Giving Noncustodial Parents Options: Employment and Child Support Outcomes of the SHARE Program. How Did Share Operate?


The Tri-County Workforce Development Council (WDC),(4) in the state of Washington, was one of the WtW grantees that targeted services to NCPs. As the administrative entity for Workforce Investment Act (WIA) services in Yakima, Kittitas, and Klickitat counties, Tri-County WDC was responsible for the administration of WtW formula funds ($3.4 million received in 1998 and $2.4 million received in 1999) and for delivery of WtW services in the three counties.

SHARE involved strong collaboration among Tri-County WDC, the Division of Child Support (DCS) of the state's Department of Social and Health Services, and the office of the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney (YCPA). The program targeted NCPs who had current orders of child support and were delinquent in their payments. (NCPs who owed only arrears were not considered eligible for SHARE.) DCS identified parents who had not paid child support during the past 60 days or longer, and who seemed eligible for WtW services (that is, had a child receiving TANF) and then referred them to YCPA for initiation of contempt proceedings. After receiving a referral, YCPA set a hearing date and had a process server attempt to contact the NCP to notify him that he must appear in court.(5) If he failed to appear, the NCP was considered in contempt of court and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. If the NCP could not be located and served, the hearing date was cancelled.

When an NCP appeared in court, YCPA staff asked for a finding of contempt. YCPA staff then asked the NCP whether he understood why he had been called to court and whether he was working; they then explained the SHARE program to the NCP. The NCP had to meet the terms of his support order (or orders)  by paying child support  in order to avoid sanctions from the court, including possibly jail. NCPs who were unemployed or who believed that they might have difficulty meeting their child support obligations were given the opportunity to purge the contempt finding and avoid jail by participating in WtW services. The NCPs who agreed to participate in WtW services were referred to one of Tri-County WDC's WtW service providers, with a requirement to contact the provider within 10 days.(6)

SHARE operated as a special initiative under Tri-County WDC's Welfare-to-Work program. Hence, once at a WtW provider, the referred NCPs had access to the same services and followed the same client-flow process as other WtW-eligible clients. Participants first met with a case manager for an assessment that was conducted as a one-on-one meeting and covered a wide range of issues, including education and work history, employment goals, family history, and potential employment barriers. At the assessment meeting, NCPs were asked to sign a personal responsibility contract detailing their responsibilities in the program.

The services WtW providers offered consistently focused on helping the NCPs secure unsubsidized employment, but they also were structured to meet individual needs. Thus, although activities such as job search workshops and referrals for job openings were the principal service offered, NCPs could be placed in on-the-job training, work experience, or subsidized jobs as an intermediate step before unsubsidized employment. After the NCP had secured an unsubsidized job, WtW case management continued for at least 90 days, with a focus on ensuring that the NCP kept his job and advanced to better opportunities, if appropriate. WtW funds were available to help with transportation, uniforms, work supplies, and other short-term emergency needs. NCPs also could be referred to outside organizations for a range of services, as necessary, including anger management, conflict mediation, and substance abuse counseling.

After the NCP was referred to WtW, YCPA staff continued to obtain progress reports from the providers and to monitor child support payments. YCPA review hearings initially were scheduled to check the NCP's progress every 30 to 45 days. Prior to each review hearing, YCPA staff solicited progress reports from the WtW providers, to be used to update the court. If the NCP was making progress toward obtaining and maintaining employment, and if he was making child support payments (even if minimal until the start of employment), review hearings could be set for every other month or, in some cases, less frequently.

Although SHAREs main goal was to work with NCPs to help them meet their child support obligations, it also strove to limit the burden of the obligations on the NCPs so these did not become a disincentive to work. When an NCP began to work, YCPA staff worked with the parent to modify the existing child support order (or orders) to ensure that payment requirements were reasonable.(7) In particular, DCS allowed for (1) establishment of payment agreements for less than the current amount for a temporary period;(8) (2) reestablishment of payment agreements for default orders that originally were incorrect (for example, for orders completed when the NCP was not present in court); and (3) the possibility of waiving arrears. Support orders could be modified further based on WtW provider reports and review hearings.

The SHARE program began in July 1998 and continued operating in the manner described above through September 2001. Tri-County WDC suspended enrollments into WtW at that time to ensure that sufficient funds would be available to complete services to individuals already enrolled in the program. The collaboration among Tri-County WDC, DCS, and the YCPA for SHARE has been maintained, however. At this time, instead of referring to WtW providers, NCPs who are not meeting their child support obligations because of employment difficulties are referred to Tri-County WDC's one-stop career center, Worksource-Yakima. There, they may access a broad range of WIA-funded employment and training services.

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