Do you serve dads involved in the child support and child welfare systems at the same time?
If so, you might find helpful recent policy guidance issued by the federal entities that oversee those systems.
Many of the partners of National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) serve dads involved in both systems. They find these dads can face daunting challenges in part because those two systems operate independently and, as a result, place burdens on dads.
A primary burden is when these dads have a child support obligation that makes it more difficult to reunify with their children placed in foster care. According to a recent newsletter from the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), when child welfare agencies refer cases to child support to establish paternity or a support order it can disrupt the reunification process and lead to longer stays for children in foster care. Not only does that negatively impact families, it costs both agencies more money to refer and collect than they recoup from dads.
Fortunately, in July 2022, the federal Child Support Bureau and Office of Child Support Enforcement issued a “Dear Colleague” letter that outlines policy guidance which, according to CWLA, “encourages child welfare agencies to implement across-the-board policies that require an assignment of the rights to child support for children who receive title IV-E services only in very rare circumstances [emphasis added].”
The objective of this research-informed guidance is, according to CWLA, to “ensure that only cases that have been thoroughly reviewed, and will not disrupt the reunification process, are referred [by the state child welfare agency] to the state [child support] agency for the establishment of paternity or a support order, allowing the [child support] agency to continue their current practices of processing appropriate cases, and will result in both state agencies being less intrusive[emphasis added] in the lives of the families.”
Of course, the proof will be in the coordination pudding. State child welfare and child support agencies must follow this guidance for dads, children, and families to benefit from it. Fortunately, according to CWLA, that’s happening in some states. (And those states are sharing practices for implementing this guidance successfully.) Let’s cross our collective fingers that more states join them.
For more information on the challenges dads face when they’re involved in both systems, and for the specific policy language of this guidance, download this one-pager from CWLA. Share it with your co-workers and organization partners that work with dads. I also encourage you to contact your state’s child welfare or child support agency to find out whether they’re aware of this guidance and what they’re doing—or not doing—to implement it.
Are you interested in research-based and evidence-based strategies that help dads with a child support obligation? If so, check out these six strategies.
Are you interested in tips for serving dads involved in the child welfare system? If so, check out these tips.