Public Knowledge® is a proud member of the National Child Support Enforcement Association and was honored to participate in the 2021 NCSEA Policy Forum!
The NCSEA Policy Forum, which normally is held in Washington D.C., was attended virtually by over 700 child support professionals across the United States from February 23 – March 3, 2021. This year’s event “Moving Towards Equity Through Policy” was devoted to diversity, equity, and inclusion issues.
NCSEA’s Idea Exchange
Held on February 2021, this year’s discussion at the NCSEA Policy Forum focused on the priorities for the child support program. The goal in mind was to have a detailed list to share with staff from the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means Committees of the U.S Congress and the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) once a new Commissioner is appointed.
Several Title IV-D State Directors and thought leaders throughout the country, as well as OCSE staff, participated in the event.
OCSE’s Five Performance Measures
The group came to a near unanimous agreement that the measures are due for critical examination of what the OCSE incentivizes versus what outcomes should be rewarded in the program.
The participants recommended that the OCSE creates a new commission or workgroup to examine the following:
- Current performance measures
- What those measures currently incentivize
- What the program would ideally prioritize for serving families in the future
- New or revised performance measures that would align with program priorities
Mandatory Referrals and Current Sanctions for TANF
The discussion them moved to mandatory referrals and included sanctions for non-cooperating parents receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
- Eliminating Medicaid referrals
- Better defining the “when appropriate” standard for foster care referrals
- Examining thresholds and the “cliff” effect of child support payments and eligibility-based assistance
Modernization of Child Support System Continues to be a Concern
Besides increasing FFP for system replacements, other options were discussed. This includes:
- National vital records registry available to states
- More robust sharing of data
- Modernizing the federal systems that interface with the child support systems
The Fundamentals of the Child Support Program
The group focused on the purpose that the child support program has in our society and how it can help more families. Additionally, the anti-poverty aspects and what data is needed to add additional services and outreach that would improve outcomes for fragile families.
Critical Analysis of the Program
Additional evaluation focused on:
- How the program is helping parents who are struggling to fulfil their support obligations
- The effectiveness of voluntary versus mandatory employment programs
- Whether the current support payment performance measures provide enough incentive of programs to work with parents on employment-related issues
- The need for better technology to reach and relate to Generations Y and Z and their reliance on smart phone technology and real-time interactions
During this conversation, the recognition was observed that many parents paying child support have an established distrust of the program, largely created by the enforcement measures.
Senator Mitt Romney’s Proposed Family Security Act
This legislation would create a universal child allowance:
- $350 per month for newborns to 5-year-olds
- $250 per month per child for children ages 6 to 17, with income and total children limits
Something to Note
The plan would be cost neutral because it would replace other child-related benefits and tax breaks, including the Child Tax Credit, part of the EITC, TANF, and state and local tax deductions.
Federal Tax Information Issues
Two frustrations with the IRS were discussed amongst the group, including:
- Audits on IRS information are not uniform, leading to uneven enforcement of the rules.
- The IRS policies on permissive use and disclosure of federal tax information are too restrictive, finding effective child support activities.
The Idea Exchange participants talked about the benefit of better understanding by OCSE of how states process interstate cases. Additionally, the idea was brought up for OCSE to issue guidance on how agencies should work with each other to set up the collection of support across state lines.
Universal Child Support Application
This idea came from the Public Relations Committee—a joint committee comprised of members of NCSEA, OCSE, and the National Council of Child Support Directors
Concerns with this Idea
The Idea Exchange participants voiced their concerns about this regarding the unique needs of each state. More specifically, how to keep application forms as short as possible and the potential impact to state automated systems.
Support for the Tribal Child Support Enforcement Act
Introduced to the Senate in March of 2021, this Act would give tribal governments equal and direct access to the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program and other resources to locate parents. Additionally, it also provides clarification on tax refund information access by private vendors.
Parenting Time and Adoption of a More Holistic Approach to Families
The group discussed the disparity between married couples who regularly decide custody and parenting time as part of divorce proceedings versus unmarried couples in the child support program. A potential solution to this would be to expand FFP to allow programs to incorporate uncontested parenting time orders into child support orders.
The Child Support Program is One of Few Programs that Serve Both Parents
This program is a unique opportunity to take a two-generation, anti-poverty approach through the development of programs that serve young parents and their children. We can break multi-generational poverty by connecting parents with positive, family-based programs like:
- Mentorship programs
- Parenting support
The NCSEA Policy and Government Relations Committee will consider all of the ideas discussed for priorities in 2021 and 2022. The committee will determine the focus of NCSEA’s advocacy efforts on what will have the biggest impact on shaping the future of child support and improving the program as a whole.
Originally published in the Child Support CommuniQue – April 2021 issue (page 12)