History of the Child Support Program

During the post-Depression era, the United States enacted federal legislation establishing the forerunner of today’s welfare system. The program was originally initiated to provide all dependent children more stability through financial aid via Title IV-A of the Social Security Act of 1935. This act established the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.

Over the years, public attitudes towards assistance programs changed. What was once a noble cause- supporting families – became the focus of intense criticism. It was suggested that the AFDC program created welfare dependency and families had no incentive to leave the system. Many argued that the welfare system, designed to support children who resided in one-parent households, was becoming an undue financial burden on tax-payers.

In 1975, in response to public pressure, Congress amended the Social Security Act to add Title Iv-D. This amendment mandated that all States establish a program to locate noncustodial parents, establish paternity, establish and enforce child support obligations, and collect, distribute, and disburse support payments. The child support program is often referred to as “IV-D.” Federal regulations, codified in Part 300 of 45 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR), further delineated the specific responsibilities of the Federal, State and local governments.


Important Legislation

The federal Child Support Enforcement Amendments of 1984 made the use of income withholding orders mandatory on delinquent accounts. These amendments helped expedite the process of establishment and enforcement of support orders. They also allowed actions such as state income tax refund intercepts, real property liens, and credit reporting on delinquent accounts.

The federal Family Support Act of 1988 made additional changes to the existing child support processes. The act mandated immediate wage withholding for child support orders issued or modified on or after November 1, 1990. It required mandatory review and adjustment of orders while setting program standards and time frames. Lastly it required states to develop a statewide automated child support system.

The federal Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 mandated that by January 1, 1995 all states were to adopt a simple, hospital based program that allowed parents to voluntarily acknowledge paternity without going to court. Beginning January 1, 1995,

California implemented its Paternity Opportunity Program (POP) that required State birthing hospitals and clinics to provide unmarried parents with the documents and information necessary to voluntarily establish paternity.

The federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA – also know as Welfare Reform) is the most recent major changes in federal law affecting Child Support programs across the country. The philosophy of PRWORA is to help families become self sufficient.

PRWORA created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program which replaced the AFDC program. The federal government provides a block grant allocation of TANF funds to states, territories, and tribes to cover benefits, administrative expenses, and services targeted to needy families. The purpose of TANF funding is to assist needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes; reduce dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work , and marriage; prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies; and encourage the formation and maintenance of two parent families.
California’s program is called “California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs).” This welfare program provides cash aid and services to eligible needy California families. The program serves all 58 counties and is operated locally by county welfare departments.

Federal Child Support Performance and Incentive Act of 1998 established the five federal performance measures, data reliability requirements, and performance funding incentives and penalties.

The State Child Support Reform Act of 1999 in California created a new California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) and moved local administration of child support programs from the District Attorney’s Office to newly created Local Child Support Agencies (LCSAs).