- Carolyn Heinrich, Brett Burkhardt, Hilary Shager, and Lara Rosen
- January 2011
- Link to T22011Heinrichetal (PDF)
- Link to T22011HeinrichetalPPT (PDF)
The Wisconsin Bureau of Child Support, the Racine County Child Support Department, and the Institute for Research on Poverty implemented a child support debt reduction demonstration program, Families Forward, in Racine County. The program aimed to reduce child support debt (arrears owed by noncustodial parents) while increasing child support payments.
The Families Forward program allowed for the forgiveness of child support debt owed and the suspension of interest charges on debt, under the stipulation that the noncustodial parent make child support payments as ordered by the court. For every dollar that participating noncustodial parents paid in support, their unpaid debt was reduced by an extra $0.50 or $1.00. Interest charging on debt was also suspended during program participation.
This final report on the Families Forward program presents findings from an experimental and nonexperimental evaluation. Consistent with the findings from earlier reports, researchers found that noncustodial parents participating in Families Forward, compared to nonparticipants, made larger payments toward current child support and debt balances, were more likely to pay and to pay more frequently, and significantly reduced their state-and family-owed debt balances.
The rate of enrollment of noncustodial parents into the program was low. An implementation analysis included in this report identifies a number of reasons for the low take-up rate. Focus groups and follow-up surveys also provided valuable suggestions for increasing participation. Given the positive outcomes of the Families Forward program, researchers suggest that its promise outweighs any potential limitations experienced in the pilot program.