Is child support really helping needy families?

Filed under: Just For Moms, Just For Dads, Divorce & Custody, Sex

The holidays can be a very stressful time for most of us. It can be additionally stressful for people who are struggling to get by, worried about how they will continue to provide for their families, while also struggling to provide some semblance of a holiday celebration for their children.

Single mothers seem to be hit the hardest. A lot of states publish statistics showing how they are actively and aggressively collecting past-due child support payments and tracking down "deadbeat dads." What they fail to tell you is that a lot of the time, they are also taking this money away from the children who need it.

In the United States, when a woman applies for welfare and she is currently not receiving child support, she must provide information regarding the child's biological father and sign an agreement that the state may pursue him for child support. It sounds like a beneficial program, because the mother receives additional monies for her children. By all appearances, a woman who is not currently receiving child support and who is forced to go on welfare to support her children will now be able to provide a better life for her children, right?

Wrong. What happens in these cases is that when the states finally do begin collecting child support, a large percentage of the payments are kept by the state, with only a small amount being forwarded to the mother. While the state may begin collecting child support from the father, the money collected is first used to repay the welfare debt of the mother. Therefore, the mother is thrown into an even worse financial situation. According to the state, she is receiving child support, but in reality, she is not receiving that money -- it is being kept by the state. Meanwhile, the state is including these cases in their statistics of women who are now receiving child support. Worst case scenario, it could even affect the amount of welfare a woman may qualify for, because child support payments are included in the numbers used to calculate the amount someone receives based on their income.

Therefore, statistics that show the number of cases where fathers have been tracked down by the state to pay child support are not reflecting the number of women who are not actually receiving the majority of these payments. Isn't the goal to keep women off welfare and encourage them to work towards supporting their families without federal assistance? Isn't it also a goal to ensure that fathers meet their financial obligations towards their children? The current system seems counterproductive to those goals. Of the nation's total uncollected child-support arrears of $105 billion in 2006, a University of Baltimore study shows that more than half was owed to the federal and state governments to recover welfare costs, rather than to families.

How can any government official feel like this is beneficial to the well-being of needy children?

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