December 2016 | Daniel Schroeder, American Enterprise Institute (AEI)

The Limited Reach of the Child Support Enforcement System

This report examines the declining caseload in the national child support enforcement program in comparison to the population of child support-eligible families, which has remained unchanged over the past two decades.  The report attributes most of the decline to the reduction in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) cases, which shrinks the pipeline of mandatory referrals to the child support program, coupled with the real or apparent decline in earning capacities of low income, undereducated non-custodial parents.

The author posits that recruitment to the child support program is hampered by a lack of awareness, ability, or willingness to engage with child support among those who could benefit but are not receiving TANF, and recommends policy approaches to compel needy families to cooperate with child support.  These include: automatic enrollment of certain divorced and unmarried parents, automatic enrollment of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, elimination of loopholes that allow states to avoid serving the neediest families, and workforce development.

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