Child Support Policy
The father of today's child support public policy, his personal exploitation of the system, and the fallacy of his "income shares" model in use in Kansas.
and Robert Williams
by James R. Johnston
Dr. Robert Williams in my opinion is an absolute genius! He established himself as chief consultant to the agency responsible for development of child support policy, and successfully manipulated his personal approach to the subject, his efforts leading to the most significant federal laws dealing with child support today. While clearly a genius, one can easily call into question his ethics, however. While in his unique and influential position in Washington, he early on concurrently established a private company called Policy Studies, Inc. This company grew along with the programs he helped push through in Washington, as well as across the country. He was able to "sell" his model through his position to the states while they were under tremendous pressure to come up with an approach under extreme time constraints to comply with federal mandates. This particular model led to significantly higher child support obligations owed, allows for no consideration for involved second parents, and created an increasing pool of potential parents falling into arrears. Coincidentally, his company is the leader in the child support "collections" business, an industry that requires an increasing pool of potential dollars available to collect, and an increase in potential "defaulters." In the meantime, his company continues to grow exponentially, as he continues to consult with the states about implementing and reestablishing his model, one laden with flaws and inappropriate for use in individual child support cases. And as enforcement continues to be subsidized by federal tax dollars, his collections and involvement in state child support efforts continue to soar.
Nationwide, we must aggressively pursue looking at additional methodologies and economic data gathering that will assure appropriate and just child support awards in each state. Further, states must fully review the fundamental logic leading to child support awards. From there, a full review of available research will better enable them to put forth a full recommendation on what their state-specific guidelines should look like, ultimately allowing each of the parties to a child support case to be better able to exercise their full due process.
Some believe that it might be too costly to conduct state-specific studies, to include data collection. Their inclination would be to continue on using the same flawed methodology and data, falling back on the false belief that what we have today is the best we can do. However, this cost is arguably quite negligible compared to the impact of our current approach. To simply continue doing the same old thing would be ignoring our responsibility to be thorough in guideline development and review. Opening our minds to alternative approaches of child support determinations could prove to be less costly than might be believed.
Lastly, I have not mentioned the impact that today's approach to child support guidelines and enforcement have on our country's children. Focusing solely on "financial" child support while failing to emphasize "emotional" child support is destroying our children's lives by depriving them of someone that they desperately need to have involved in their lives, their other parent. All credible research shows that for the vast majority of children, the best parent to children of separation and divorce is quite simply both parents. Instead of seeking out ways of facilitating dual parent involvement, our current public policy has established economic and legal roadblocks, merely because it is easy to "garnish" income. The end result in this crazy social experiment is increased juvenile suicide, teenage pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, and teenage drug abuse, among many other childhood pathologies, all sharing a common variable in most of these instances, an absent parent. Continued parental involvement of the second parent (the one currently not included in the studies of the true ongoing costs of parenting), does indeed cost money. Such involvement is not a free good. This country is beginning to awaken to the damaging effects of having frustrated dual parent involvement for so many years. Reforming the child support enforcement public policy from the ground up needs to occur. Only then will we begin to turn the corner in the direction of our country's most important assets, our children.
FROM POLICY STUDIES, INC. PROMOTIONAL LITERATURE OBTAINED IN JUNE 1998
"PSIS CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES EXPERIENCE"
"Policy Studies, Inc.-PSI-is a national leader in the child support enforcement world, having developed an impressive portfolio of projects spanning technical assistance, privatization, and information technology. Since our inception in 1984 we have expanded both in staff and resources, and we now operate 31 privatized service locations throughout the country.
Our experience with child support guidelines began with the federal Child Support Guidelines Project. Since that time, we have consulted with over 40 states, the Navajo Nation, Australia, and Canada on child support guidelines projects." "Our company president, Dr. Robert G. Williams, is recognized as the leading national (and international) expert on child support guidelines. He was the Principal Researcher for the federal guidelines project which developed the Income Shares model now used by two-thirds of the states, including Arizona. Not only has he provided expert guidance to states using the Income Shares model, but has provided expertise to non-Income Shares states such as Tennessee, Georgia, Delaware, and Hawaii."
FROM "CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES: THE NEXT GENERATION" PUBLISHED BY THE US DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, April 1994, page 1.
"Robert G. Williams is President of Policy Studies Inc. in Denver, CO. He directed research and technical assistance for the federally funded Child Support Guidelines Project from 1983-1990. Dr. Williams has provided technical assistance to more than 40 states in the development and updating of support guidelines."
FROM DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL, JUNE 27, 1997 V48 N42
"REFORMS MIGHT BENEFIT CHILD-SUPPORT COMPANY."
"A Denver company that grew by leaps and bounds because of the national crackdown on "deadbeat dads" stands to profit even more from the welfare-reform legislation approved by Congress and the President last October.
Founded in 1984, Policy Studies Inc has grown from three employees to more than 400, on the heels of child-support enforcement laws. Last year, PSI reported revenues of $21 million. The company helps government agencies modernize child-enforcement computer systems that find fathers with delinquent child-support payments."
"Because about one-third of the welfare reform act pertains to child support, PSI president and CEO Bob Williams estimates at least one-quarter of all states will privatize their child support functions - a prediction that bodes well for the company and others like it."
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