Letter to the Editor: Child support policy does not work for any of us

Submitted by: Jennifer Hartmann, Graduate Student

Last week, the Case Observer featured an article on CWRU’s Schubert Center for Child Studies, discussing policies affecting children. We as a university community need to care about these policies because they affect all of us either directly or indirectly.

Take child support policy as an example. Anecdotal and empirical evidence show that it neither fosters adequate family supports nor reduces poverty among custodial parents, despite its supposed purpose to promote the wellbeing of families and communities.

National averages from the Department of Health and Human Services show that 85% of all child support orders have back payments (arrears) built up in their case. Additionally, over 50% of child support orders have arrears owing more than $30,000, equaling roughly 15 years of not paying child support. Statistics show that the federal government only receives $0.32 for every dollar spent on child support enforcement. This bears a huge financial burden to the government and its taxpayers, as billions of dollars are poured into enforcing and maintaining the child support system with little return.

Furthermore, one study shows that child support only accounts for 6-7% of all single mothers raised out of poverty. It does not encourage fathers to co-parent or visit their children apart from non-financial obligations, which increases their children’s likelihood of committing crimes, abusing drugs, dropping out of school, and experiencing other problems. These statistics are evidence that the current system is not only costly to all taxpayers, but also is not serving the children it is supposed to be supporting. Current policy is grossly inefficient and expensive.

If child support policies remain as they are, children are more likely to grow up homeless, desperate, drug-addicted, and committing crimes to survive. With your help, their lives could look so different. As taxpayers and as individuals who want to live in safer, healthier communities, we must care about child support policy and other policies that clearly are not living up to their original intent.

Act today. Email smith@Ohiosenate.gov or call 614-466-4857, Senator Shirley Smith, to support her drafts for child support legislation changes. Consider sending a letter to your county’s Child Support Enforcement Agency asking them to promote more policies encouraging non-custodial parents to be involved in their children’s lives. Children need confidence in a brighter future, and we all need safer, healthier communities.