Saturday, December 1, 2007

When Child Support Doesn't Get to the Children - Another Way Our Children Are Being Left Behind

Today's New York Times article on child support by reporter Erik Eckholm deserves to be read in full: Mothers Skimp as States Take Child Support - New York Times (December 1, 2007 New York Times Article, By ERIK ECKHOLM)

Not often can one read such an intelligent discussion of the child support collection system. This article examines a particularly troubling current nationwide failure of our child support collection system - that is, the particular failure of our child support collection system within the lower income population of child support obligors and recipients. Sadly, our current system of collecting child support on behalf of poor custodial parents, which does not simply pass on child support to poor custodial parents but funnels collected money first back to the government to reimburse the government for public assistance benefits and collection costs, has failed miserably to do what it was originally designed to do - i.e., actually support children.

As the information in the article suggests, budget and political priorities have stood in the way of reforms desperately needed to protect those who have the weakest political voice, namely the poor, both mothers and fathers, child support recipients and obligors alike. Our child support collection system, even though increasingly effective in collecting more and more money, is about as effective in helping the poor as is "No Child Left Behind" - you know, that educational national law/policy that doesn't put its money where its mouth is, gives unfunded mandates to the states, and is more appropriately called "No Child Left Untested." But of course we are told we have more important things to do, like, for example, we have a few wars to pay for right now....Class War too, you say?

"MILWAUKEE — The collection of child support from absent fathers is failing to help many of the poorest families, in part because the government uses fathers’ payments largely to recoup welfare costs rather than passing on the money to mothers and children. 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.... "

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