Responsible Fatherhood Programs Yield Promising Results

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HHS News Release

The Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the Department of Health and Human Services today jointly released a report showing that responsible fatherhood programs in eight states showed promising results both in economic and personal terms.

The report, "OCSE Responsible Fatherhood Programs: Client Characteristics and Program Outcomes," evaluated programs carried out in eight states between September 1997 and December 2002.

The programs carried out comprehensive activities designed to assist and motivate unemployed or low-income fathers who have child support orders to pay support. The fathers were given training and help in finding employment, paying child support and developing relationships with their children.

The responsible fatherhood services resulted in:

Increased employment rates, ranging from 8 to 33 percent, especially for those who were unemployed previously;
Increased incomes, ranging from 25 to 250 percent, especially for those who were unemployed previously;

Increased child support compliance, ranging from 4 to 31 percent; primarily for those who had not been paying previously;

Increased time spent with children; 27 percent of the fathers reported seeing their children more often after the program.

"These results demonstrate that many fathers who have not been able to meet their child support responsibilities want to do the right thing for their kids, and given the attention and opportunity, they can turn the situation around," said Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "If this leads to better, more permanent relationships, these children will be better off."
The report also suggests that the child support program should be more sensitive to the limitations of low income non-custodial parents in the establishment of child support orders. For example, for the very poor, (earnings less than $6,000 a year) current child support obligations and arrearages were found to be from two to six times greater than their reported earnings. For those with earnings of $6000 to $12,000 a year, current child support and arrearages were 21 to 61 percent of reported earnings, depending upon the site. These findings are consistent with a recent OCSE analysis indicating that 70 percent of arrearages that states report to OCSE for enforcement actions such as passport denial and tax refund intercept are owed by persons with reported earnings under $10,000 a year.

"When children have healthy relationships with their fathers, they are more likely to flourish. These responsible fatherhood programs are an important step toward this outcome," said Wade F. Horn, PhD, assistant secretary for children and families.

To assist non-custodial fathers to become more involved in the lives of their children, the President's budget provides $20 million in competitive grants to faith- and community-based organizations, Indian tribes and tribal organizations, for responsible fatherhood and family formation initiatives. Both the House and Senate have included proposals for providing grants for responsible fatherhood in legislation to reauthorize the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.

The programs were conducted using Section 1115 funds or waivers in Washington, California, Colorado, Missouri, Wisconsin, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Hampshire Section 1115 of the Social Security Act authorizes states to conduct experimental, pilot or demonstration projects that are likely to assist in promoting the objectives of Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.

The evaluation report was conducted under a contract to Policy Studies, Inc. and the Center for Policy Research, both of Denver.

The full report is available on the OCSE web site at:
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