Giving Noncustodial Parents Options: Employment and Child Support Outcomes of the SHARE Program. Did SHARE Reach its Intended Targets?

10/01/2003

DCS worked closely with YCPA to identify and engage NCPs with outstanding orders of support in the SHARE program. DCS was responsible for identifying NCPs potentially eligible for SHARE and for referring these cases to YCPA. To be eligible for SHARE, each case had to meet two basic criteria. First, the NCP had to have an outstanding order of child support. (A case was considered outstanding if no payments had been made in the past 60 days or longer. However, NCPs who owed only arrears were not eligible for SHARE.) Second, the dependent child had to be a TANF recipient.

The path that NCPs took through SHARE branched at several points, depending on their eligibility, YCPA's success in serving citations, the NCPs' attendance at or failure to attend the hearings, and the NCPs' appropriateness for WtW services (Figure II.1). After DCS referred a case, YCPA staff first confirmed the NCP's basic eligibility for the program, mainly by checking that the case still had outstanding child support payments. If SHARE eligibility was not confirmed, YCPA staff referred the case back to DCS without issuing a contempt citation. If SHARE eligibility was confirmed, YCPA issued a contempt citation notifying the parent that he must appear in court for a hearing and then attempted to serve the parent with the citation. If YCPA staff could not locate an NCP who had been issued a contempt citation, they cancelled the hearing and referred the case back to DCS, closing the case from the standpoint of the SHARE program. The staff presented three options to NCPs who were located, served their citations, and attended their hearing: (1) start making child support payments, (2) participate in WtW services, or (3) possibly go to jail. YCPA staff were expected to issue bench warrants for the arrest of any NCP who was served a contempt citation but failed to appear at a hearing.(12) As we discuss later, this did not always happen, as many of the NCPs who failed to appear at their hearings could not be located.

Figure 2.1.Progression of Referred NCPs Through SHARE.

DCS = Division of Child Support; NA = not available;
NCP = noncustodial parent; WtW = Welfare-to-Work; YCPA = Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney.

YCPA staff approached most referred cases. Between July 1998 and September 2001, DCS identified 574 NCPs as potential SHARE participants and referred their cases to YCPA (Table II.1). Most of these cases progressed to the issuance of a contempt citation. YCPA staff issued 567 contempt citations, which notified individuals that they were required to attend a court hearing to address their delinquent orders of child support. According to YCPA's records, seven cases were not issued contempt citations because YCPA staff quickly determined that the NCPs no longer had outstanding orders of child support, were ineligible for WtW services, or would otherwise be unable to participate in the program (for example, because the NCP was incarcerated).

Table II.1
Participation in SHARE
  Number
All NCPs Referred by DCS

574

NCPs Never Issued a Citation to Appear at YCPA Hearing

7

NCPs Issued a Citation to Appear at YCPA Hearing

567

NCPs Issued a Citation
  • Who never appeared at YCPA hearing

287

  • Who appeared at YCPA hearing

280

NCPs Who Appeared at YCPA Hearing
  • Who were referred to WtW program

172

  • Who were not referred to WtW program

108

Source: Office of the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney (YCPA), SHARE database (as of February 28, 2002).
DCS = Division of Child Support; NCP = noncustodial parent.

About half of the NCPs issued citations appeared for their hearings, and almost two-thirds of those who appeared were referred to WtW. Of the 567 NCPs issued contempt citations, 280 eventually appeared for hearings with YCPA staff. According to YCPA records, the majority of these NCPs (172 parents or 61 percent of those appearing) were referred to a WtW provider for employment services. This finding suggests that the majority of the NCPs who appeared at hearings were people facing significant employment difficulties that made it hard for them to meet their child support obligations without help. As we discuss in more detail later, some of the NCPs who appeared at hearings and were not referred to WtW services  we estimate 24 NCPs  were determined ineligible for WtW services at such hearings. Hence, the majority of the NCPs who appeared but were not referred to WtW  84 of 108 NCPs  seem to have opted to find employment and/or resume paying child support on their own.

Few arrest warrants were issued. Contempt citations stated clearly that a bench warrant would be issued if the NCP failed to appear for his scheduled hearing. Furthermore, NCPs who reported for their hearings were threatened with incarceration if they did not resume paying child support on their own or did not agree to participate in WtW services. However, few bench warrants were issued. Only 20 NCPs, or fewer than 10 percent of the 287 who failed to appear at a hearing, were issued a bench warrant (Table II.2), in large part, it appears, because YCPA could not locate many of these NCPs. Bench warrants also were issued for 29 NCPs who appeared for their hearings; 14 of the 29 had been referred to WtW services, and 15 had not. These NCPs seemed to be ones who initially appeared to cooperate with the SHARE process, but who later stopped cooperating. None of the NCPs appearing at their hearings seemed to opt explicitly for jail. Although few arrest warrants were issued, program administrators believed that the credible threat of incarceration was important in securing NCPs' cooperation.

Table II.2
Bench Warrants Issued under SHARE
  Number of Warrants Issued Percent
All NCPs Referred by DCS (n = 574) 49 8.5
NCPs Who Never Appeared at YCPA Hearing (n = 287) 20 7.0
NCPs Who Appeared at Hearing
  • Were referred to WtW program (n = 172)
14 8.1
  • Were not referred to WtW program (n = 108)
15 13.9
Source: Office of the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney (YCPA), SHARE database (as of February 28, 2002).
DCS = Division of Child Support; NCP = noncustodial parent.

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