The Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement recently awarded the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) Division of Child Support Enforcement (CSE) more than $2 million in a five-year grant to increase access to services for non-custodial parents who are behind in child support. The increased access will help non-custodial parents to consistently meet their child support obligations and provide for the financial wellbeing of their children. South Carolina was one of eight states to receive such a grant.
The Center for Fathers and Families will be a major partner with the CSE on this project to help ensure that non-custodial parents are linked to employment opportunities, fatherhood programs and other community-based services.
"With this grant we will bring ‘new eyes’ to the process and institutions involved with the fathers who owe child support," said Larry McKeown, CSE director. "We want to re-engineer business practices to make them more inclusive of fathers and their needs, such as ‘right sizing orders’ for child support and changing circumstances over time that affect ability to pay."
Non-custodial parents will receive enhanced child support services, including help with modifying child support orders if necessary, possible reductions in child support debt owed to the state in return for consistent child support payments and finding alternatives to incarceration for enforcement; employment-oriented services that include job readiness, job placement and retention services; and responsible fatherhood/parenting activities using peer support.
The project will help redefine the way child support cases are processed, and the way workforce and fatherhood services are delivered to low-income, non-custodial parents by making services more accessible and easier to navigate. The project will be launched in Bennettsville County, and the cities of Greenville, Conway/Georgetown and North Charleston.
The SC Center for Fathers and Families and CSE have partnered on a number of projects over the years, including a planning grant that led to this grant, a project to help increase paternity establishment at the time a child is born, and to improve the pro se process for the modification of child support, including a new on-line interactive software and training video that is under development to help individuals navigate this process. Most notable has been the successful collaboration between CSE, the center and the family court to implement Jobs Not Jail, an alternative to incarceration for non-payment of child support.
Jobs Not Jail has resulted in significant collection of child support that otherwise would not have been collected if non-custodial parents had been incarcerated. Equally as important, Jobs Not Jail has helped thousands of non-custodial parents find jobs, become responsible fathers and be involved in their children's lives. This new project will build upon this model that has been in place for more than a decade.
The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.