March 22, 2017–New York, NY, San Diego, CA, Sarasota, FL–Today nationwide family civil rights organizations including Families Civil Liberties Union, New York Chapter, California Coalition for Families and Children, PBC, and the Florida Family and Children Constitutional Coalition, Inc. in announcing delivery of a letter to the incoming Secretary of the United States Health and Human Services Department, Dr. Thomas Price. A broad coalition of family civil rights organizations join in the letter.
In the letter, the family coalitions describe how wasteful federal spending on Title IV-D “matching funds” destroys families, harms children, and is rife with fraud and abuse. From the letter:
We encourage abandonment of the wasteful and poisonous “Title IV-D” program (authorized under the Social Security Act of 1975, 42 U.S.C. § 658(a)) administered by HHS, whereby the federal government redirects billions of dollars from social security funds to states. Title IV-D absurdly rewards states for collecting child support from broken families by paying localities dollar-for-dollar “matching” federal funds for each dollar collected from a child support debtor.
This “matching scheme” effectively bribes state family courts to maximize child support awards by re-arranging child custody between parents to impose an artificial “visitor” parent and “custodial” parent status. Almost without exception, the family court designates the high-wage-earner parent as a “visitor” who is thereafter required to pay child support to the “custodial” parent. “Visitor” parents who fail to make child support payments are frequently jailed—even if they are unable to pay.
Though Title IV-D was enacted with fair intentions to encourage family support debtors to stay current on child support, the letter describes the drastic and harmful effect that Title IV-D has wrought upon American families:
To fund, administer, and enforce the Title IV-D program, the federal government grants about six billion dollars each year to the states. No restrictions are imposed on how the states spend these funds. Not surprisingly, federal “matching” funds are rarely spent on family-supporting programs. Instead they are used to build up a huge “family-court industrial complex” made up of quack psychologists, corrupt “guardians ad litem,” and child-support bounty hunters. And then there are the tens of thousands of prison staff whose job it is to watch over parents whose only crime is an inability to pay a court-imposed support award. If there are swamps that need draining, this “family-court industrial complex” built with federal funds to persecute non-violent debtor parents should be right at the top of the list.
The title IV-D program also discourages family courts from establishing fair and child-promoting co-parenting plans. The monetary incentives favoring one “custodial” parent also encourages divorce, and are a major reason why 24 million American children are now growing up in single-parent households. Equitable custody arrangements are the best solution to ensuring consistent payment of child support, and ensuring peace and financial stability for American families.
The coalition also calls out wasteful spending in TANF funds:
The six billion dollars in wasteful Title IV-D funds is just the tip of the iceberg. By accepting the provisions of Title IV-D, a state can dip into funding from TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families—Title IV-A). This is a program which costs HHS nearly a trillion dollars each year. TANF is rife with corruption. Across the United States local “child protection” entities are removing healthy, happy children from “good enough” families, and adopting them out—all because they receive TANF incentive funds, which average $6,000 per child. This “kids for cash” arrangement is simply child trafficking—funded by us, the American taxpayers.
The coalition requests that Secretary Price de-fund these wasteful programs to avoid harmful effects:
Draining the swamp of federal Title IV-D and TANF funds will not only save trillions, it will also help make millions of American families great again. It is well-known that children raised in single-parent households perform far worse than children from intact families. Further, it is well-established that family dissolution is a significant triggering factor in depression, substance abuse, crime, poverty, suicide, and homicide. Nevertheless, these federal programs encourage exactly such tragic outcomes.
Since the inception of family-focused welfare programs in the 1960s, single-parent families among white families have increased from 5% to 40% today. Among African American families that number has skyrocketed from 20% in the 1960’s to nearly 80% today. By removing the insidious incentives of governments to destroy families, you can not only save American taxpayers trillions of dollars, you also empower families—not crooked courts—to reach child-promoting arrangements that keep both parents active and involved in raising their children.
“Title IV-D incentives are a national cancer that has been kept secret for too long,” says Sebastian Doggart, President of the New York Families Civil Liberties Union. “For decades, the Federal government has been bribing the states to set up custody arrangements where children have to grow up with just one parent. As a result, around half of our kids will now live with just one parent before they are 18. Meantime, family court judges and their attorney buddies are using the destruction of our families to get filthy rich. That money is coming from both us, the taxpayers, through the billions of dollars wasted on Title IV-D funds, and from the costly divorces and custody disputes whose flames those judges and attorneys are fanning. This is a swamp that truly, urgently needs draining” says Doggart.
Signatories to the letter represent a broad coalition of national family civil rights organizations, veterans organizations, and family support coalitions.
“We’re blessed to have so many concerned family activists across the United States who have devoted their time and energy toward this important project. We hope that other organizations will feel free to join our efforts with similar letters and lobbying,” says Cole Stuart, Executive Director of California Coalition for Families and Children. “If you are interested in collaboration, we welcome your participation.”