Abstract: WITHDRAWN: In Their Words: Parent Perspectives on Their Interactions with the Child Support Program from the Pjac Demonstration (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

WITHDRAWN: In Their Words: Parent Perspectives on Their Interactions with the Child Support Program from the Pjac Demonstration

Friday, January 14, 2022
Independence BR F, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Louisa Treskon, Research Associate, MDRC, DC
Background and Purpose: The Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC) demonstration tests the efficacy of incorporating procedural justice-informed services and practices into child support enforcement as an alternative to civil contempt. Procedural justice centers on the idea that individuals’ perception of the fairness of an administrative or legal process and how they are treated during it determines how they respond to it. The way that child support programs traditionally interact with parents may leave them feeling confused about the process, unsure of how to get help, as if their voice is not heard and their situation not respected, and decisions made regarding their case are biased. These experiences may discourage parents from engaging with the child support program and complying with their child support orders. PJAC strives to address these challenges by changing the way that child support staff interact with parents who are risk of being sent to civil contempt of court for failing to meet the terms of their child support obligations.

Methods: This paper shares findings from in-depth qualitative interviews with 120 custodial and noncustodial parents in the PJAC demonstration, include both parents in the study’s control group, for whom contempt was filed, and parents in the program group, who instead had access to PJAC services. Interview topics included parents’ backgrounds; general beliefs about the child support system at large; individual experiences with child support from case establishment; payment status (and, among noncustodial parents, reasons for nonpayment); receipt of PJAC services (among program group parents); experiences with any child support services received (for example, order modifications), enforcement actions taken (for example, license suspensions), or contempt proceedings; perceptions of child support staff members’ use of procedural justice; and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their lives and their interactions with the child support program.

Results: These interviews give voice to parents whose perspectives are seldom heard outside of civil contempt proceedings. They offer insight into parents’ perspectives on their interactions with the child support program in their own words, including how those receiving PJAC services experienced procedural justice-informed approaches.

Conclusions and Implications: By listening to what these parents shared about their lived experiences with the child support program, we can learn about the challenges noncustodial parents face in trying to meet their child support obligations, the struggles custodial parents face in caring for their children day-to-day, and how the child support program might leverage procedural justice approaches to better support parents and promote family wellbeing.