September 10, 2008
I recently appeared on CNN Radio to discuss the controversy over child support enforcement agencies seizing economic stimulus checks from “deadbeat dads.” I’m quoted on this in the recent Associated Press story Stimulus checks boost child support (9/9/08).
Points I made to CNN included:
1) The government’s own research shows that the overwhelming majority of fathers behind on their child support are poor–less than 5% of all child support debtors earn even $40,000 a year.
The child support system is asking very poor people — the fathers — to support other very poor people –the mother and child. This has not worked and will not work, because the money just doesn”t exist. By pursuing these fathers with an iron fist collection policy, we turn these fathers into fugitives. This takes away the only thing the very poor father has to offer his child: his love and guidance.
2) In many of these cases, the alleged “child support” is not going to the mothers and children, but instead to the state to repay the cost of the mothers’ welfare benefits. In other words, poor mothers receive substantial government assistance, but poor fathers receive nothing except the bill.
3) Child support bureaucracies are notorious for their errors and bureaucratic bungling–who knows if the fathers whose checks are being seized even really owe the money? For example, when the State Auditor of Massachusetts examined child support records in that state, it found that the official arrearages were incorrect in 92% of the cases it examined. (Report No. 99-0142-3). The Auditor concluded “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Enforcement and Tracking System (COMETS) does not maintain accurate arrears balances.’
4) The best way to ensure that children are supported and cared for is to respect both parents’ custody rights and parenting time. Research shows that fathers who are able to remain a regular part of their children’s lives voluntarily support their children financially.