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The Child Support Program: A Key Pillar of Family Support

Let’s start with the basics:  there is a child…  a child who deserves the financial support of both parents, a child who deserves the emotional support of both parents.  Every child is worth the commitment from parents to provide a safe and secure home, enough food to eat, adequate clothing and a chance to pursue a happy and fulfilling life.  This is a fundamental tenet that should be woven into our social fabric.  So, a fundamental question we should ask ourselves is:  if we allow ourselves to walk away from looking after our country’s children, what other commitments are we willing to ignore? 

Years ago, the child support program was regarded as a punitive program, one that existed to track down and force “deadbeat dads” to pay support to their children.  Today, the program is widely recognized as a program of promise… of promise not only for children, but also for both parents.. 

Put yourself in the place of a custodial parent.  The child support program will help make sure that your children’s basic financial needs are met.  It will also address the medical support needs of your children.  Let’s say you want to find employment to help support your children.  Before you can even think of going to work, what do you need?  At the very least, you need child care while you are away and a means of transportation. Child support orders usually also address child care costs.  By having a steady source of support, you and your family are better able to achieve self-sufficiency.  You also have an opportunity to expand your own horizons and contribute to the financial support of your children.

Now, put yourself in the place of a non-custodial parent.  Let’s say you are among the many non-custodial parents who want to meet their financial obligation to their children.  The child support program will help set up income-withholding arrangements with your employer, so that you know your children are receiving dependable payments.  Income withholding has become a matter of course rather than a matter of concern that some non-custodial parents felt needed explaining in the past.  Employers realize the critical role they play in ensuring children receive support, and are happy to help their employees – men and women – meet their financial responsibilities.

The child support program also helps connect non-custodial parents to employment services, when needed.  Moreover, many child support programs work with other service providers to strengthen emotional connections between non-custodial parents and their children, resulting in a win/win situation as the emotional needs of both the children and parents are met.

Indeed, the child support program has caused a major social paradigm shift.  Instead of people asking why child support is needed, now there exists a social expectation that both parents support their children.  Child support promotes the goal that a steady and reliable source of income goes to families for the children.

The numbers best demonstrate the success of the child support program.  The program collected $26.6 billion as support for children and established paternity for 1,733,973 children in fiscal year 2010.  Child support constitutes about 40 percent of income for poor families receiving child support, according to recent estimates.

People may disagree on many programs, but the child support program is one that garners support across the country.  Why?  Perhaps it is because the program consistently demonstrates that it is needed and that it delivers on its promises.