Working with Low-Income Cases: Lessons for the Child Support Enforcement System from Parents' Fair Share. III. Gaining NCPs’ Cooperation


While some portion of the low appearance rate at CSE hearings can be attributed to a lack of notice, an equal or possibly bigger issue appears to be noncooperation by NCPs. As revealed through interviews with PFS participants and staff, the failure of NCPs to respond may be due to a variety of attitudinal factors, including the perception that there is little risk that they will be caught, or, conversely, the fear of going to jail. Among PFS participants there is a pervasive sense that the child support system is unfair and insensitive to the plight of low-income fathers, more interested in wringing money out of them than in fostering stronger family ties. In the case of African-American men, this is compounded by a general sense of grievance against the criminal justice system, of which CSE is seen to be very much a part. Added to these attitudinal factors are the logistical problems caused by lack of money and transportation to get to the hearing site, a particular issue in geographically large jurisdictions with only a central office or courthouse. The PFS experience suggests that developing the right balance of sanction threat and message of opportunity, coupled with efforts to make appearance somewhat easier logistically, could increase cooperation.