PA 09-175—sHB 6486

Select Committee on Children

Human Services Committee

Judiciary Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING RESPONSIBLE FATHERHOOD AND STRONG FAMILIES

SUMMARY: This act allows family support magistrates in all Title IV-D support cases to order the parent who owes child support (obligor) into an educational, training, skill-building, work, rehabilitation, or other similar program. The magistrate may suspend support payments or elect not to impose court-based enforcement actions based on the parent's participation in a program.

The act requires:

1. the chief court administrator to submit reports of the Judicial Branch's Problem Solving in Family Matters Committee to the Human Services and Children's committees by July 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011;

2. the Department of Social Services' (DSS) commissioner, within available resources, to seek federal and private funds to provide grants to promote programs supporting the positive involvement and interaction of fathers with their children; and

3. DSS, within available resources, to report to the Children's Committee on child support collection efforts and noncustodial parents.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2009

TITLE IV-D SUPPORT CASES

The act gives family support magistrates the authority to place a child-support obligor into an educational, training, skill-building, work, rehabilitation, or other similar program, as long as the magistrate finds doing so will significantly increase the parent's ability to fulfill the duty of support within a reasonable period of time. When this type of order is entered, the magistrate must also enter an order requiring a report on the obligor's compliance. Title IV-D refers to a section in the federal Social Security Act that directs states' child support enforcement role.

The magistrate may suspend payment of a support order, in whole or part, or choose not to impose or order specified court-based enforcement actions based on the obligor's participation in one of the programs described above.

By July 1 in 2010 and 2011, the chief court administrator must submit reports of the Judicial Branch's Problem Solving in Family Matters Committee to the Human Services and Children's committees.

GRANTS

The DSS commissioner must, within available resources, seek to obtain all available federal and private funding for programs that promote the following objectives:

1. public education on the financial responsibility of fatherhood;

2. preparing for the legal, financial, and emotional responsibilities of fatherhood;

3. establishing paternity at childbirth;

4. encouraging fathers, regardless of marital status, to foster an emotional connection to, and financial support of, their children;

5. establishing support mechanisms for fathers in their relationship with their children, regardless of their marital and financial status; and

6. integrating state and local services available for families.

If funds are obtained, DSS must award grants to programs and service providers that provide:

1. employment and training opportunities for low-income fathers to increase their earning capacity;

2. classes in parenting and financial management; and

3. other support services and programs that promote responsible parenting, financial stability, and communication and interaction between fathers and their children.

Those seeking grants must apply to the commissioner by a date and in a manner he determines. The commissioner sets eligibility and award criteria and must require applicants to:

1. implement accountability measures and results-based outcomes as a condition of being awarded the grant;

2. leverage funds through existing resources and collaboration with community-based and nonprofit organizations; and

3. consult with experts in domestic violence to ensure that, when appropriate, the programs and services described above address issues concerning domestic violence.

Annually, starting October 1, 2010, the commissioner must report to the Children's and Human Services committees on the grant program's effectiveness in achieving the six objectives above.

REPORT

The act requires DSS, within available appropriations, to report to the Children's Committee by February 1, 2010 on:

1. the effectiveness of child support arrears management efforts,

2. the effectiveness of efforts aimed at reducing teen fatherhood,

3. the number of newly employed noncustodial parents, and

4. the number of noncustodial parents who are at or below federal poverty level.