"While AFI grantees and other asset-building groups serve many custodial parents, non-custodial parents are generally an underserved group, one with large numbers of individuals who qualify for but do not receive these needed services."
Partnering with your Local Child Support Agency to Promote Family Self-Sufficiency
Partnering with a local child support agency can be a key to meeting Assets for Independence (AFI) program goals. AFI grantees and child support agencies share the fundamental objective of promoting economic stability for low-income families. AFI grantees and other asset-building organizations approach this goal by promoting financial education, asset development and wealth accumulation. Child support agencies do so by helping custodial parents —those who live with their children—establish child support orders and collect payments owed to their children. Increasingly, child support agencies also try to assist noncustodial parents —those who do not live with the child but who help support them financially -- improve their financial standing so that they can provide their child with stable support.
Client Population Overlap
While there are no precise estimates of individuals involved in both child support and AFI or other asset building services, the data strongly suggest a significant overlap (and great potential overlap) between these two subgroups—both for custodial and noncustodial parents. In terms of custodial parents, women comprise about 75 percent of all people who have ever opened an IDA; and only 24 percent of all account holders were married when they enrolled in the AFI project. Seventy-seven percent of all account holders reported that they live with children, and about 70 percent report that they are eligible for or are receiving cash welfare benefits (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families [TANF]). Based on these data, it is clear that a significant portion of AFI project participants are single mothers. Many of them are likely to be eligible for or recipients of child support. While AFI grantees and other asset-building groups serve many custodial parents, non-custodial parents are generally an underserved group, one with large numbers of individuals who qualify for but do not receive these needed services. About 65 percent of noncustodial parents with child support orders have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level—the qualifying household income level to participate in an AFI project. Some of them may be ready for an IDA discussion. For many others, IDAs will not be appropriate, but they could benefit from other services that many AFI grantees and other organizations provide, such as financial education and debt management services.
How Can a Partnership be Beneficial?
Child support agencies can help custodial parents receive child support payments on behalf of their children. They do this by helping clients establish the paternity of their child, ensuring that child support orders are established, and helping the parents receive the child support payments as required. Ensuring this additional income will allow some AFI project participants to set aside more earned income into their IDAs and help them reach their savings goals, which will help the parent improve their child's quality of life.
Noncustodial parents who work with AFI grantees to improve their financial standing are in a stronger position to contribute to their children’s well-being. Many noncustodial parents have considerable amounts of debt including child support and other financial debts. These individuals could benefit from financial education, debt management, and credit repair services that asset-building agencies provide. Child support agencies, too, can work in a number of ways to help noncustodial parents reduce their debt—either through appropriate modifications of their child support orders, or through other strategies to make debt payment more manageable. When noncustodial parents have appropriate child support orders and their debts are well-defined and managed, they are more likely to provide reliable financial support to their children. AFI grantees are especially well suited to help noncustodial parents navigate their complex financial challenges. This assistance can motivate many to open IDAs and to access financial education and other asset-building strategies.
Child support agencies are a rich referral source for AFI program participation because many custodial and noncustodial parents meet the AFI income eligibility criteria. Financial education and counseling for noncustodial parents could be particularly helpful in reducing their debt and putting them in a stronger position to pay reliable child support.
Helping noncustodial parents, usually fathers, contribute to their children’s lives is an increasingly important priority to funders in both the public and private sectors. Many acknowledge that economic challenges often prevent noncustodial parents from providing regular financial support payments to their children. By partnering with child support agencies, AFI organizations can make a double contribution—helping low-income individuals build assets and helping their children achieve a decent living standard. These steps, in turn, may promote father engagement and ultimately boost the economic and social environment of the community you serve.
Comments or More Information
This is one in a series of fact sheets on asset-building, fatherhood, and child support services produced by the Assets for Independence Resource Center. For more information, visit the resource center website at www.IDAresources.org or contact the center on 1-866-778-6037 or via email at info@IDAresources.org.