Providing Financial Support for Children: Views and Experiences of Low-Income Fathers in the PACT Evaluation

Publisher: Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
Feb 28, 2017
Elizabeth Clary, Pamela Holcomb, Robin Dion, and Kathryn Edin

Key Findings:

  • Most of the fathers with lower child support obligations were unstably employed and had difficulty supporting themselves, but most of these men were actively engaged in trying to get a job or get a better job.
  • About half of the fathers who tried to get an order modified or arrears reduced were successful in doing so.
  • Fathers at every level of child support obligations felt there was a disconnect between financially supporting their children and having limited access, and viewed this as inherently unjust.
This brief draws on information from two rounds of in-depth interviews to describe the views and experiences of fathers in financially supporting their children. To establish an understanding of the fathers who participated in this data collection, the brief begins with an overview of their background characteristics, drawn from a survey administered at program enrollment. It then focuses on three themes that emerged during the in-depth interviews with fathers who had child support orders: (1) the challenge that economic instability posed to meeting their child support obligations; (2) their experiences requesting modifications to make child support obligations align better with their income; and (3) their views of the disconnect between paying child support and having access to their children.