Office of Child Support Enforcement

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The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) is a United States government entity with the purpose of pursuing a parent who is responsible for the financial support of a child. OCSE was established with the Federal Government’s enactment of Child Support Enforcement and Paternity Establishment Program (CSE) in 1975, which was enacted to reduce welfare expenses by collecting child support from non-custodial parents.

The mission of OCSE is to increase the reliability of child support paid by parents when they live apart from their children. The program accomplishes this by locating parents, establishing legal fatherhood (paternity), establishing and enforcing fair support orders, increasing health care coverage for children, removing barriers to payment, such as referring parents to employment services, supporting healthy co-parenting relationships, supporting responsible fatherhood, and helping to prevent and reduce family violence.[1]

Program history[edit]

In 1935 a program was created as a result of the Social Security Act called the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). It was formed to service the needs of low-income or no-income families, and especially, the needs of children living in single parent homes. Particular focus was placed on children who had lost a parent to death or abandonment.

The needs for services expanded over time as issues affecting dependent children changed. By the 1970s it was recognized that reasons for financial assistance had clearly evolved from AFDC’s original intent. As opposed to helping children who had lost one parent to death or abandonment, the majority of the needed aid increased because couples were divorcing, separating, or never had been married. Recognizing this, the Federal Government enacted the Child Support Enforcement and Paternity Establishment Program (CSE) in 1975. This act was put in place to not only pursue a parent who was responsible for the financial support of a child, but to also establish paternity for a child who is born outside of marriage, so child support can be collected from the biological father. The Law also amended the Social Security Act (Title IV, part D), authorizing Federal matching funds for enforcement purposes—locating nonresident parents, establishing paternity, establishing child support awards, and collecting child support payments.[2]

OCSE was established with the Federal Government’s enactment of CSE of 1975. AFDC was abolished by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, and replaced by a much stricter legal standard known today as TANF—Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. TANF is a matching block grant program. States are required to meet certain federal standards in areas such as increasing paternal identification, linking networks between states to identify and locate parents and their assets (through the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS)), and applying more enforcement techniques to receive the block grant funding.

Organizational structure[edit]

The States are the primary administrators of the CSE program, but the Federal Government serves to direct and help the states. The national child support program is administered by the Assistant Secretary for Family Support within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), who presently runs the OCSE. It helps States design their programs, provides technical assistance, funding, assistance in locating responsible parents, and assistance in collecting child support payments. The Assistant Secretary of Family Support in the DHHS is fully responsible for the CSE and conducts audits on the various State-run programs to see to it they abide by federal statutes and have effective programs in place.

Child support enforcement in the United States is administered by OCSE which is overseen by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). OCSE is run out of ten regional offices in the U.S, located in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle.

In Utah, the state agency tasked with child support enforcement is the Office of Recovery Services (ORS). ORS sits on the front line of child support enforcement and is located within the Utah Department of Human Services. It administers the State Child Support, Children in Care, and Bureau of Medical Collections/ Medicaid Recovery Programs. It has Child Support Services offices in Ogden, Salt Lake City, Provo, Richfield, and Saint George.

Within ORS there are three bureaus: the CSS, the CIC, and the BMC.

Child Support Services (CSS)[edit]

When you think of child support this is what you picture: CSS teams locate parents, establish paternity and obligations for financial and medical support, and enforce those obligations when necessary. The Office of Recovery Services/Child Support Services (ORS/CSS) provides child support services under the Federal/State IV-D Child Support Program. These services are provided to people who: (1) receive cash assistance or Medicaid from the Department of Workforce Services or the Department of Health, (2) are no longer receiving cash assistance or Medicaid but continue to receive child support services, and (3) apply directly to ORS/CSS for IV-D child support services.[3]

Children In Care (CIC)[edit]

When a child is placed in the state’s care and/or custody, ORS also provides services to reimburse the state for costs of supporting those children. Following Federal and state laws, rules, policies and procedures, the ORS Children in Care teams locate parents, establish obligations for financial and medical support, and enforce those obligations while a child is in the care of the state.[4] Parents whose children are placed in one of the following divisions/programs are required to contribute financial support toward their child’s care.

Bureau of Medical Collections (BMC)[edit]

The Bureau of Medical Collections’ primary goal is cost avoidance. BMC matches insurance records with child support records to ensure that all other resources are used before Medicaid pays for health care. BMC also seeks reimbursement from potentially liable third parties after Medicaid has paid for health care.[5] ORS has many tools for collecting and enforcing child support and medical obligations. These include the following: • Intercepting state and federal tax returns. • Interception of payments from state or local governments such as workers compensation or unemployment insurance payments. • Reporting past-due amounts to the District Court and the credit bureau reporting agencies. • Requiring an employer to withhold support payments. • Placing a lien on bank accounts, and levy those accounts and any stocks or bonds available. • Attach and sell any real or personal property owned by a delinquent payer. • Take action to revoke a driver’s license. • Coordinate with the Secretary of State to deny, restrict, limit, or revoke a passport. • Petition the court for an order requiring a bond to be posted or other security provided when support payments are more than 90 days delinquent.[6]

Program budget and size[edit]

OCSE receives its funding from congressionally directed appropriations. The table below identifies the dollar amount appropriated for OCSE over the last 5 years.[7]

Year Amount Appropriated
2007 $4,399,104,000
2008 $4,272,877,000
2009 $4,316,699,000
2010 $4,665,683,000
2011 $4,159,464,000

OSCE stated its budgets for Fiscal Years 2010-2013 inclusive as:

FY 2010: $4.3 billion FY 2011: $4.0 billion FY 2012: $3.9 billion FY 2013: $3.9 billion" preliminary Source: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/ocse-fact-sheet

There are hundreds of federal OSCE employees spread out among the ten regional offices. In the 2010 fiscal year, the program collected $27 billion, of which 94% was distributed to families.[8] In the 2011 fiscal year, OCSE served 17.3 million children and their parents nationwide. At the state level, Utah has between 70,000 and 80,000 child support cases. ORS has 415 employees in the state of Utah: 377 full-time, 38 part-time, with 11 vacancies. ORS serves approximately 130,000 children. ORS collected over $223 million in the 2011 fiscal year. Of that, $173 million was distributed to children and families, $12.5 million was distributed to reimburse State and Federal governments for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and $5.9 million was distributed to the Department of Human Services on behalf of Children in the state’s care. According to the Agency Director, in the 2011 fiscal year the program’s total expenditure was $34,847,402: $22,999,285 coming from the federal government and $11,848,116 coming from the state.

Program relationships with other programs/agencies[edit]

The OCSE does not directly provide services to individuals or families. They partner with and support other federal, state, tribal, and local agencies to administer their programs. They help these agencies comply with federal law and develop and maintain their programs. One of the ways they do this is by working together to implement information systems that support automated management of child support collections. Each state and tribe must have an automated system approved, certified, and monitored by OCSE.[9]

Because of the partnership between the child support program and the nation’s financial institutions states have been able to significantly increase collections for families by freezing and seizing bank accounts to pay past due support debts. OCSE administers the Insurance Match program with insurance companies or their designated agents, state workers’ compensation agencies, and the U.S. Department of Labor.[10]

Another important aspect of the child support program’s mission is to integrate research into effective child support policies. OCSE collaborates with grantees and many public and private partners to develop evidence-based research initiatives to produce the best outcomes for children and families.

OCSE also collects and analyzes data from state and tribal child support agencies. The data is used to develop an annual report to Congress, highlighting program achievements and statistics about caseload, collections and expenses.[11]

OCSE proposes and implements national policy for the child support program. They also provide guidance and training to help states and tribes develop and operate their individual programs according to federal law.[12]

OCSE offers two discretionary grant program opportunities that further the national child support program’s mission and goals: (1) Section 1115 Demonstration Grants, which contract with other agencies, faith- and community-based organizations, universities, or private consultants to join in these efforts and (2) Special Improvement Project (SIP) Grants, which provide federal funds for research and demonstration programs and special projects of regional or national significance relating to the operation of state child support programs.[13]

Program relationships with other levels of Government, nonprofits and businesses[edit]

Child support programs work with district or state attorneys, law enforcement agencies and officials of family or domestic relations courts to deliver services at the local level. OCSE is the U.S. central authority for international child support and provides assistance to families, states, and countries seeking support when family members live in different countries. OCSE works with many public and private partners to increase child support collections and help parents meet the financial needs of their children. Employers are vital to the child support program. The majority of child support (70%) is collected through direct wage withholding. Employers are responsible to report newly hired and terminated employees, withhold child support payments as ordered, enroll children in health care coverage, and remit child support to the State Disbursement Units.[14]

A critical function of OCSE is authorized data matching. Employers are required to report newly hired employees to their designated state agency. OCSE gathers and maintains these records to match against state child support records to locate parents who owe child support, locate income sources and prevent erroneous payments and fraudulent access to government benefit programs. At the state level, ORS has contracts to receive local information from the Department of Workforce Services, Utah Criminal Justice Information Systems, and many other city, county, state, and federal resources.

Although ORS is able to utilize the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA) process to establish most paternity and child support orders administratively, they also work closely with staff assigned to them from the state Office of the Attorney General (AG). The Attorneys from the AG office represent ORS in court and whenever legal representation is required.

Challenges[edit]

OCSE has many enforcement tools to collect child support such as wage withholding, bank account seizures, and driver’s license and passport suspensions. The challenge that the OCSE faces is what to do when such tools do not work. Unemployment throws a wrench in these processes. As an example, whenever there is an economic downturn many single parents who are not well educated or well-trained are the first to lose their jobs and the last to be rehired. As a result, they lose income that then cannot be collected for child support.

Other challenges that OCSE faces are balancing the rights and responsibilities of non-custodial parents with the needs of the custodial parent and child. Many non-custodial parents feel they are powerless in the child support establish and collection process. They will sometimes feel resentful and offended, which leads to a lack of cooperation in paying their child support.

Another challenge is establishing paternity and support orders for children that are a product of same sex relationships. For example, determining the support and custody of a child can be complicated because the courts need to take into consideration the biological parenthood of the child, and the rights of surrogate parents who desire to raise the child. Some courts will determine that a person who agrees to start a family with a same-sex partner, with plans to raise children together, is a parent and, therefore, is responsible for child support.[15]

In conclusion, child support has evolved over time from serving families on welfare, or children who had lost parents to war and abandonment, to working through the complications of a modern society where parents with children are divorced, separated, or who were never married. Working with various public and private partners OCSE and their state affiliates collect billions of dollars in needed[peacock term] support for dependent children across the country.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "OCSE Fact Sheet". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  2. ^ "Child Support Enforcement Program". Policy Almanac. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  3. ^ Notice of Services, Utah Department of Human Services, Office of Recovery Services/Child Support Services, January 18, 2010.
  4. ^ "Children in Care". Utah department of human services. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  5. ^ "Bureau of Medical Collections Frequently Asked Questions". Utah department of human services. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  6. ^ E01A, DHS, ORS, CSS, December 1997, Revised January 13, 2010.
  7. ^ Administration for Children and Families, “Payments to States for Child Support Enforcement and Family Support Programs,” 265.
  8. ^ "History | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families". Acf.hhs.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-07. 
  9. ^ "State Systems | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families". Acf.hhs.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-07. 
  10. ^ "Other Partners | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families". Acf.hhs.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-07. 
  11. ^ "Researchers | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families". Acf.hhs.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-07. 
  12. ^ "Policy | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families". Acf.hhs.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-07. 
  13. ^ "Grants | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families". Acf.hhs.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-07. 
  14. ^ "Employers | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families". Acf.hhs.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-07. 
  15. ^ [1][dead link]