when they have a
means to provide for their own living and has chosen their own
independence. They deserve to be left independent with the fruits of
their own labor.
There is no good basis for making such a spousal support award and
this practice should cease.
Rule 1910.16-2 Support Guidelines (Grids) Calculation of Net Income
Commentary on Rule 1910.16-2
(d) Reduced or Fluctuating Income
(4) Income Potential. The concept of appropriate employment in
consideration of a party's earning capacity requires more definition.
We should be able to construct a schedule of earning capacity according
to the age, education, training, and market value of a parent's skill
This should be the starting point of earning capacity assessment in
determining support. This will help provide a fair and firm guidance to
parents to know their responsibility and assessed contribution to
support based upon the skills and talent that they possess regardless
of whether or not they choose to obtain it.
For example, if a person has a bachelor degree in Computer Science
and training in a curriculum such as Computer Analyst, and has had
these skills for 10 years that would translate into a Senior Analyst
with an average market value of $50,000 but the party has chosen not to
capitalize on the investment of the education and training and has
decided to instead take employment as a data entry clerk with a salary
of $25,000. This party should be assessed with the earning capacity of
This will establish an environment where both parties will know to
diligently pursue their maximum earning capacity, thereby maximizing
the resources available for supporting the best interest of the
The courts have consistently and rightfully stated that it must be
both parties equal responsibility to obtain their earning capacity in
the support of their children.
The information on employment and earnings for the composition of
such a schedule to be used as a guide should be available from existing
wage and salary surveys.
I believe this will go a long way in confirming our seriousness in
the best contribution of one's skills and abilities to the benefit of
our children, family, and ultimately as a Pennsylvanian example of our
great United States of America.
We have an opportunity to encourage all parties to strive to gain
the intrinsic reward of fulfilling one's potential. People should have
a better sense of what's expected of them as a responsible wage earner
Commentary on Rule 1910.16-2 Support Guidelines
(e) Net Income Affecting Application of Child Support Guidelines
(2) High Income Child Support Cases.
After divorce and established earnings, if one spouse through hard
work and risk taking is blessed with significant earnings, why should
one be required to make any increased child or spouse support payments
to a spouse who takes no risk and in all probability has another co-
habitant who also gains the benefit of support meant for the children?
To the parent(s) who are committed to the personal nurturing and
rightful upbringing of their children, the intervening non-parent, the
co-habitant who has no responsibility of child support should not have
any access to the provisions meant for the children.
This is true in all income cases and not just limited to high-
income cases. This is a real big problem that I believe is at the core
of much violence and death that we see and hear about in cases of
Although I do not agree with the actions, I can understand why a
person can be so enraged to commit violence and murder when they see
someone else living in a house, eating food, driving cars, living a
better life because of the blood and sweat of a supporting spouse's
It is wrong, unnatural, and down right wicked for a co-habitant to
be excused from the support equation. The co-habitant had a choice of
whether or not to enter the relationship, and should have to pay the
cost like everyone else. We must address this issue.
I would suggest that we consider a standard and guideline of
support for a co-habitant, being subjected to the same test of earning
capacity as everyone else.
Just as it is stated that in the comments of the recommendations in
multiple families, and extending beyond just the children of a second
family, but to the second adult, the co-habitant;, is only entitled to
the standard of living established by the parent and the co-habitant,
and not the standard of living that may have existed earlier in the
first family ``because of the support payment monies made by the first
family parent of the children''.
The co-habitant is responsible for choosing to enter such a
relationship and must also be held accountable for support and not
allowed as a parasite to consume resources contributed for the
children. There must be no double standard.
Rule 1910.16-4 Support Guidelines. (Deviation) Calculation of Support
Commentary on Rule 1910.16-4
(b) Shared Custody--When both parents are equally raising their
child(ren), it is more than just spending time. It is an erroneous and
biased disposition not to be sensitive and see both parties in the role
of obligor and obligee, regardless of who earns the higher income.
Otherwise, the party with the higher net income is unjustifiably
translated into the non-custodial parent penalties, and therefore,
never perceived in an obligee role and also justifiably appropriate to
be provided favorable consideration as any other custodial parent(s)
who is spending their appropriate share of support on the children
within their household that they are maintaining even though they do
not receive one penny from anyone.
It would be coldly biased, incomplete and unjust to ignore these
facts and not give obligee consideration and benefit to both parents.
(f) Further, evidence of the need to be implicitly as well as
explicitly fair in the treatment of both custodial parents, as both
obligor and obligee, in equally shared custody, is the biased language
and treatment that follows as a result of language in this section of
Rule 1910.16-4 (f): ``utilize the guidelines which result in the
greatest benefit to the obligee.''
We must be careful to always be fair and balanced to both parents
who are equally and successfully raising their children.
Rule 1910.16-5 Support Guidelines. (Operation) Deviation
Commentary on Rule 1910.16-5
(c) No deviation from the support obligation shall be made for the
amount of time that each parent spends with the child or children is
blind, cruel, and out of touch in today's environment, thirty years
after the equal rights amendment, where both parents have equal access
to opportunity in the workplace and choices of career.
Except in cases where one spouse abandons the other spouse and
child or children, ``no deviation'' in this ruling makes too great of a
financial incentive for a support recipient, usually the woman, to use
the children as pawns for purely money, and that is the plain and
We need to be more compassionate to the love, effort, and resources
both parents are in fact expending to make our children stable,
healthy, assets to our society.
I believe there is a direct correlation between the greed created
by these support incentives and the extremely high rate of divorce and
I appeal to your sense of wisdom, justice and compassion, to not
let our children be used as pawns to gain financial advantage. No
matter how it is disguised, we must end this practice of wrongfully
giving preferential treatment to one sex gender over another.
I know this is a sensitive issue but we as fair minded Americans
must as always have the courage to do the right thing.
Especially in the case of equally shared custody, which should be
the presumption upon parents separating, it is right in the common
sensed use of the offset method for split or divided custody, which
involves determining what each parent owes when the other parent is the
primary custodian and then subtracting the difference.
It is also right in the common sensed use of dividing this
difference in half.
The only factor that should enable consideration to deviate from
dividing this difference in half is where the parent of lesser income
is below the poverty line income and the parent with more income will
not be pulled down to poverty line income.
Otherwise, the merit of the Committee argument is loss because
where the Committee presumable in honesty and sincerity erred is in the
example where one party's net income is $4,300 and the other party's
net income is $2,900, resulting in a net support payment of $181, the
Committee ignored the fact that a total of $2,900 + $181 = $3,181 net
available income is well above poverty and more than sufficient for any
responsible and prudent person to maintain a good and healthy
household, above a poverty level of living.
To not recognize this, with all due respect, but in truth, it is
biased, greedy, and Un-American as it denies a citizen the right to
life, liberty, and happiness through wrongfully seizing the income
earned through capitalizing on one's labor and making their own best
choices of use for the children.
Also, it must be explicitly and implicitly recognized that in
shared custody, both parents are the custodial parent half the time and
that each have fixed expenses relating to the children.
Therefore, without being grossly biased against the higher wage
earner, who is usually the man, we must not fall prey to the flawed
theory that ``these costs (of either parent), merely duplicate the
costs already being incurred by the custodial parent, as both parents
are the custodial parent and neither is entitled to preferential
treatment at the expense of the other parent.
I have given you my best thinking and heartfelt compassion on these
issues. I believe that such crucial issues affecting so many citizens
should be well publicized and distributed, possibly moved to referendum
for public opinion and vote.
My heart and hope are in pursuit of removing financial incentive
from either of the parent altogether. However, the current guidelines
greatly missed the mark on several issues as I have tried to
We need a system built on compassion, commitment, and fairness to
allow both parents to raise our children in an environment of love and
experience our Constitutional Rights of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of
I appeal to your sense of goodness, righteousness, and fairness as
a fellow human being and valued American citizen, to do the right
thing, and help us to restore the mental, physical, financial, and
intellectual well being of our children, through just and fair
guidelines, void of gender biases.
Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide in
legislation to eliminate all biased financial incentives from either
parent and focus on the best interest and well being of the children
and the love and care they are should have from both parents.
James R. Overton
Statement of Paul W., and Wendy G. Peterson, Cary, North Carolina
ANOTHER SIDE TO THE CHILD SUPPORT ISSUE:
I believe that the current child support laws need to be
drastically changed so that a father's second family DOES NOT SUFFER.
My husband and I have been paying child support to his ex-wife for 12
years. The child support check has always been the first check that is
written each and every pay day. We have 2 children of our own, ages 7
and 3. The term `Child Support' is a joke to me. My step child is being
supported at the expense of my own children. If I just had a penny for
every time my husband or I have said something like, ``Someday when
child support is over, we will be able to afford. . . .'' My children
have heard the phrase, too. We have felt as though our life and family
is on hold. In 3 years we will--thank God--be done paying for child
support. Here's a list of some of the things we will be able to provide
for our children once we are done paying child support that we
currently have not been able to:
Proper (consistent) dental & eye care (This has been a hard
one since we are currently paying for my step child's braces.)
Extra activities like piano lessons, sports, arts & crafts,
pottery lessons, swimming lessons & summer camps to name a few
Cable or Satellite TV
A membership to the YMCA or other swim/exercise club
More Clothes & Toys that don't come from yard-sales and
Cars that are newer than 8 years old and that would require
A college fund
I do however, consider us very blessed! We are blessed because:
None of us has required surgery or medical attention that
insurance won't cover.
My younger son won't have any adult teeth until after child-
support is over.
My children seem to have good vision at this time.
My children won't need braces until after child support is
My son's are still young enough to be entertained with
We are able to get public TV with a roof antenna.
My children enjoy the lakes as much as public pools.
My children love getting toys from yard-sales.
We live in a prosperous enough country that people will sell
nice clothes for a quarter.
My husband knows enough about cars to keep our old ones
Public school is FREE--What a blessing that truly is!
WHAT ABOUT THE FAMILIES THAT ARE NOT SO BLESSED? I just can't
imagine having teenagers and paying child support, too. I can't imagine
having a child in desperate need of constant medical attention. Yes,
our family is blessed.
I am so sick of the term `Dead-Beat Dads'. It seems to me that
fathers are guilty before proven innocent or worthy. I feel so bad for
all the young fathers. My husband has a good job, and it is still hard
for us. What about these dads making minimum wage? To tell them they
have an 18 year sentence to pay child support is like a living hell.
I DISAGREE WITH:
Basing child support on some crazy figures of what it costs
to raise a child. We are not even going to get close to any of
those figures for our children! In fact, the child support we
pay does not all go to the child we are supporting. We are
simply subsidizing the mother's second husband's income. We do
not spend the same amount on both our children together.
Figuring a portion of child support is for housing. The
mother has got to pay for that anyway.
The notion that children ought to have the same standard of
living as they did before the divorce. Statistics show that \2/
3\ to \3/4\ of divorces are initiated by woman. When a mom
walks out of a marriage, she walks out of that standard of
Seizing bank accounts, taking money from fathers paychecks
and making life a living hell for fathers and especially the
second family involved. (Statistics show that 80% of divorced
men remarry, and most do within 3 years.)
What is this nonsense? I am so glad we are not in the ``system''.
This reminds me of the bible verse ``Do not provoke your children to
wrath.'' Is the penalty for not paying child support so steep that it
is causing some young fathers to look to other means of illegal income?
I am not trying to justify their wrongful actions, but it just seems to
me that you'd have more cooperation if you gave these dad's a chance to
do things right on their own. No one has to tell my husband to pay
support, he just does it.
Any court, state or private agency making a profit on child
support! This would make any person distrust the incentives
Allowing zero accountability on behalf of the mother. Not
only is this a breeding ground for resentment on behalf of the
father, but it can be a serious DANGER to the child. A mother
can take the money and buy whatever she wants with it and
deprive her children of the things they need. Children having
mothers with addictions are especially at risk. Tax free money
that does not need to be accounted for or is easy drug money.
Statistics show that 80% of the states report that parental
substance abuse within poverty are the greatest child welfare
problems. In some cities, more than 75% of welfare cases are
linked to alcohol and drugs.
Allowing no tax deduction for the parent who pays support.
Why should the father's second family have to pay taxes on
income that benefits another family?
Manipulating the child support system for the benefit of the
custodial parents on welfare (and therefore, the government)
when in fact 50-60% of all custodial parents receiving support
are NOT ON WELFARE!
I AGREE WITH:
Making it harder for people to get divorced, and premarital
counseling.I think this alone could solve a lot of problems in
CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES:
In spite of the fact that child support figures are too high, North
Carolina has one of the best models for figuring Child Support. I
believe all states should be consistent in figuring support, and I
believe NC's model would be a good one for the nation to adopt. Non-
custodial parents living in states that use a flat percentage to figure
child support have my deepest sympathy. But even within my own state,
the agencies are not consistent with the way child support is figured.
This must not be so!!
A Christian friend of mine is doing everything in her power to hold
her marriage together. Because of the husband's past, I am convinced he
is cheating on her and doing drugs. He has moved into the basement of
their house, and is living quite apart from her. She wants it to work
out so bad, that she is allowing him to do this. I truly believe that
he is content to remain in the marriage and in the basement to avoid
having to make child support payments.
Child support payments need to be FAIR. There will always be
fathers who will do everything in their power to avoid payments. But
even law abiding fathers need to feel as though the support is fair.
Resentment can show up at bad times, and will ultimately affect the
child's sense of security. When a man and woman are married, they make
decisions together on how money should be spent on the children.
Divorced dads are deprived of that right. After a stressful divorce,
they are forced to turn over all decisions about their children to the
mother. Divorced dads don't want money that is meant for their children
to be thrown into a melting pot of the mother's needs and wants for
herself and the children. How much money does the mother REALLY need
for the children, and how can we know? The custodial parent should be
required to fill out paper work accounting for where the money is
going, and fathers should be entitled to that information. This would
ensure that the money is going directly to the child being supported,
and therefore divorced dads around the country would be more apt to
pay. It would also help to ensure that the fathers' other children
would not be deprived of the things they need at the expense of their
Protecting Marriage, Inc.
Wilmington, Delaware 19803
July 5, 2001
Hon. Wally Herger, R-CA
House Ways and Means Committee
Subcommittee on Human Resources
Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20015
Dear Rep. Herger:
This letter is supplemental testimony to your June 28th hearing on
the Child Support bill, H.R. 1488. I called the subcommittee today and
received instructions on how to submit from a Macintosh computer and
was instructed to email my information as an attachment to Ms. Kitchin.
We were also paying attention to your hearing on May 22nd as I am well
known to many witnesses--Wade Horn, Robert Rector, Mike McManus--on the
divorce issue. However, because we expose significant academic research
data that confronts some of what you have heard, I, personally, am
unfortunately quite controversial. For quick reference, I am in the
Heritage Foundation's Directory of Public Policy Experts. You also
could confer with law professor Katherine Spaht, the author of
Louisiana's Covenant Marriage law, who supports what I reveal on this
In 1996, I received a call from a reporter in Bowling Green, OH who
informed me that we should be paying attention to the Welfare Reform
bill, and I asked why. Because, she said, in it was funding to ``non-
custodial parents'' which we know is code for `Fathers', and the fact
brought forth continually in all research studies is that it is Mothers
or Wives who end up losing disproportionate financial benefits after
divorce and are recipients of most family responsibilities. The fact is
that every year in the United States (see the Census or American
Demographics) among unmarried men [never married, widowed, or divorced]
the group with the highest median income is divorced men/fathers. As a
United Nations report of three years ago stated, ``there is no country
in the world that treats its women as well as its men.'' Wives and
mothers in an unaddressed divorce which they cannot by law defend
against, are a Human Resource, Congressman Herger, and this committee
must fairly address that issue.
Your staff needs to obtain the 1994 Journal of Socio-Economics and
go to the study titled ``Crime and Unemployment'' where a stunning and
unanticipated finding emerged in a 44 year tabulation of all U.S.
county data: ``the most powerful predictor of Homicide rates in the
United States are the divorce rates.'' The Drexel University
researchers used the top rated variables (women in the workforce,
percentage of Roman Catholic families, etc.) and the coefficients are
huge in the results. When I pointed out to Wade Horn that this finding
was not showing that Fatherlessness, per se, is prompting the homicide
increase, but rather that high divorce occurrences were, he was
displeased. And to be divorced, one must first be married. In order for
marriage again to be attractive to both men and women, then the
exigencies, and unbalanced ordered losses, from mandatory no-fault
divorce law need be changed. Professor Spaht is on record as stating
that we are not going to succeed with requiring marriage prep courses
or marriage mentoring until this country corrects our disastrous
divorce statutes, too. She feels that after 30 years of failing to
change state divorce laws due to the power of special interests of
lawyers and therapists, in particular, to stop such correction, we
shall have to address exposing that problem. In 1997, we submitted a
bill proposal to Senator Sessions when his committee was working on the
Youth Violence bill (S. 10) which never passed. Robert Rector asked me
for a copy of the Drexel study two years ago. When an educational
organization like Protecting Marriage, Inc. and its leaders are showing
hard data that may slow the flow of federal funds to the wrong
entities, these policy analysts are quite unpopular and too often
dismissed or libeled. We urge your Subcommittee to take a look again at
where you may direct support; the fate of America's children cannot
continually be misused as it has been since 1970. Can it? We all are
sincerely active in wanting to end the destruction of children's
futures; and every married Mother promotes her husband as a firm and
loving Father to their children.
There is one last point that we must address. There is much
research that shows that mandated joint physical custody does not
produce optimal results for children. Despite political pressure, it is
a fact and not a surprising one. Stability for anyone rests on being
securely in one place and with a parent who does not betray . . .
either parent of either gender, who does not betray the marriage and
family, but visitation of one's children should be assured in our laws.
To declare that TANF funds be spent on ``strengthening marriage'' when
top studies (USC in 1998 and Univ. of OK in 1995) show that no-fault
divorce laws independent of other factors were the cause of our
divorces exploding in number, then your subcommittee should shift its
focus slightly from marriage prep to genuine marriage preservation by
offering rewards for enacting divorce statute disincentives. Email to
our office tells that Congress wants solutions and we have endeavored
to provide some in this testimony. We are at your service, via frequent
trips to Washington, and providing studies identified here. Your
personal profile on marriage and family is enviable and that leadership
focus is important, Representative Herger.
Phyllis H. Witcher
Society of Just Men
Columbia, South Carolina 29209-1019
Ms. Allison Giles
Chief of Staff
Committee on Ways and Means
U.S. House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Ms. Giles:
Please accept this correspondence as my submittal for the
approaching hearing dealing with Child Support and Fatherhood
I am the Founder of the Society of Just Men. Our organization was
brought into being because of the rampant fraud, deceit and even
criminal conduct found in the family courts of this country. Our family
court systems are running over with unethical practices by matrimonial
lawyers who continue to work for the total destruction of the American
marriage and the financial depletion of the assets of any family that
finds itself in the clutches of these corrupt judicial systems during
great periods of emotional stress.
While the issues in your hearing revolve around child support,
there are other issues that go deeper into the problems between fathers
and mothers caught-up in the child support system. An observation is
that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court is a court of law and equity. It helps
individuals, families and businesses in the preservation of their
assets and lives. The family courts of the states are also courts of
law and equity, and they are charged with helping families with their
lives and assets during the same kind of emotional and financial stress
as the bankruptcy court. The real problem seems to be that the family
courts are designed primarily for lawyers who financially destroy every
family in their courts.
In our family courts, the attorneys and their hand-picked judges
literally ravage the assets of the American family. They engage in the
most heinous legal practices and they use these tools to take all
assets away from the father and mother. Then, they ask the court to
imprison the father for not paying. Here in South Carolina, matrimonial
lawyers flood the courts with unethical types of practice and the
judges accept them on the tacit understanding that the more legal
pleading, the more hearings, the more wallpaper, the more job security
for the jurists. Before you make any critical decisions burdening the
fathers of the country any more, we in the SJM feel you should lessen
the financial burden on both mother and father by giving them justice
in the family courts. There are many practices you should consider. If
you take a look at these unethical practices, you will see why many men
cannot afford a lawyer for a change in child support amounts. If you
examine these unethical practices, you will see why some men are simply
beaten down financially and destroyed spiritually. A few are listed as
1. GAMING.--This is one of the oldest types of unethical
practices by divorce lawyers. Gaming is associated with any
kind of effort on the part of the lawyer to create a war-like
atmosphere between the parties. To effectively game, you have
to have the cooperation of the other attorney. Gaming can mean
creating of useless hearings, useless meetings, unnecessary
investigations, unnecessary motions, etc. It is associated with
Sharp Practice and Wallpapering.
2. SHARP PRACTICE.--This is a form of fraud upon the court. It
is usually associated with making false representations to the
opposing attorney and to the court. For example, the gross
misrepresentation of the appraisal value of a chattel in a
divorce. The withholding of critical evidence from the court is
another example of sharp practice.
3. CONTROLLING THE CASE.--This is a very common form of
unethical practice here in South Carolina. If the lawyers
cannot ``control'' the case, it could become settled too
quickly and they might lose money. One example is where your
attorney will call your wife's attorney and secretly notify him
that a private investigator is on the way to gather evidence as
to the adultery of his client. After all, if adultery were
quickly established, the case would have to be settled and the
lawyers would not make any huge fees. This is very common in
South Carolina and other states.
4. WALLPAPERING.--This is the most common type of abuse in the
divorce courts. If a client calls his lawyer for a simple
question, he gets back a four page letter confirming the
telephone conversation. Long and totally unnecessary letters,
motions, memoranda and exhibits are sent back and forth between
the lawyers to churn the account. If a stock broker engaged in
this type of conduct, he would lose his license. The lawyers
also create new ways to send wallpaper. For example, when I
recently received my daughter's visitation schedule for this
summer, it came as a legal document with a ``Certificate of
Service'' attached. This is a legal document used when there is
a pending action, one does not attach such documents to
ordinary correspondence. Yet, in South Carolina, the lawyers
will invent an excuse to create this wallpaper for opposing
counsel to read--and they both bill for it. The attorneys will
take evidence from the clients' files and send it back and
forth. They will file motions with the court to which are
attached meaningless exhibits. This is one of the most heinous
practices and it is common in South Carolina. When a lawyer
files a simple motion of 2-3 pages, he will attach 40-50 pages
of ``exhibits.'' Often they will attach these exhibits in
several documents throughout the course of a trial. The recent
rage among lawyers is to use the FAX machine for these useless
transfers of documents. If you do this in federal court, you
risk sanctions by the judge. If you do this in the South
Carolina family courts, the judges all feel this gives them job
5. EXCESSIVE MOTIONS.--This is a common abuse in South Carolina
and other states. The matrimonial lawyers will make a motion
under just about any pretense. When they make a motion for a
continuance based on their personal problems, the clients must
pay for the time and expense.
6. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.--One of the most horrendous breaches
of ethics I discovered in the South Carolina family courts is
the ongoing conflict of interest situations between the lawyer,
lawyers acting as guardians, lawyers acting as mediators, and
judges. In my own divorce, I discovered that my lawyer, my
wife's lawyer, my children's guardian were all members of the
same church. Furthermore, the guardian ad litem for my children
was not only a good friend of my wife's lawyer, but was--in
fact--almost like a sister to him. They had an extremely close
relationship. And, the other serious problem is that these
lawyers, guardians and mediators will all have pending cases
with each other. This is especially true in small communities.
As many of my friends and members have often said, ``They're
all in cahoots!'' And its true. They all are members of the
Family Law Sections of the bar associations. They are a cartel,
a gang, a bunch of hoodlums who need to be reformed if not
eliminated. Many of the judges have very close relationships
with the lawyers, guardians and mediators. And, the women
guardians always give the kids to the mother.
7. PERJURY AND SUBORDINATION OF PERJURY.--As a retired member
of the South Carolina Bar Association, one of the most
depressing things I have discovered is how often lawyers have
their clients come into family court under a cloud of perjury.
Since the lawyer is usually the one who helps fabricate the
perjury, the lawyer is guilty of subordination of perjury. For
example, in my own divorce my wife failed to inform the court
that she has $6,000.00 in a slush fund with her lawyer, and she
further failed to reveal $4,200.00 month in salary. The court,
based on her sworn affidavit that she was penniless and only
had $600.00 to her name, and that she needed attorneys suit
fees, gave her $2,500.00 per month temporary support and order
that I advance $7,000 to her lawyer for suit fees. You can see
this gave her lawyer $13,000 in funds with which he could
operate and my lawyer only $7,000.00. But the important part of
this illustration is when I refused to pay the amounts based on
her fraud and deceit, the court threatened to hold me in
contempt of court for non-compliance with his order. This is in
the face of the fact that I filed a timely motion for
reconsideration based on fraud and perjury. What I am saying is
this: in South Carolina men are treated with great prejudice.
We still have a statute on the books that states ``The woman is
the favored suitor.'' To take the case further, when I filed a
complaint with the S.C. Bar Association about the fraud and
perjury, the S.C. Attorney General dismissed my complaint
against the lawyers and prosecuted me for the filing of a
``non-meritorious complaint.'' The members of the Bar reviewing
the case dismissed the case against me as non-meritorious. This
effectively quashed both complaints. Such is justice in South
Carolina as to men seeking equity in child support and
8. CHILD SUPPORT.--In South Carolina, the general rule of law
is that the man is totally at fault, totally liable, that he
should be made to pay all child support, and that the woman is
still the ``favored suitor.'' When a woman is able to work and
contribute to the support of children, the courts very rarely
hold her feet to the fire.
9. HEARSAY AS TO AMOUNTS OF CHILD SUPPORT.--In South Carolina,
the judges now use a computer software system designed by a
divorce lawyer with an undergraduate degree in human behavior.
He did this with the assistance of a local CPA. Neither of them
is an economist. We have never had a team of economists look at
the issue of child support and the true and hard costs of
raising a child. Nor has anyone ever looked at contributions
the women could make if given the chance or order by the court
to do so. The MAN always pays, the Man always is threatened
with contempt, and the MAN is always the parent who serves time
I can go on and on with examples, but that would make me look like
a wallpapering divorce lawyer. I have offered you the above problems to
show you that you need to deal with these matters before you start
imposing any unrealistic laws on the fathers of this country.
At this time in our history, a poor man cannot afford a lawyer to
make a slight modification in his child support payments. There is no
means other than to be forced to go to an unethical and sleazy
matrimonial lawyer for relief. Our poor people have been raked over the
coals of the camp fires of these lawyers and it has to come to a halt.
The Society of Just Men is proposing one possible solution:
CREATION OF A DOMESTIC RELATIONS AGENCY.
This agency would work at the county, bi-county or tri-county level
depending on population needs. It would be staffed by trained human
services people such as psychologists, social workers, law enforcement
officers, marital counselors and debt counselors. It would help our
poor people so much. Instead of paying incompetent and unethical
lawyers $300.00 to ravage their assets, they would pay a nominal fee
for assistance. The agency could be self-supporting and it could also
receive grants and gifts. Its prime duties would be:
(1) preservation of the children's marriage;
(2) preservation of the family's assets;
(3) preservation of the relationship between the father and
(4) giving medical and psychological assistance (when it is
evident mental illnesses, e.g., borderline personalities,
postpartum depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, are
present. If I never do anything else in my lifetime, I feel my
idea for this agency will be worth a lifetime of effort in
bringing in into fruition. This is a noble cause and it is one
we all should pursue. This domestic relations agency would be
the answer to many problems we currently have with giving help
to poor people in the throes of divorce or child custody
And, if the agency could not handle any narrow question, the
parents would have the right to pursue the issues with a lawyer before
a family court judge--but with narrowly confined issues and at minimal
expense. The agency would have the power to grant divorces under a
judge's signature, and it would have the power to grant child custody
and support. It would also handle all child support payments. Joint
custody would always be granted except in the most extraordinary
circumstances. Liberal visitation would be required even when a parent
moved out-of-state. And the moving parents would be held to high
degrees of financial liability as to the creation of a separation of
father, mother and children for frivolous reasons. Electronic
communication would be encourage, especially by telephone and email and
video communication by computer on the Internet.
Recently, a secretary with very limited means asked me for a
recommendation as to a divorce lawyer. I sent her to a woman lawyer
whom I had discovered is a member of the National Organization of
Women. I had hoped this member of the Family Law Section of the South
Carolina Bar Association would help her with her rather simple divorce
and custody action and at a reasonable cost. The final bill for
attorneys fees was $20,000.00. Not only am I shocked, but I am hurt
that this N.O.W. lawyer allowed this to happen. I certainly will never
refer a case to her again. So much for ethics between women lawyers and
their women clients in South Carolina.
One local law firm acquired a $100,000.00 home as the total and
final divorce settlement for a woman in this state. The lawyers' bill
was $140,000.00. The S.C. Supreme Court called the amount excessive but
did nothing to the lawyers. The same firm represented a woman who
suddenly died leaving two babies without a mother. The lawyers sued the
babies for their legal fees. The S.C. Supreme Court called their
conduct ``egregious,'' but did nothing to discipline the lawyers. This
is the problem: corruption from the highest court in each state,
corruption in the offices of the attorney generals, and corruption in
the leadership of the bar associations. All of this has been done over
the years with the blessings and financial aid of our U.S. Congress.
The DOMESTIC RELATIONS AGENCY is my invention, but it could also be
a tremendous gift of Congress to the American people. It could be
overseen by a federal agency that could control funding and self-
funding throughout the states and territories. Such an agency would
open a new frontier of marital relations, equity in child support and
enforcement, and in preserving our citizens' marriages, assets, and
their emotional and spiritual well-being--and without lawyer
involvement at the lower levels. Most importantly, it could be an
agency which would recognize and uphold the idea that it's the
childrens' marriage too, not the lawyers' marriage to be plundered viz-
a-viz crime, fraud and deceit.
My remarks are never addressed towards the honest and ethical
members of the bar associations and judiciaries. There are many lawyers
and judges who feel just as I do about the fraud and crime in our
family courts, and the need to do something about this organized mob of
hooligans in black robes and pinstriped suits. They ravage our men and
women and children as ``matrimonial'' lawyers in their ``family''
courts. It must stop! And, Congress should stop sending any kind of
financial aid to them.
In conclusion, I do not feel you can accomplish anything until such
time as you deal with the above abuses in our courts. After all, do any
of you want to add fuel to this fire of crime, fraud, deceit, perjury,
subordination of perjury, misrepresentation and corruption? Can any of
you truthfully state that you want to ignore the above abuses and
simply work around them and add more to the burden of fathers in this
country? Do you want to further burden our fathers with any kind of law
in such a corrupt system?
If you are interested, you can learn more about the Society of Just
Men at our new website: http://socjustmen.tripod.com. We are Christian
men who are family-oriented men who fight for a better domestic
relations system in our states. We not only seek to help our men, but
we also seek to help our women, our children and grandchildren.
William Whitley Hodges, J.D.
Founder and Chairman