Giving Noncustodial Parents Options: Employment and Child Support Outcomes of the SHARE Program. Program Outcomes

10/01/2003

The main objective of SHARE was to help NCPs increase their employment, earnings, and ability to pay child support. This study examines whether NCPs did work more, earn more, and pay more support after they were exposed to the initiative. Because the study is not experimentalВ  it does not entail randomly assigning sample members to a treatment or control groupВ  we cannot establish definitively whether, or to what extent, SHARE itself is responsible for any of the observed changes in these outcomes over time. However, the study's design does allow us to establish the extent to which the initiative's intended outcomes were being achieved, and whether observed changes could plausibly be related to program effects.

Although the NCPs in this study shared some common characteristics and experiences, they followed a variety of paths after they were referred to SHARE. Some never appeared at a contempt hearing, and those who appeared may or may not have been referred for WtW services. It is reasonable to expect that whether NCPs appeared at contempt hearings, and whether they were referred to WtW services, may be associated with employment, earnings, and child support payment outcomes.

Many factors may have influenced the paths that NCPs took. Preexisting differences in backgrounds, motivation, and capabilitiesВ  unobserved in the available dataВ  could have affected how NCPs responded to SHARE, as well as their employment and child support outcomes. Because individuals targeted by programs such as SHARE usually are at a low point in their employment and other aspects of their lives when they are first engaged in services, post-referral outcomes are likely to reflect a certain amount of "natural recovery" from these lows.(13) Finally, the various components of SHARE may have affected individual NCPs differently.

This chapter first describes the characteristics and experiences of NCPs in the study before their exposure to SHARE. It then explores changes in the participants' labor market and child support experiences after referral to SHARE, as well as differences in outcomes for NCPs who took different paths through the initiative. It concludes with a discussion of factors that may have contributed to the observed differences and implications for future research.

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