National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Final Report. Giving Noncustodial Parents Options: Employment and Child Support Outcomes of the SHARE Program

09/01/2004

This report examined a special initiative called SHARE (Support Has a Rewarding Effect) that operated with WtW grant support and targeted noncustodial parents (NCPs) in three counties in the state of Washington. SHARE offered three options to NCPs whose children were receiving TANF and who were in arrears of their child support obligations: (1) start paying support, (2) enroll in a WtW program, or (3) face possible incarceration. The main objective of the study was to examine the employment, earnings, and child support outcomes from this innovative collaboration involving the welfare system, child support enforcement agencies, the workforce investment system, and employment and training providers. Key findings included the following:

  • NCPs took different paths through SHARE. About half of the targeted NCPs appeared at a mandatory hearing at which the program was explained to them. Many NCPs never learned about SHARE because staff could not locate them.
  • NCPs worked more, earned more, and paid more child support after referral to SHARE than before. The employment rate among all NCPs referred to SHARE increased from one-quarter just before referral to one-third in the quarter of referral, and remained about one-third for the following nine quarters. Average earnings increased 39 percent between the quarter immediately preceding referral and the quarter of referral, and continued to climb. The rate of child support payment nearly doubled just after referral and consistently exceeded pre-referral highs.
  • Outcomes improved for NCPs who took part in SHARE, but also for those who did not. NCPs who appeared at a hearing and learned about SHARE nevertheless had higher employment rates, average earnings, and child support payments than NCPs who never appeared at such a hearing.
  • SHARE probably contributed to the observed increases in employment, earnings, and child support payments. Factors other than SHARE  such as unobserved characteristics of the NCPs or natural ebbs and flows in their employment and ability to pay support  probably played some role in the outcomes observed. However, differences in key outcomes for NCPs who took different paths through the initiative  insignificant before referral to SHARE  become more marked and significant after referral to the program. This suggests that all or some of SHAREs components may have played a role in the improvements observed for NCPs who did engage in the initiative.

[ Full report: Giving Noncustodial Parents Options: Employment and Child Support Outcomes of the SHARE Program]

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