fare them well

tracking what’s changing for welfare, women and children

Shouldn’t child support actually help children?, one blogger asks

A blog by Maureen Lane on DMI Blog has an accurate and understandable synopsis of an ongoing concern for parents on welfare: payments going back to the state.

As I reported in November, a new study by the Institute for Research on Poverty, Public Affairs and Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that:

“Child-support payments for children on welfare are being used in almost every state to recoup state and federal welfare expenses. When Congress created the child-support system 30 years ago, recouping welfare costs by siphoning off collected child-support payments was an explicit goal. Yet close to half the states pass along none of the collected child-support while most others pay only $50 per child, even when a non-custodial parent pays several hundred more.”

In other words, when a custodial parent gets both welfare assistance and child support, many state governments collect the child support to make up the difference.

As a forward-thinking state, Wisconsin officials enacted waiver that allowed the state to forward all money collected to families. As a result, more non-custodial parents came forward and paid more of the money they owed, making families less reliant on aid and making up for any short-term loss of government revenue spent on welfare, according DMI blog.

However, the Bush administration did not renew the waiver, perhaps reflecting a greater emphasis on foreign affairs, rather than low-income economic issues.

According to their motto, DMI Blog covers “Politics, Policy and the American Dream.” At least one of these is missing when it comes to child support and welfare policies.

December 10, 2007 Posted by | Other Opinions, Pass-Through | , , , , , | Leave a comment

NYT says critics calling for change in child support for welfare families

New York Times

Picture Source: Sally Ryan for The New York Times

Against a doctor’s advice, Karla Hart, a mother of four, took a part-time job at a day care center in Milwaukee to help pay her bills.

She’s the face of a Dec. 1 story in the The New York Times on a state policy that blocks child support payments for parents on welfare.

The Times pulled a clipping from her monthly child-support statement to show why she puts her health on the line to pay her bills:

  • Paid by the father: $229.40
  • Amount deducted to repay federal costs of welfare: $132.18

According to the NYT, close to half the states pass along none of collected child support to families on welfare, while most others pay only $50 a month to a custodial parent, usually the mother, even though the father may be paying hundreds of dollars each month.

Critics say using child support to repay welfare costs harms children instead of helping them, contradicting the national goal of strengthening families, and is a flaw in the generally lauded national campaign to increase collections.

In an Oct. “fare them well” report, “Families benefit from ex-offender jobs,” a story from Indiana supported this notion. The entry highlighted a program in Indianapolis focused on giving recent ex-offenders jobs in order establish an income that could help pay child support as well as court fees.

Work Force Inc.’s mantra is one reason many welfare advocates are pushing for a bill introduced in the house last Feb., which if approved, would allow $50 from a non-custodial paycheck to immediately pass-through to a child, instead of being automatically extracted as restitution to the state for welfare costs.

It’s an outstanding journalistic example of the rising wave of voices speaking out against the prevent of pass-through.

December 3, 2007 Posted by | Bills Bills Bills, Other Opinions, Pass-Through, Politicking | , , , , | Leave a comment

Talk with Tom Caplan, expert on child support pass-through laws

In Oct. 2007, the Institute for Research on Poverty released a pivotal study on a hot topic for welfare recipients. Many state laws allow the state to collect $50 a month from welfare recipients who also receive child support.

Today, I spoke with Tom Caplan, associate director of the institute the study and implications it has on the correlation between child support and welfare benefits.

Click below to listen to the chat http://hilaryp.podbean.com/medias/play/aHR0cDovL21lZGlhMS5wb2RiZWFuLmNvbS9wb2RjYXN0LWJsb2ctYXVkaW8tdmlkZW8tbWVkaWEtZmlsZXMvYmxvZ3MvMjc0OTEvdXBsb2Fkcy9XaXNjV2VsZmFyZUludGVydmlldzEubXAz/WiscWelfareInterview1.mp3>Listen%20to%20this%20episode</a></font>

Can’t hear the audio? Read on for a full copy of the transcript.

Hilary: How important is the topic of welfare is to your research institute?

Tom: The institute was founded 40 years ago during the war on poverty, in the 1960s.

Hilary: This study specifically dealt with the difference between disregard and pass-through?

Tom: Before the big national welfare reform of 1996, the U.S. government had one policy for how states should treat child support. Any private child support that exceeded $50 just reimbursed the state and federal government. So after 1996, the policy changed and states weren’t required anymore to disregard the first $50 of child support. Most states chose not to, so that every dollar of child support that came in, none of it went to the children.

Hilary: Do you think the general public understands the importance of having pass-through?

Tom: No, I don’t think so at all. On the one hand, look, we’re giving these people public benefits, and that’s meeting their basic needs. Any money that comes in from public child support, that ought to reimbursement the public. On the other hand, if someone said that ‘gee, we’re not providing that much with public welfare benefits so that if a family is able to receive private child support, it ought to be on top of those basic welfare benefits. I think people would believe that too.

Hilary: The study found that pass-through has had a negative effect on the non-custodial parent being responsible and continuing to upkeep their payments. Do you feel like that’s accurate?

Tom: The study was setup by states where some people in are randomly assigned to get pass-through, and some parents were assigned not to get pass-through. If we could look at  state policies where it was all done one-way and it wasn’t an experiment, we’d have a more accurate account.

Hilary: But what if people don’t see a benefit in having $50 more dollars going to a family?

Tom: It’s surprising that absent parents know that the money is going to the family, and their willingness does not always happen.  I think the supposition, that pass-through does not does not increase the willingness of a non-custodial parent to pay, the likely reason for that is that in most states it’s pretty hard to get away with not paying.

Hilary: With all of those variables taken into account, we’re still seeing more single moms now more than ever. DO you think we’ll see more push for pass-through?

Tom: Well, I do. The federal government just passed legislation that allows states to do pass-throughs. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a majority of states do this.

Hilary: Where could someone who wants more information about pass-through go onine?

Tom: It’s: www.irp.wisc.edu/publications

November 19, 2007 Posted by | Kid Concerns, Legislation, Listening, Money Matters, Pass-Through, Related Reports, Research | , , , | 1 Comment