Welfare reform in 1996 was predicated on the notion that both parents should financially support their children, regardless of where they live or their poverty status. This meant placing greater emphasis on work for custodial parents and strengthening child support enforcement for nonresident parents. Although this approach has been quite successful--it has reduced welfare dependency, increased employment among single mothers, and increased child support collections--it has not worked for the 2.5 million nonresident fathers who are poor and do not pay child support. Most of these fathers are the fathers of children on welfare. In order for child support to be an important source of income for these children, Congress and state governments need to develop a strategy that makes it possible for poor nonresident fathers to pay child support.
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