What does this mean for our community?
- Fathers who are unmarried and unemployed or underemployed often have child support orders that they are unable to pay.
- Fathers who do not meet their child support obligations for any reason are less likely to spend time with their children than fathers who do.
- Children who have no contact with their fathers are more likely to be poor and experience slower social, emotional and educational development than children who have contact with their fathers.
All of these factors have led federal, state and local governments to develop policies and programs to help low-income noncustodial parents, mostly fathers, meet their child support obligations. Examples include:
- The New York State Strengthening Families Initiative is a 5-site demonstration project that helps unemployed and underemployed noncustodial parents, mostly fathers, find jobs and make their child support payments.
- The New York State Noncustodial Parent Earned Income Tax Credit provides up to $1095 for a noncustodial parent who works and supports his child(ren). New York State was the first state to provide a special credit aimed at noncustodial parents. To qualify for this credit a noncustodial father must be a New York resident tax payer, over the age of 18, with an adjusted gross income no higher than $34,000 a year and be current on their child support payments.
- Several programs have been rolled out in order to help underemployed and underemployed fathers meet their child support obligations or settle arrears.NYC Arrears Adjustment reduces the arrears (owed to the City) of noncustodial fathers who obtain jobs and pay their current support orders. The NYC Default Department of Social Services Order Initiative helps fathers to reduce their child support orders down to a level they can afford, if their current orders are too high because they did not appear in court when their initial orders were established. NYS-Poverty-Level NCP Modification and Arrears Pilot Initiative to Improve Child Support Compliance reduces the child support orders and arrears of noncustodial parents who earn no more than the federal poverty level and who receive cash assistance or medical services. If these programs worked well, more fathers would be eligible for the The New York State Noncustodial Parent Earned Income Tax Credit.
Except for the employment services offered by the demonstration project, noncustodial parents in our community do not make much use of any these programs. This means that they continue to be burdened with child support obligations and arrears that they will never be able to pay, and that they cannot access the NCP EITC, which is designed to encourage them to work, despite low wages, and support their children.
On June 22, 2009 the Men’s Ministry of Abyssinian Baptist Church in collaboration with Columbia University’s Center for Research on Fathers, Families and Child Well-Being will host a community forum to consider why these efforts go underutilized. Are fathers in our community unaware of these efforts? Are there barriers to their use that policy makers don’t understand? Do their informal arrangements with mothers to support their children make them better off than the formal child support system? The purpose of the forum is to discuss these and other questions with fathers who are affected, the service providers who assist them, state and city child support officials, and Assemblyman Keith Wright. The goals of the forum are to facilitate dialogue between groups, to provide information about these programs and policies to the community, and to provide feedback to policy makers.
1. Child Trends. "Percentage of Births to Unmarried Women." Available online on the Child Trends Databank.