By James Jones, B.MORE Initiative Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
In 1995, President William “Bill” Clinton proclaimed August National Child Support Awareness Month. The goal was to raise awareness about the critical role child support plays in the lives of millions of American children. Clinton was responding to a social problem that appeared to be on the rise. In the mid-nineties, there was a growing percentage of single parent households in America and children in those households had a high chance of suffering from poverty. Today, almost two decades later, the child support program serves half of all poor children in the country and 17 million children in total.
While many noncustodial parents want to be involved with their children, many also live in poverty and lack the resources to financially provide for their children. Most unpaid child support is owed by these parents and for many the lack of steady income is a major barrier to fulfilling parental obligations. At the same time, child support payments represent a significant portion of the income of families living in poverty. Oftentimes, these payments are responsible for keeping children out of extreme poverty.
The National Initiatives on Poverty and Economic Opportunity team is focused on developing and expanding sustainable policy solutions that benefit children and increase employment and economic opportunities for low-income noncustodial parents. To that end, this July we led a strategic policy/advocacy planning and campaign development summit with our partners at Connections to Success (CtS) in Missouri and Kansas. Working with Connections’ leadership and program staff, we equipped them to identify and advance child support policies in Missouri that could better support low-income, noncustodial fathers’ efforts to access employment opportunities, support their children, and advance in the labor market. Drawing from our training with CtS, in this blog we’re highlighting three child support policy innovations that would increase employment and economic opportunity for low-income parents.