Child Support Distribution Act of 2000 (H.R. 4678) overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives last September 7, 2000 by a vote of 405 to 18. A similar measure, now called the Child Support Distribution Act of 2001 (S. 918) was introduced in the Senate's 107th session but never came to debate.
The need for better enforcement of child support laws were evident in a recent survey that showed that fewer than one-fifth of inner-city children born to single teenage mothers receive child support from their fathers. In fact, half of these children never see their fathers at all. Many fathers are unable to provide support because they are unemployed and do not have any marketable skills. As a result, a great majority of these teen mothers depend on welfare to support their children (Moore).
The Child Support Distribution Act seeks to address these problems such as these, factors that hinder a parent's ability to provide adequate child support and make children wards of the state. First, it gives more monetary child support to families leaving welfare. Through reforms in welfare disbursement and public assistance, the bill would distribute more than $1 billion per year in additional child support to low-income custodial parents, usually mothers. Indigent non-custodial parent - usually the father - would also benefit from programs helping them to support and raise their own children. In addition, the bill also specifically promotes marriage through programs like marriage counseling and similar services.
Under the current law, a mother who applies for welfare automatically assigns the state the right to collect child support on her behalf. The state is able to use techniques like intercepting tax refunds to collect the child support owed. However, any money collected from the father is first applied to this "debt" to the state, the amount the mother was forced to collect from welfare.
The Child Support Distribution Act changes this provision. If a mother leaves welfare, she and her children have first claim on all child support paid for by the father. By providing mothers with such monetary help, the bill tries to help such single parent families stay off welfare at a time when they are vulnerable to economic hardship ("House Okays Bill to Send Child Support to Parents.")
Current rules also prohibit single mothers and children from receiving child support payments if they are already receiving cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. If any payments are made under these conditions, the government retains the money and no payments benefit his children. This rule bars children and their families from receiving potentially large amounts of much-needed child support. In 1998, states collected $2.6 billion in child support for families receiving TANF. However, only $282 million was passed along to the families and children for whom the money was intended. To address this inequity, the Child Support Distribution Act again prioritizes the needs of mothers and children over the need to reimburse the state government for its welfare expenses.
The Child Support Distribution Act also has provisions to provide skills training for fathers. Since many fathers fail to meet child support payments due to economic reasons, the bill sets aside grants to institutions that provide indigent fathers with these much-needed programs ("House Okays Bill to Send Child Support to Parents.")
In summary, this bill proposes a number of provisions that are beneficial to low-income children, families, and non-custodial fathers. Provisions promoting responsible fatherhood will help poorly-employed and unskilled fathers improve their ability to provide for their children. Important changes would also redirect child support to prioritize mothers and children over any state reimbursement. In general, the bill is an investment in children. It aims to reduce child poverty and helps fathers develop stronger bonds with their kids. In addition, the changes should facilitate child support enforcement. States would be able to incorporate child support collection and distribution strategies into their own existing programs for welfare reform.
The original Child Support Distribution Act (H.R. 4678) was introduced by Rep. Nancy L. Johnson (R-Conn) on June 15, 2000, during the 106th session of Congress, with representatives Phil English, Dave Camp and Marge Roukema as co-sponsors. H.R. 4678 had strong bi-partisan support and was finally on September 7, 2000. It was referred to the Senate the next day. Then President William J. Clinton even commended the House's passed bill and recommended that the Senate to take up this important legislation (Clinton).
However, H.R. 4678's passage was marked by disagreements…