Child Support

The child support system serves nearly 16 million children who live apart from at least one of their parents.  MDRC designs and studies efforts to improve the system’s performance, and reforms designed to change the way the system responds to noncustodial parents (usually fathers) who cannot afford to pay what they owe.  

The Latest
Brief

In child support programs, parents must often make complicated decisions with little information in a highly emotional context. The BIAS project, which applied behavioral insights to human services programs, worked with three states to design eight tests focusing on child support order modifications and collection of payments.

Issue Focus

Researchers developing behavioral interventions begin by defining a problem, identifying “bottlenecks” that might hamper desired outcomes, and designing and testing possible solutions. In this Expert Commentary from the final report on the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, Crystal Hall suggests three ideas for expanding the use of this process.

Key Documents
Issue Focus

Building a Body of Evidence

Over the past several years, MDRC has worked with the federal Administration for Children and Families to test low-cost behavioral interventions to improve child support services in a number of states. This issue focus describes what’s been learned so far — and what’s planned for the future.

Brief

Past and ongoing research offers direction for how to strengthen the most basic foundation for early childhood development: family relationships. Part of our “Looking Forward” series, this policy memo makes the case for building on this accumulating evidence to create new and innovative approaches to support children’s earliest years and the unique role of fathers.

Report

Final Lessons from Parents’ Fair Share

Fathers provide important financial and emotional support to their children. Yet low-income noncustodial fathers, with low wages and high rates of joblessness, often do not fulfill their parenting roles. The child support system has not traditionally helped these men to do so, since its focus has been on securing financial support from fathers who can afford to pay.