Working with Low-Income Cases: Lessons for the Child Support Enforcement System from Parents' Fair Share. A. Initial Plans for Identifying NCPs


During the planning stage of the demonstration, local staff estimated that approximately 10,000 NCPs appeared on default lists (NCPs defaulting on their child support obligation) over the course of a year and about 6,000 of these were potential referrals to PFS. (These 6,000 cases involved CPs who were receiving or previously had received public assistance.) Thus, local staff expected that it would be possible to randomly select about 250 NCPs each month and make special efforts to review these cases and refer appropriate parents to PFS.

As the demonstration began, this plan quickly proved infeasible. The pool of potential referrals produced by existing practices turned out to be approximately 2,000 NCPs, many fewer than anticipated. Further, the initial number of referrals to the program was much less than even this smaller-than-expected pool should have produced. Three months into the planned period of sample intake and program operation no NCPs had been referred to the program. Local PFS programs, staffed in anticipation of large numbers of program referrals, were left waiting for participants.

This shortfall occurred for three main reasons, which site staff worked to address over time.

  1. Existing enforcement practices excluded many NCPs from the pool of cases from which referrals were identified.
  2. The process of getting cases on the court docket for a hearing was complex and long lags occurred when more cases were added to the flow.
  3. A low percentage of NCPs called for a child support hearing attended the review or otherwise contacted the agency.