Twenty years have passed since Congress enacted P.L. 105-200, the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act (CSPIA), dramatically restructuring the child support performance incentive system. Prior to its passage in 1998, there was growing concern that the incentive system lacked an effective impetus for improving state progress toward achieving the program’s goals since all states received a minimum incentive payment based solely on its child support collections. Previously incentive payments above the minimum were based on program cost-effectiveness measured by the ratio of collections to state program costs.
CSPIA aimed to better align the incentive system to the child support program’s mission to promote responsible parenting, family self- sufficiency, and child wellbeing. To achieve this aim, CSPIA added four performance measures related to establishing and enforcing child support orders—paternity establishment, support order establishment, current support collections, and arrears collections—and retained a revised measure of cost-effectiveness. In addition to state performance on these measures, the amount of the incentive payment depends on the amount available for incentive payments in the fiscal year, the reliability of the state’s data, the state’s total amount of child support collections, and the relative performance of other states.
This brief builds on previous work by Sorensen (2016) examining national trends in child support performance by assessing the extent to which performance varies across states and across measures. 5 We discuss, for each measure, how states’ performance has changed since the implementation of CSPIA, the extent to which states’ performance varies, and opportunities for improvement. We then examine states’ recent performance by highlighting measures that have significant improvement from 2011 through 2016. The brief concludes with a discussion of next steps for future analyses. (Edited author summary)