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Posts tagged ‘welfare’

How America’s Child Support System Failed To Keep Up With The Times

clinton-child-support-celebration
When the U.S. child support collection system was set up in 1975 under President Gerald Ford — a child of divorce whose father failed to pay court-ordered child support — the country, and the typical family, looked very different from today.

And as the nation’s social, economic and demographic landscape has shifted, the system has struggled to keep up. Cynthia Osborne, director of the Child and Family Research Partnership and associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, explains how these changes have outpaced the decades-old system — and left the country with more than $113 billion in unpaid child support.

Walk us through what the child support collection system looked like in 1975. What issues was it designed to address? What did the typical family look like?

It was officially launched in 1975, which is when the government established Section IV-D of the Social Security Act. No-fault divorce had recently been passed, and there was a rapid increase in divorce.

In 1975, this system would try to ensure that after a divorce, we would try to replicate what the household looked like prior to the divorce with regards to the children’s well-being. So the father would continue to provide income to the child, and the mother normally would get the child following a divorce in terms of physical custody, and she would use the resources from the father.

The whole system was set up in a way to try to bring back what the nuclear family looked like prior to a divorce, and nearly everyone who entered into the child support system was a product of divorce. There were very few nonmarital births at that time.

During that time period, divorce was one of the single greatest predictors that a woman, especially a woman with children, would fall into poverty. The research indicated that fathers typically gained financially following a divorce, even though they were ordered to pay child support, and mothers typically lost financially, they had both the children and reduced income. And so the child support system was hoping to try to offset some of that.

The 1970s and ’80s saw profound social, economic and demographic changes. What sort of shifts were occurring, and how did they affect child support?

There was this huge increase in divorce, and a beginning rise in nonmarital childbearing that was nearly nonexistent in the early 1970s — then becoming, by the mid-1980s, up into the 20 percent of all children.

Those were big changes that were occurring in the family, and simultaneously there were gains and losses in the labor market. There were more and more women who were starting to enter into the labor market during both the 1970s and ’80s. And the question about what women’s role was, vis-a-vis caring for their child and working and so forth, was starting to be really front and center in the discussion of women’s place within the family and the economy.

Still, though, the majority of women, when they became mothers, were the primary caretakers and not the primary breadwinners. The single mothers also were not very likely to work. So married moms were staying at home to take care of the kid. Single moms were on welfare, and our welfare rolls were expanding quite rapidly.

The 1980s [also] saw a huge boom in the return to college education, and this is especially true for men. And those who got this education— with higher skills and higher-wage jobs — were starting to really pull away from men who had lower levels of education or moderate levels of education. And men at the very bottom, who had no high school education especially, were starting to lose in real terms of their value of earnings. And that’s really a trend that’s continued until today.

And when we think about who those men are partnered with, often they’re partnered with the same women who are more and more likely to be dependent on welfare rolls — during this time there was a huge increase in welfare rolls — and also mostly among less educated women.

So you now had a growing number of women who were either divorced or not married who were seeking public assistance, and a growing number of less educated men who had very few prospects in the labor market, and declining prospects at that.

It really can’t be overstated how important in the whole welfare reform debate [it] was that one of the fastest entrants into the labor market were women with children under the ages of 5. And it became harder and harder to justify that we should have a system that would support one group of women to stay at home with their children while this other group of women was choosing to enter into the labor market.

And all this set the stage for welfare reform?

Yes, with that kind of backdrop — with two earners becoming necessary, women making this conscious decision to enter into the labor market and the general dismay about the existing welfare reforms system — we started really to think seriously about how we should do this differently, and what should we expect of moms and so forth, and I think that’s why the work requirements became so steep in the welfare reform debate.

And with child support, by the mid-1990s when all of these reforms were being put into place, nonmarital childbearing had risen from being something that was not very pervasive to nearly one-third of all births, 25 to 28 percent. Now, it’s at 41 to 42 percent.

What were the hallmarks of the 1996 welfare reform?

Welfare reform really did punctuate this idea that fathers should be responsible for providing for their children, that the state will do it in limited circumstances, but that we want the fathers to be the ones who are responsible for this. And there was a very strong notion at that point that men who weren’t paying for their child support were not involved in their children’s lives, were just deadbeat and avoiding the system.

The Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) made it so that the guidelines had to be more specific, and that the states had to enforce them more carefully. It changed what the performance measures were for states — basically, if you set an order, you have to collect on it and there could be penalties if you didn’t. And it really punctuated the idea that child support is a direct link with welfare, that there really isn’t a way for a mom who’s going to go on public assistance to avoid seeking child support.

In 1994 our rolls on welfare were some of the largest that they had been; they had really ballooned up to the point where upwards of 7 percent of kids were on welfare rolls. There was no end in sight because of the increase in nonmarital childbearing and who was now coming into the system was a different family type than what the system was initially set up to accommodate. And that, I think, remains one of the biggest challenges of our system.

And so the initial system was set up to replicate the nuclear family of dad as breadwinner, mom as homemaker, and now you have families in which mom and dad may have never lived together. They may have lived together when the child was born for a short period of time. They may or may not have shared resources. The father may have been contributing or not contributing.

And that gets us to the massive amount of unpaid child support — $113 billion and counting.

Right. Each state does it differently, but Texas will determine what a noncustodial parent’s income is. If he says zero, well, there isn’t zero child support, there will often be a presumption that he should be working full time, full year at at least minimum wage. So the judge will often set what’s called a minimum wage order, and it’s about $215 a month in Texas, which is about 20 percent of your net income of that. So here is a father who is now going to owe $215 a month plus about $50 a month in medical support. And he did not disclose that he had any income at the time that he established those awards.

It could be even worse, it could be — and this happens very often — that that man comes in, but his child is 2 years old. And now, either he’s been evading for two years, or he didn’t know he had this child, or they were together for almost all that time, but now they’ve separated. There could be lots of different reasons, but the child’s now 2 years old. The judge could order at that time that not only does he owe $200 each month moving forward, but he owes $200 a month for those two years …

Even if they were together but not married?

That’s right. And so this back child support is something that’s very real. A lot of the men start off in this hole that they just simply cannot dig themselves out of. For some of these guys, having a $5,000 arrears payment, it would be like a middle income person having a $50,000 debt that they’re just supposed to somehow work their way out of. It feels almost impossible.

What about the people who argue that this just doesn’t make sense?

I think it is actually not a simple answer. We do need to feel like men are being held accountable for their children, or noncustodial parents are supporting their children in some way. I do think that it’s reasonable for people to say somehow men have to demonstrate that they are going to provide for their children. Even if it is $200 a month and even if they don’t have a job, we are going to hold them accountable.

That just ignores, though, the fact that we can say that, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be able to pay it. We often know that if they’re not able to pay their child support formally, that they’re less likely to be able to contribute informally. They’re going to stay away from the child; they’re going to be less involved.

So although it makes sense on some level that we want to find a way to hold these dads accountable, in fact, what we’re doing is making it less likely that he’s going to be engaged in his child’s life by providing informally or being involved in other sorts of ways, and it’s going to cause difficulties in the co-parenting relationship between the mom and the father.

And for those reasons, there are proposals by the Obama administration — and other folks have been advocating this for quite a while — that say, let’s set what we call right-sized orders, that we actually take into account what he actually has the ability to pay when we establish these child support orders, and that we’re hoping that if he pays $25 a month now, that we can modify that order later when he gets more income and he’ll pay a little more and so forth.

This applies also to fathers who are incarcerated. We have a huge number of fathers who are incarcerated at some point in their child’s life. But it has not been a material reason to alter your child support award amount. So that’s another change proposed by the Obama administration, that if you are incarcerated, that we modify the child support order in some way to reflect that you cannot earn an income during that time.

In Texas, the average arrears payment that a father owes who’s been incarcerated coming out of prison is $8,000. When he comes out with high levels of arrears, he’s less likely to enter into the formal labor market and have his wages immediately garnished, so it just sends him back to the underground economy and the chances of recidivism and incarceration are really high.

Ultimately, then, what’s the purpose of child support system?

The states’ incentives really are to set amounts that can be collected on that make it look like they are reaching collection goals. But the performance measures at the federal level are based on the proportion that you collect based on the proportion that’s established.

So the states could benefit if they move to this more right-sized orders approach. But we have to be careful that that big dollar amount out there of what we’re collecting doesn’t become the driving force of how to maintain our child support enforcement system.

To be perfectly honest, I think if I could be queen for the day, in today’s families, I would change the presumption that there is an equal division of time and an equal division of responsibility for providing for that child. That’s not going to work for every family. Some of them have never been contributing, some have both been contributing but at disproportionate amounts.

But if we started with the 50-50 presumption, then the judge could work with the families to say, well, how do we get to some form of equality that works for you guys?

If we really started with this presumption that we’re going to jointly care for our children, even though the parents are not married to each other, and then let’s work out a system that seems fair in both the amount of time that we’re spending and the amount of resources that we’re spending, that it costs to raise this particular child, it’s a lot more work on the part of the state to figure out what that is, but it just feels like that would be more fair.

For our low-income guys who can’t afford anything, the moms are having to work, why don’t they provide the child care? We’re not ready to go that way with our families, but our families have changed so much, we need a system that starts to keep up with them some way.

from NPR

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Child Support Laws Crippling Poor Fathers

by Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph.D

The more one learns about our system of criminal justice, the more one must wonder about some of its senseless policies.  That the United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world is pretty much common knowledge to most.  But in case you have been asleep at the wheel, here are some mind-numbing numbers. With about five percent of the world’s population, the United States is home to nearly 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.  About 2.2 million people are locked behind bars on a given day.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 1,561,500 inmates in state and federal prisons at year-end 2014 (serving terms of one year or more) and another 744,660 in local jails at midyear 2014.  About 6.9 million Americans (one in 35 adults) were under some form of correctional supervision (incarcerated, on parole or probation) at yearend 2013.  The number of adult Americans with felony convictions is estimated to be about 24 million (8.6%).  About 25 percent of black American adults have a felony conviction.

That’s the big picture.  However, throughout our criminal justice system there are laws, regulations, and issues that are antithetical to the notion of a free and democratic society.  The coercive and often deadly policing of neighborhoods of color, discriminatory “stop and frisk” laws, criminalization of the mentally ill, bail policies that unfairly impact poor suspects, and what many consider to be the inhumane over dependence on and arbitrary use of solitary confinement.  Family members and friends are often forced to travel inordinate distances to visit children, friends, and other people they care for.  They are charged exorbitant fees to speak with them by telephone and are treated without dignity during visitation.  Much of this has occurred because various elected officials compete to see who can be toughest on people who defy the law.  Many books and hundreds of journal articles have been written about our unjust system of crime control.  My dissertation focused on the impact of incarceration on the earnings and employment of indigent fathers.

InmateThe Washington Post ran an article on one particularly perplexing policy impacting poor inmates which disproportionately affects black and Latino fathers.  Child support obligations continue during periods of incarceration which often amass significant amounts of debt while these fathers are behind bars.  Once released, indebted fathers are under pressure to pay down their arrears.  Failure to do so results in more late fees and penalties and could ultimately put them back in prison.  In many jurisdictions this occurs because incarceration is considered “voluntary impoverishment”.  The term generally refers to those who quit their jobs or otherwise forfeit income in order to avoid paying an ex-spouse alimony or child support.  A classic example might be Marvin Gaye’s 1978 release of “Here My Dear,” thought to be a lackluster recording whose proceeds were going to his ex-wife, Anna Gordy Gaye.

The idea that poor fathers would deliberately get themselves locked up to avoid paying child support is ludicrous on its face and a ridiculous justification for current policy.  Columbia University social work professor Ronald B. Mincy and Urban Institute scholar Elaine Sorensen first wrote about child support policies that were burying poor incarcerated fathers back in 1998 differentiating “deadbeat” dads from “turnips”.  Deadbeat dads were those who could afford to pay but did not.  Turnips were fathers who were unable to pay—the thinking being the old adage that you can’t get blood from a turnip.  Although there is a judge in Alabama who thinks giving blood is a reasonable substitute.

The Obama Administration believes current child support policy that piles debts on poor incarcerated fathers is helping no one.  It does nothing for the mother or her child’s circumstance.  Housing the father as an inmate is significantly more costly than what the state could recoup from fathers for welfare payments to their children.  Fathers are often removed permanently from the lives of their children which one could argue might be good or bad.  The Office of Child Support Enforcement has drafted new rules that will go into effect in 2017 that changes the definition of incarceration to “involuntary” impoverishment and would allow indigent incarcerated fathers to push the pause button or negotiate a payment reduction while incarcerated.

Not surprising Republican lawmakers oppose what appears to be a commonsense rule change.   Utah Senator Orin Hatch and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have introduced legislation to block the new rules.  There are many things wrong with our current system of criminal justice and reform is moving at a glacial pace.  In the meantime, much too much human capital is being obliterated by the many indelible scars being inflicted on far too many people—particularly African American males.

Child Support Laws Crippling Poor Fathers was originally published @ Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy » Charles Lewis.

Child Support, Prison & Crushing Debt

child support shacklesOf the 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States, about half are parents, and at least 1 in 5 has a child-support obligation. For most, the debt will keep piling up throughout their imprisonment: By law or by practice, child-support agencies in much of the country consider incarceration a form of “voluntary impoverishment.” Parents like Harris, the logic goes, have only themselves to blame for not earning a living. But that may be about to change.

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What does this tell you about overdue child support?

Republicans opposed to new regulations

The Obama administration has authorized a new set of regulations that would reclassify incarceration as “involuntary,” giving parents the right to push the pause button on child-support payments. The regulations are set to be published early next year and implemented by states by 2017.

Congressional Republicans oppose the new policy. They argue that it would undercut the 1996 welfare reform act, which pressed states to locate missing fathers and bill them for child support so taxpayers wouldn’t bear the full burden of their children’s welfare. (What idiots, the debt can’t be paid anyway.)

“I am fundamentally opposed to policies that allow parents to abdicate their responsibilities, which, in turn, results in more families having to go on welfare,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a speech in June on the Senate floor. Obama’s new regulations, he said, “would undermine a key feature of welfare reform, which is that single mothers can avoid welfare if fathers comply with child-support orders.”

Frances Pardus-Abbadessa, head of child-support enforcement for New York City, said: “The complaint we often hear is, ‘Why should incarcerated fathers, of all people, be the ones to get a break from their obligations — and at a cost to the taxpayer?’ “

Administration officials and their supporters counter that billing fathers while they’re in prison does little but dig them deeper into debt.

“Billing poor fathers doesn’t help poor mothers and kids become less poor,” said Jacquelyn Boggess, a poverty expert with the Center for Family Policy and Practice.

“All it creates,” she said, “is a highly indebted individual.”

Debt piles up

For Earl Harris, the problem was keeping up. He had a job in prison, cleaning the kitchen, but it paid only $7.50 a month — well short of the $168 the state of Missouri was billing him.

“Didn’t they know I was in prison?” he asks. “Weren’t they the ones that put me in there?”

When he got out in 2001, the unpaid amount was listed on his credit report — and pursued by an agency with the power to garnish 65 percent of his wages, intercept his tax returns, freeze his bank account, suspend his driver’s license and, if he failed to pay, lock him up again. By then, his debt had surged to more than $10,000.

Harris entered barbering school but soon returned to drug dealing and was thrown back into prison for nearly a decade. Meanwhile, his child-support debt swelled to more than $25,000.

Incarceration currently deemed ‘voluntary’

Harris’s plight is not unusual. The Marshall Project interviewed nearly three dozen noncustodial parents in 10 states; they all left prison owing between $10,000 and $110,000 in child support. Mostly fathers who are disproportionately black and poor, these parents faced prosecution for not repaying the debt, even after their children were grown.

And what they were able to pay did not necessarily go to their children or the mother. The state often kept their money as repayment for welfare, child care or Medicaid benefits that had been provided to the family while the dad was locked up.

To address the issue, the Obama administration began drafting new rules about four years ago. As currently written, the rules would forbid state child-support agencies from classifying incarceration as “voluntary,” granting parents the legal right to a reduction in payments while they’re in prison, a right that does not exist in 14 states.

The rules would require agencies to inform incarcerated parents of this right and would encourage agencies to provide a reduction in payments automatically. And they would urge states to transfer all payments directly to custodial parents — mostly mothers — and their children.

The administration proposal would provide about $35 million over the next five years to modernize the child-support system and to provide job training, job placement, bus fare, and other services to fathers facing prosecution for nonpayment.

The rule “will make sure that arrears don’t accumulate endlessly while a parent is incarcerated,” said Vicki Turetsky, President Barack Obama’s commissioner of child-support enforcement. “Our goal is to collect, month by month, for kids. We can do that when parents are employed, not in debt.”

Hatch and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have introduced legislation to block the new rules, though neither lawmaker has pushed to advance the measure.

Ron Haskins, a child-support expert at the Brookings Institution, said he and other conservatives actually support parts of the new regulations. But they worry, he said, that the policy “could begin a long process of undermining the child-support concept, which they strongly believe in.”

The struggle after prison

Back in North St. Louis, Earl Harris, now 38, has put in his hours as an apprentice barber and is one written test away from getting his license. In the meantime, he is living in a halfway house and working at a factory across the river in Illinois, packaging Febreze canisters and Swiffer mops.

His hours are 4 p.m. to midnight, though he arrives an hour early to make sure he doesn’t lose his spot to another temp worker waiting outside the building in hopes of getting a shift. After work, he typically gets a cousin to drive him back to his dorm room, where he sleeps from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. before heading to his daily support group for fathers.

By 8 a.m. the dads are circled up, talking about having kids and debt. They have come because the program helps them find a job, develop strategies for handling their arrears and work on their parenting skills. They also get free legal help. Many of them were incarcerated, almost exclusively for selling drugs, and everyone is wearing a jacket and tie, the uniform of employment.

One father, Louis Moore, said his debt soared to almost $60,000 while he was inside. Allan Newcomer’s is more than $68,000. “Everybody in the penitentiaries was getting the letters,” Newcomer said.

Lisl Williams, a former judge who now works with the fathers, said even if they spend their money on food, clothes or toys for their children, it does not reduce their debt. In many cases, she said, the whole family — the mother, aunts, uncles, cousins — chips in to help pay it, and then the money they pay goes to the government as repayment for welfare they received long ago.

Because the fathers don’t have large incomes to garnish, bank accounts to tap or property to seize, she adds, they are more likely to face re-incarceration for not paying their arrears.

‘I know I’m the bad man’ (Oh, really?)

Another dad, Corey Mason, said he was incarcerated and already racking up child-support debt when he got a notice saying he might have another child by a different mother. He was instructed to go to the medical wing, get a DNA swab and send it to the agency. When they confirmed his paternity, he started getting a new set of child-support bills.

Mason sent several handwritten letters to the agency explaining that he was in prison. He said he never got a response. (So who is really bad? You know!)

Now that he’s out, Mason has a job at the Marriott hotel downtown. He works the graveyard shift, cleaning, shutting down the bar, providing towels to customers who ask for extra. Because the child-support agency garnishes well over half his weekly paycheck, he turned down a recent promotion.

“I want to grow in the company. But I don’t want to work that much harder if they’re just going to take all of it to pay for history,” Mason said.

“I know I’m the bad man. But I’m working harder now than I ever have, and it’s like this is designed to keep me behind, backed up against the wall, in debt for the rest of my life.” (Hear the defeat and fear? That’s what they want!)

Obama: ‘Too many fathers M.I.A, AWOL’

Obama has frequently scolded the same absentee fathers who now stand to benefit from his regulations. “Too many fathers are M.I.A., too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes,” he told a Chicago audience in 2008 as a candidate for president.

Some fathers interviewed for this story had multiple children — one man said he had 12 — by different mothers. Many seemed less than eager to find employment. A few served time for domestic violence.

Some mothers say these men do not deserve to be freed of their debt.

“There’s a real tension here, as a matter of public policy,” said Joan Entmacher, an expert on family poverty at the National Women’s Law Center. “There are absolutely fathers who evade their responsibilities, saying, ‘Oh, I can’t pay that,’ and not even trying. We don’t want to simply reward that attitude.”

Even if a father is a deadbeat, however, the evidence is clear: Noncustodial fathers are far more likely to pay child support, and otherwise reengage with their families, if payments are manageable.

In a 2012 study by the Center for Policy Research, a private nonprofit research organization, fathers paid a much higher percentage of their monthly obligations when offered relief from unpayable state-owed debt. In studies in Maryland, Illinois and California, fewer than 15 percent remained noncompliant once the old debts were reduced and they were given a schedule of regular payments. And the fathers most likely to abide by “debt compromise” agreements were those who had been incarcerated.

Boggess, the child-support analyst, said that trying to collect the accumulated debt is “like squeezing an empty bottle and hoping something comes out.

“These fathers are poor, period. Their arrears are uncollectible, period,” she said. “They’ve never even met anyone who had $30,000.”

States taking action

Many states have already taken action. In 36 states and the District, incarceration is no longer officially considered “voluntary” impoverishment, and an imprisoned father is legally entitled to have his monthly child-support bill modified to as little as $50 a month or, in rare cases, stopped altogether.

But it is still up to the father to prove he is incarcerated, and then to file for the reduction. This involves navigating a maze of paperwork from prison, usually with no lawyer, irregular access to phones and, in many cases, an eighth- or ninth-grade education.

The most common pitfall, said Bo Twiggs, the director of UpNext, a program in New York City that helps recently incarcerated fathers, is that the incarcerated dad has no idea his child support is piling up because he isn’t getting the notices. The debt keeps compounding – and federal law prohibits the reduction of child-support bills retroactively.

“It’s hard for these fathers to understand that they can’t wait, they can’t adjust to life in prison before dealing with child support, that they need to take action immediately because the debt will be permanent,” Twiggs said. “That’s really counterintuitive.”

When these fathers get out of prison, they often don’t notice the debt until the state begins pursuing it, “which forces them to go underground instead of rejoining the formal economy,” said Turetsky, Obama’s commissioner of child-support enforcement.

Indeed, research shows that the two most important factors in a former prisoner’s successful reentry into the community are employment and positive relationships with family. Both of these are hindered by the aggressive pursuit of child-support arrears: Garnishing 65 percent of a father’s paycheck, so he is tempted to earn cash off the books; suspending his driver’s license so he can’t get to work; sending him bills that are so far beyond his capacity to pay that he keeps his distance from his family.

“I see it all the time,” Twiggs said: “Not reengaging with the family. Noncompliance with parole and child support. Under-the-table efforts at income. Self-defeat, high anxiety, general institutional distrust. All of that is triggered by this absolutely overwhelming, impossible feeling of debt.”

portions from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Disconnect On How Child Support Laws Are Viewed & How They Work

reviewed by Moody Jim Rathbone

child support formulasThe public views court-ordered formulas calculating child support in the United States and England to be unfair, according to a study released Monday. Articles proclaim that researchers hope that this will be valuable information for policymakers dealing with family law issues. Existing child support law is not consistent with the basic application of fairness that most people have.

Here’s the kicker. The research ultimately found that the public believes child support should be adjusted higher or lower based on the mother’s income (assuming she is the custodial parent caring for the children). If you take this statement alone and at face value, the danger and disconnect here seems to be that the income of the father is ignored. Hm-m.

In some states, child support is based solely on the noncustodial parent’s income, while in others both incomes are used in the calculation with an emphasis on the noncustodial parent’s income. Each state has a set formula for judges to use in child support cases.

justice and moneyThis study used face-to-face questions and feelings about certain courtroom scenarios. Respondents were found to be three times as responsive than the law when it came to adjusting child support based on income changes of the noncustodial parent. In one hypothetical scenario, if the noncustodial parent made less than a custodial parent, the amount of child support would be lowered, by $100. In that case, the respondents reported they would actually lower the amount by $300. Judges have grown to be jaded and unfair.

The study also found that once a father was ordered to pay a certain amount, that percentage of his income should remain the same even if his income increased or decreased.

The law doesn’t pay any attention to remarriage of the custodial parent, but respondents wanted to take into account the stepparent’s income. This is also a dangerous precedent, allowing for more ravaging of real families by the state. This begins to tell me that a fair percentage of participants in this study were sympathetic, yet disconnected from the damage that child support is already doing to families.

Non-custodial parents have become targets for a state-operated racketeering and extortion operation. Increasingly, the state is proving to be the mafia, even though most of us have become conditioned to this. Is that an insane statement? Hardly. It becomes apparent when you are the target.

dad-slavery-2Child support is routinely established at levels higher than the noncustodial parent can pay. Child support is determined by judges who refer to an income table and set of guidelines. Judges do have the authority to depart from those guidelines and modify amounts depending on certain circumstances, but they must justify in writing why a case needs different treatment. This may, or may not be a problem. Yet, the difficulty of modifying court-ordered child support in situations where non-custodial parents have lost their job or had a pay cut is another shortcoming of the current system. Fear is designed to be the continued motivation for the non-custodial parent.

What the study found to be unique was that respondents agreed across many boundaries. “You get that same result no matter what — if it’s about women and men, there’s no difference. High-income people and low-income people are the same, same pattern. If they’re Democrats and Republicans, no difference,” said Ira Ellman, an author of the study and professor of psychology and law at Arizona State University. “You get this result over and over again, it’s true in the U.K. also, so that’s a powerful result, I think.”

Is this study valid in your mind? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

The Child and Family Blog

Deadbeat Dad not even a Dad

by Charlie Mitchell

“Is it working?” That’s an easy question most of the time. Problem is, when lawmakers and regulation writers fix something broken, they rarely ask. They stick to their fix whether it works or not.

Alaexander-child-support-victimConsider the predicament of Carnell Alexander.

In 1991, Alexander, who lives in Michigan, was pulled over for a traffic violation. When police “ran” his license, an arrest warrant popped up. Nonpayment of child support. Cuffed, taken to jail.

Talk about ruining your day.

It seems an ex-girlfriend had identified him as the father of her son who was born in 1978.

He didn’t think he could be the father, so when he posted bond he decided to find her. She wasn’t at the address in any of the public records. He knew her legal name may have changed and he couldn’t afford a private investigator.

He was on his own. Eventually, they met. “Well, no,” she said (or something like that) when he asked if he had a son. The mom confessed that she had become lean of funds and applied for public benefits. The paperwork required she name the father of her child. She didn’t mean any harm, but no name, no check. She felt she had no choice. And she was sorry, by the way. Paternity tests confirmed Alexander was not the father.

Same fate could await many, many men in Mississippi.

Now, there are a more twists and turns in the facts of the Michigan case, but we’ve got enough for now.

Let’s look at this from the viewpoint of those who decided a mom could not get a check unless the name of a dad was provided.

That’s a reasonable rule, isn’t it?

Why should taxpayers subsidize clothing, food and housing for a child when a biological parent, perhaps with a fat paycheck, has danced away?

Lots of dads do. Welfare rolls could be chopped if more men would be men and meet the obligations that come with parenthood.

It was a good fix. If it worked.

Back to Alexander. The state insists it tried to serve him with court papers, but the person paid to provide the summons lied about it. He wasn’t served. (Seems to be a lot of lying in Michigan.)

When Alexander did go before a judge, most recently in February, she refused to laugh it all off and send him on his way. Instead, she ruled that because so much time had passed he might have to pay the state $30,000 for aid to a child that is not his, that he didn’t know existed for more than 10 years and is now, what, 37 years old? There’s also some discrepancy in the paperwork; perhaps at one time in some way he did agree to support the child, but likely before the paternity test ruled him out.

Slippery slopes leading to nonsensical conclusions are not at all unusual in a bureaucracy, any bureaucracy. Explosive program growth is part of this, too.

Desires to help lead to programs, programs lead to rules and then the rules need rules. The premise that a child should not go hungry is valid. The premise that parents, if able, must support their own children is valid. Rarely, however, does the machinery of government take a step back to see (1) if desired goals are being met and (2) if not, why not.

Instead, more and more rules are created and less and less efficiency results. No one understands the IRS Code. The document containing the law, rules, regulations and interpretations of federal tax law is 70,000 pages. The average Bible is 900; the U.S. Constitution could easily fit on 12. Social Security kicked off as a required pension plan with contributions returned to retirees. It was never to cost a penny of public funds, but is running deficits of about $77 billion each year.

The takeaway, of course, is that in ways large and small good ideas don’t always pan out or, said another way, fail to perform as intended.

Some legal scholars now advocate every new law at every level of governance contain an automatic repeal — forcing a review.

Not a bad idea.

But Alexander has no time for abstractions. He’s still got that $30,000 debt hanging over him. “I feel like I’m standing in front of a brick wall with nowhere to go,” he said.

Regulators may propose mandatory paternity tests going forward, but that adds time, expense, confusion expense and more complications.

Another fix to fix the fix of the fix.

A Welfare Nation Created by Broken Homes

by Marshall Frank

Insanity definition: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

kangaroo courtIn a perfect world, all children would grow up in secure, loving families with a mom and dad, good role models and plenty of love. Alas, the world is not perfect. And the less perfect it becomes, the worse it is for all of us, not only those who are trapped into despair, poverty and neglect.

Kids who come from broken homes are lucky to have parents who still talk to each other, who love and care for the child, and who support, educate and meet psychological needs. Too often that’s not the case. Some fathers abandon their duty-bound responsibilities. Why? Because they can.

dollar bondageA 2012 study of deadbeat dads, aired by CNN, indicates that $100 billion a year was owed in unpaid child support. Taxpayers pick up the tab for nearly half that amount in the form of non-reimbursed welfare. Mothers comprise 82 percent of the custodial parents in broken home situations. Child support payments represent 45 percent of their income. Single mothers with multiple kids rely mostly on welfare for total income.

Recent studies show that 1.6 million babies are born to unwed mothers every year. Among blacks, 73 percent of new babies have no father at home, leaving mothers to bear the burden. For Asians, 17 percent; Whites, 29 percent.

It’s not only about financial support. Spin-off problems can be worse. Sure, it’s important to clothe and feed children, but needs go beyond physical welfare. It is equally important to develop kids into well-adjusted youths who do not turn to the streets for negative love and attention outside the home.

child abuseAye, there’s the rub, the unseen, unmeasured consequence of dysfunctional or abusive parenting, or no parenting at all. Psychological damage to children can ultimately cost taxpayers far more than child support checks, particularly after kids reach puberty and engage in behaviors that land them in jails, rehab centers or county morgues. Meanwhile, taxpayers must bear the costs of fighting crime and trauma, not only within the justice system, but in emergency rooms, property loss, physical loss, lost wages, victimization costs and more.

johnson-amendmentWhat kids from broken families seek out in the streets is what they often don’t get at home: acceptance, attention, guidance and feeling important. Thus, the substitutes. Boys enter gangs. Girls sell bodies. Kids use drugs — to belong. Any mention of morality is laughable. And we pay for it all.

Street gangs are replete with stories about mothers who had multiple kids from miscellaneous fathers who never felt the need to be part of their children’s lives. The mothers get all the help possible from Uncle Sam. Moms are better off staying unmarried because the government is a sure thing, the dads are not. It’s a vicious cycle.

When you hear about aberrant teens, violence and gangs, remember that most of these kids never had a chance from the moment they were born. Many were born of dysfunctional teens themselves, grossly unprepared for motherhood. They never learned how to parent because their parents were just as dysfunctional.

The Great Society of President Lyndon Johnson, it seems, has backfired. It was all about expanding welfare. From 1965 to 2008, according to Forbes, $16 trillion had been appropriated for welfare programs for the poor. That’s increased another $2 trillion since. Johnson may have meant to eliminate poverty, but it created a dependent society instead. When Johnson was president, more than 75 percent of black babies were born with fathers in the family. Dads stayed home to help raise kids. Not today.

Meanwhile, we continue to hear the same old drumbeat about the need for government to spread the wealth and take care of the poor. Seems that hasn’t worked very well.

I guess we must be insane.

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The Federal Scheme to Destroy Father-Child Relationships

by Jake Morphonios

war on fathersCongress would feign admit its own dubious contribution to the suffering of America’s children. Rather, these politicians promulgate the myth that they are helping children through federal and state welfare entitlement programs. It is, in fact, these very programs which are responsible for the out of control rampage against children. Here is how the scam works.

The federal government levies taxes against citizens to redistribute as welfare entitlements among needy applicants. Congress created the Social Security Act, a section of which is called Title IV. Title IV describes how tax dollars will be distributed among the States to subsidize their individual welfare programs. In order for States to tap into the federal treasure chest, containing billions of dollars, they must demonstrate that they are complying with Title IV mandates to collect child support revenues. In other words, to get money from the federal government, each State must become a child support collection and reporting agency.

stress single motherEvery unwed or single mother seeking welfare assistance must disclose on her application the identities of the fathers of her children and how much child support the fathers have been ordered by a family court to pay. She must also commit to continuously reporting the father’s payments so that the State can count the money as “collected” to the federal government’s Office of Child Support Enforcement. As with all bureaucracies, this process has developed into a monstrosity that chews up and spits out the very people it was designed to help.

dollar bondageStates have huge financial incentives to increase the amount of child support it can report to the federal government as “collected”. To increase collection efforts, States engage in the immoral practice of dividing children from their fathers in family courts. Have you ever wondered why family courts award custody to mothers in 80%-90% of all custody cases, even when the father is determined to be just as suitable a parent? It is because the amount of child support ordered by the State is largely determined by how much time the child spends with each parent. This means that the State “collects” less child support if parents share equal custody. By prohibiting fathers from having equal custody and time with their children, the State’s child support coffers are increased and federal dollars are received.

obamas new dealOpponents try to paint loving fathers as “deadbeat dads” for daring to challenge the mother-take-all system of family law. This is nothing more than diversionary propaganda. The concern of fathers is not that they are unwilling to support their children financially. This is not an argument against paying child support. Any father that cares about his child will do everything in his power to provide for the child. The concern is, rather, that children are being separated from their fathers by family courts because the State stands to reap huge financial rewards as a result of the father’s loss of custody. The higher the order of child support, the more money the State can collect – even if the amount ordered by the court far exceeds the reasonable needs of the child or if the father is required to take second and third jobs to keep up with outrageous support orders and escape certain incarceration. The truth is that most fathers don’t care about the financial aspects of these family court verdicts nearly as much as they care about having their time with their children eliminated for nefarious government purposes.

The root of this evil is a State-level addiction to federal tax dollars being doled out as entitlement monies by a monolithic federal government. In the wake of this horror are millions of children drowning for lack of the care, guidance, and companionship of their fathers. Statistics and empirical evidence universally confirm that children forcibly separated from their fathers by family courts are considerably more likely to suffer anxiety and depression, develop drug addiction, engage in risky sexual activity, break the law, and commit suicide. This travesty must end.

homelessUnconstitutional federal bureaucracy creates many of the societal ills it claims to be trying to solve. There are several steps incremental steps that could be taken to restore a child’s right to the companionship of both parents. For example, citizens should insist that States abide by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. No father should be automatically deprived of his fundamental right to the custody of his children without due process of law. Being a male is not a crime. Absent a finding of true danger from a parent, family courts should order shared parenting rights and equal time sharing for divorcing parents. These rights are fundamental and should not be abridged. The automatic presumption of custody-to-the-mother is unconstitutional.

whippedThe history of America is brim with examples of the federal government denying basic rights to its citizens. Women were denied the right to vote until the women’s suffrage movement secured the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Black Americans also were denied the right to vote and suffered myriad other cruel and humiliating indignities under the law until the civil rights movement brought about desegregation, put an end to Jim Crow legislation and compelled the enactment of the 15th and 24th Amendments to the Constitution. In each of these examples, society was slow to recognize that a problem even existed or that some of our laws were unjust. It took considerable time, concerted effort, self-sacrifice and perhaps even divine providence to realign concurrent societal paradigms with the principles of liberty and justice for all.

Our generation is not exempt from similar assaults on liberty. While many just causes may stake claims for redress of grievances, one group, more than any other, pleads for immediate support. The need to defend the rights of this group of American citizens, reeling from the unjust consequences of state-sponsored oppression, is before us. It is time to stand up for the rights of children and demand their equal access to both parents.

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