Child Support Enforcement
The Current System
In order to understand the ways in which different cycles of policy entrepreneurs have impacted child support over the past two centuries, it is important to map out the contemporary support program. Recent legislators, governors, and successive presidents have made child support recovery a primary goal of their tenures in office. Their statements have been grand; their actions have been markedly aggressive. Yet, despite this unanimity in mission, they have all squabbled over their territorial rights to execute this policy. How have past decisions regarding the split between the duties of the states and the federal government structured the current approach to the program? How large is the caseload, and what does it look like? And finally, what are the major responsibilities of the program now in place in guaranteeing support for families in need? These are the questions to which this chapter now turns.
Currently, the United States has a child support enforcement system that is the product of a strong federal-state partnership with highly particularized niches of authority. The balance of power within this partnership, however, has not always been stable. Early initiatives, those taken prior to the creation of a comprehensive program, emanated from Washington, D.C., as national legislators focused on strengthening each state's Aid to Families with Dependent Children program–the primary cash assistance vehicle serving low-income families–as a means to support families in need. Later efforts involved building the new child support program itself, and debates about the federal-state balance were largely decided in