Poster Paper: Effects of Child Support Full Pass through on Colorado Families in Need

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Exhibits (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Michael Martinez-Schiferl, Tom Zolot and Larry Desbien, Colorado Department of Human Services

In April 2017, Colorado became the first state in the nation to fully pass through all child support paid to TANF families with a full disregard. Currently, most states retain these funds as unreimbursed public assistance. Research suggests that non-custodial parents are more willing to pay child support if those dollars will benefit their children, and that custodial parents are more willing to cooperate with establishing and enforcing orders if they know they will receive the money. This 100% pass through policy was rooted in a desire to help Colorado’s most vulnerable families and to provide incentive for the non-custodial parent to pay their child support.

This policy is significantly more successful than initially anticipated. Since implementation (April 2017-December 2018), total monthly collections for TANF families rose 76%. Comparing April 2017 to October 2018, the number of established child support cases with current support owed to TANF families increased 13%. These data indicate that the pass through policy has been successful in encouraging non-custodial parents to pay child support and in encouraging both parents to establish child support orders. Overall, the Colorado Department of Human Services credits the unprecedented success of the pass through policy to its deliberate implementation, including strategically messaging the policy change to both the parent receiving TANF as well as the parent responsible for paying child support for their children.

This paper will review the background and implementation of Colorado’s pass through policy and the results of Colorado’s assessment of the impact of the policy, including a quantitative analysis (difference-in-differences and propensity score matching) comparing time periods before and after the policy change and TANF participant survey results. We will also discuss its implications for broader child support policy across the country. Participants will leave with detailed knowledge of the change and its implications for their own communities.