Child Support Cooperation Requirements in Child Care Subsidy Programs and SNAP: Key Policy Considerations

Publisher: Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research
Oct 30, 2018
Rebekah Selekman and Pamela Holcomb

Key Findings:

  • States have the option to require recipients of child care subsidies and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to cooperate with child support agencies seeking to establish paternity and support orders; and to enforce child support obligations as a condition of eligibility.
  • Child support cooperation is more frequently required by child care subsidy recipients (required by 23 states) than SNAP recipients (required by 7 states).
  • Within federal parameters, states have considerable flexibility to design cooperation requirement policies. Policy variation across states affects who is subject to the cooperation requirement, the criteria used to determine good cause exemptions, and penalties for noncooperation. A better understanding of how these policies are implemented at the local level is needed to identify best practices for the field.
  • Minimal data on cooperation requirements for child care subsidy and SNAP recipients are collected by states. While there is heightened interest among state and federal policymakers to expand the mandate for child support cooperation requirements, the impact of cooperation requirements on program operations and staff workload, program participation, child support receipt, and family’s economic well-being remains largely unknown.

This brief presents findings from a formative examination of the use of child support cooperation requirements among child care subsidy programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This brief provides context for important policy discussions on the use of child support cooperation requirements by summarizing findings from an exploratory examination of the current landscape of optional cooperation requirements.  Based on a scan and targeted interviews in eight states, the brief offers a national snapshot of the current status of states’ adoption of cooperation requirements for child care subsidy and SNAP recipients, an overview of the process used to implement the requirement and key points in the process that states have flexibility to shape policy, and highlights areas ripe for future research.

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