Maintenance & Child Support In United States: briefing

Social Development

15 February 1999
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

Mr Salvopie welcomed Mrs Mary Joseph, wife of the US Ambassador, and a delegation of two Afro-Americans, Dr Jeffrey Johnson and Dr Ronald Moncy, who have done much work on the role of fathers in the areas of maintenance and child support

15 February 1999

Documents handed out:
Presentation by Dr Mincy (Appendix 1)
Presentation by Dr Johnson (Appendix 2)

A US delegation gave a presentation on the role of fathers in maintenance & child support and the work of the Ford Foundation in strengthening fragile families.

Mr Salojee, the chairperson, welcomed Ms Mary Joseph, wife of the US Ambassador, and a delegation of two , Dr Jeffrey Johnson and Dr Ronald Mincy, who have done much work on the role of fathers in the areas of maintenance and child support.

PRESENTATION BY DR MINCY after which he gave various examples and comments.
Dr Mincy: Many South African men who migrate to urban areas maintain relationships with women in rural areas. They may withdraw financial support from these women if the latter receive welfare grants, and refocus on women in urban areas. He was very impressed with the work done by women in a flagship project at Bekkersdal. The women were proud of their accomplishments but most of the men he saw were sitting around drinking beer; a similar situation occurs in the US. The danger is that the disillusionment of men could clash with the enthusiasm of women. This situation has led to violence in the US. There is a fear that men who cannot have any control of women economically will try and control them sexually. Social services geared to women may have bad consequences. The father must give whatever financial support he can in the same way as a divorced father. In the United States, they have found that the women who do not receive child support and the men who do not pay are mainly young, badly educated and black or Latin-American.

PRESENTATION BY DR JOHNSON who said he was directing a large project with the government and NGOs and supported by organisations such as the Ford Foundation.

The chairperson, Mr Salojee, commented that the SA Law Commission is at present looking at these issues.

Dr J: It is necessary to build an infrastructure to strengthen families and put the government out of business. The role of fathers in reducing child poverty must be stressed. Maintenance people are not social workers and do not have the same vision. The aim must be to create conditions for all children to reach their fullest potential. The target must be younger men who are still in a first or early relationship. There should be a flexible court order system so that maintenance can be adjusted according to prevailing financial circumstances of parents.
They are trying to form a partnership of all relevant agencies. The Ford Foundation has offered to support cross-cultural exchange between US and SA on child support and maintenance. They would be willing to hold workshops with NGOs here.

Questions from members of the committee:
Men in South Africa tend to regard themselves as an endangered species. How soon can we make these arrangements in view of the coming elections?
In rural communities the parents are often teenagers and not necessarily in love. The responsibility for the children is usually taken by the grandmother. One must take into account the customs of SA, e.g. lobola
Where do foster parents feature in this? In the US do you help children over seven years? What about widows?
Dr Jassat: There should be a legal ruling on a set formula for maintenance, e.g. a percentage of earnings.

Dr J: We have a faith-based section and think that faith communities should reach out to fragile families. We have challenged these communities and were told that they did not know what to do with these families.
Dr M: The redemptive role is very important, particularly with young people. We try to help faith communities over moral barriers, e.g. illegitimacy. Changes in administration are inevitable and this should not deter you. We have been building on past achievements. We have not had much experience in rural areas, but men do have a paternal instinct and when they have children early on they carry on having children. We try to help teenagers with their first child, to manage their relationship with each other, and to help bear the cost.
Regarding extended families, we often find that grandparents help in breaking up relationships, marginalising the father. Maternal grandmothers should be engaged to help financially.
Dr J: We do not have much experience with foster children.
Dr M: In the US, parents are responsible for children up to the age of 18 and welfare grants stayed with the mother until 18. The options are work and remarriage and prospects of these are not good for blacks. Now families can only be on benefit for five years. The skills and income of men must be addressed so that there can be two incomes.
Mr Botha: What part does family planning play?
Ms Sandhi: Fathers addicted to drugs - what happens in these cases?
Mrs Shope: What happens if a mother is receiving maintenance and then has another child?
Dr J: Where the father has problems we talk about family planning. Men are not being talked to. Changes are taking place where mothers are receiving maintenance. We are trying to heal relationships between parents.
Dr M: It is critical to talk to young people on fertility issues. Fathers must speak to their children.

Mr Salojee thanked the visitors and said they had given the committee a completely new dimension.

Appendix 1: Presentation by Dr Mincy

Mincy (Ford Foundation, New York)



FEBRUARY 15, 1999


Ronald B Mincy., Ph.D.

Senior Program Officer

Ford Foundation

New York, New York


Chairperson Saloojee, members of the Portfolio Committee for Welfare and Population Development, and Minister Fraser-Moleketi, thank you for the extraordinary opportunity you have given us to comment on your efforts to transform South Africa's social welfare policy. I am a senior program officer in the Ford Foundation's Human Development and Reproductive Health Program. I manage the Foundation's portfolio in workforce development and welfare from the New York Office, and therefore, do not have authority to recommend grants from the Foundation's South Africa office. I have received, studied, critiqued, and designed welfare benefits in the United States and visited, interviewed and corresponded with NGO leaders and policy makers in South Africa to learn about changes in social welfare policy that are taking place here. Dr. Jeffery Johnson, whose statement will follow, is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Center for Strategic Non-Profit Planning and Community Leadership (NPCL). In the late l980s, he co-authored one of the first curricula on fatherhood development services in the U.S. Since that time this curriculum has been used to train hundreds of NGOs staff and policy makers at the federal, state, and local level throughout the U.S. to provide fatherhood development services. Not only is Dr. Johnson a pioneer in the field of fatherhood development services, but he is also an expert in Non-Profit management. Therefore, when the Ford Foundation began to work in this field, I turned to Dr. Johnson to build the skills and capacity of the NGOs that the Foundation was supporting

African Americans of my generation first began to appreciate their kinship with freedom struggles throughout Africa as teenagers in the 1970s Since that time, Dr. Johnson and I have watched the determined pace of progress that has been made in South Africa with great admiration. After 20 years of work in public policy and civil society, we are older, wiser and, much more aware that human behavior, fiscal constraints, and a host of other factors place

enormous barriers in the way of revolutionary idealism. Nevertheless, we are amazed at the remarkable progress South Africa has made in the brief space of four years since the leaders South Africa's resistance have become the leaders of South Africa's government.

We met Chairperson Saloojee on our first visit to South Africa last year, and he was kind enough to spend about an hour with us explaining recent developments in South Africa's welfare policy. However, he also listened with great interest to the work that we have been undertaking in the U.S. to reduce child poverty and strengthen poor families, mostly in inner cities throughout the U.S. He suggested that our work might be relevant to South Africa's welfare reform efforts, and arranged to help us learn more about these efforts. This included a meeting with several members of this committee in November. After studying three volumes of documents on the evolution of welfare policy in South Africa, particularly since 1994, we have concluded that policy makers and NGO leaders in the U.S. and South Africa could learn much from one another, as we embark on major reforms that are underway in our two countries Our purpose today is to share with you the results of our comparative analysis, and to make some recommendations that we hope will be helpful.

We are particularly impressed by the progress this committee and Minister Fraser-Moleketi have made as you have analyzed the fragmented and discriminatory welfare system that you inherited and have begun to reorient that system to provide basic social welfare rights for all South Africans, irrespective of race, color, religion, gender and physical disability. You face a daunting challenge in expanding social assistance to the millions of African children who were denied such assistance before 1994. In doing so, you have had to make difficult choices in limiting benefits to children under seven and eliminating the maintenance payments to unsupported custodial parents entirely. In our view, these choices have been both wise and courageous. However, because the resulting social welfare policy framework is so similar to the policy that has prevailed in the U.S., we wonder if the result will be the same persistent poverty and deterioration of black family life that we have experienced in the U.S. over the last 60 years. It is this concern that, despite our youth and inexperience, emboldens us to recommend that this committee re-evaluate the course it has charted in social welfare policy.

Similar Themes in U S. and South African Welfare Policy

Past and present similarities between our two welfare systems are worth noting. Some of these similarities are purely coincidental. For example, in 1994 political changes in both our countries brought to power new leaders whose approach to welfare differed radically from their predecessors. As a result, 1994 marked the beginning of a fundamental overhaul of both our nation's welfare systems. Moreover, in both countries, the overhaul is occurring with fixed welfare budgets. Other similarities reflect underlying trends in public finance and international consensus on the best interests of children. For example, both reforms assign similar roles to different levels of government. In particular, federal/national governments are setting the broad framework of new welfare policies, but state/provincial governments are defining how the broad framework is implemented in local communities. In both countries, state/provincial governments have new authority to design social assistance programs, however, they are subcontracting with NGOs to provide services to families and communities The developmental social welfare in both countries has the shared goal of reducing child poverty by passing means-tested cash and in-kind assistance through the primary care-giver to the child. In return, both are expecting greater levels of self reliance on the part of mothers.

Still other similarities reflect the pernicious legacy of racism and its impact on black family life. Thus, welfare reforms in both our countries are trying to create a unified welfare system for mothers and children, whose poverty is the result of vastly different underlying processes. Welfare in the U.S. was originally designed for widows with children. Since the mid- 1970s, however, policy makers have reformed welfare to assist white women and children who became poor after the breakup of their nuclear family, through a divorce to a non-poor, white man. Your state maintenance grants, patterned after European welfare systems, were designed with a similar goal. In the 1970s, white men earned much more than white women. Therefore, society could assume that fathers could pay maintenance and that the combination of private maintenance and social assistance would lift divorced mothers and their children out of poverty. The challenge for government was to muster the will and the resources to collect the maintenance payments fathers owed. Despite reductions in the earnings of most men, this has been occurring with increasing success in the U.S. since the mid-1970's. U.S. policy makers and maintenance administrators have established a social consensus that fathers must support their children and developed increasingly effective mechanisms to sanction fathers who do not pay. The Lund Committee Report and calls for a similar effort in South Africa.

However, both systems are increasingly serving non-white women who were poor before and after they had children with poor, non-white men, in non-nuclear family arrangements. Providing social assistance and economic empowerment for women and collecting child support from fathers will not alleviate poverty for children in these family arrangements, because the fathers simply do not have the income to pay maintenance. Moreover, the strategy designed for divorcees will not improve family life in these family arrangements, because it is not clear, as in the case of a divorced couple, that relationships between mothers, fathers, and children have fully matured and died. Indeed, public policies may help these non-traditional families strengthen relationships among parents, children, and other family members.

U.S. policy makers have made a fundamental error in ignoring the effects of racism on black family life. Slavery, fundamentally disrupted family arrangements of African men and women who were brought to the U.S. Although black marriage rates increased immediately after slavery, the disruption of black family life began anew in the1940s, when labor migration and discrimination against black men undermined their economic status in the family. Thus, racism has consistently disrupted relationships between black men and women and diminished black fathers' capacity to meet their children's financial and developmental needs. To reduce poverty and strengthen family life among blacks in the U.S. welfare policies would have had to attend not only to the economic needs of women and children, but also to the economic disenfranchisement of men in the labor market.

We respectfully submit that the new South African welfare policy is about to make a similar error. Under Apartheid, labor migration, and male hostels, disrupted relationships between black men and women in rural areas and undermined the role of black fathers in rural South Africa. Many features of customary law, would have produced strains in black male-female relationships even in the in the absence of Apartheid. Nevertheless, by forcing black men to migrate to the urban areas, without their families, Apartheid encouraged the development of dual family life, which is now a common experience among black men in South Africa. As a result, the commitment of black men to rural families has been weakened and they have been separation from participation in their children's development. Discrimination in wages, employment, and education have had similar effects on black fathers and families in urban areas and rural areas, because these practices have continued to limit the capacity of fathers to fulfill their provider roles.

Reflecting their diminished roles, black men are hovering in the background of the hundreds of pages we read on the development of South Africa's new social welfare policy. There is virtually no data about how black men in poor rural areas and urban, informal, settlements relate to women, children, and families. Assumptions about these relationships are also unstated. Finally, the new policies make essentially no demands of these men. In the same way, low-income black men have remained mysteriously absent from the development of social welfare policy in the U.S. for over sixty years. What is clear, however, is that the Lund Committee Report and the White Paper for Social Welfare do not expect maintenance payments from black men living in South Africa's poorest rural areas and in the urban, informal, settlements. Until recently, U.S. policy makers made the same assumptions about black men living in U.S. inner cities. Since South Africa's child support grant is set just above the household subsistence level and there is no prospect of maintenance, black women and children in poor urban and rural areas are unlikely to escape poverty under the new welfare policy. This has also been the experience of black women and children in the U.S. inner cities for over sixty years.

The RDP's goal is to alleviate poverty and strengthen family life for all South Africans. However, the new policy takes no account of the differences between the causes of poverty and family disintegration among black families and other South African families. Moreover, the policies do not proceed from a conceptual framework or data about how black men will respond to the new policies. For these reasons, we believe that the new policies will not achieve RDP goals, particularly with respect to black families in poor urban and rural areas. To achieve those goals policy makers must begin with a conceptual framework and data to better understand how black men and women will be affected by new social policies.

Raising Questions from a General Conceptual Framework for Understanding Poverty

[Ed. note: page missing] …. urban areas for work. This occurs, even though they may engage sex workers or develop casual relationships with women in the urban areas. These men also send remittances to their rural families, though the amounts can be small and irregular. Once the rural family receives the child support grant (CSG) will these men discontinue their remittances? This has occurred in Latin American and other countries where micro-enterprise strategies targeting women have become substitutes for, not additions to, financial support from fathers. If the same occurs in South Africa, the reduction in remittances would offset some of the increase in family income that derives from the CSG.

The increased financial independence of extended families in rural areas under the new welfare policy may weaken the already fragile relationships between men and women in rural areas, as has been the case in the U.S. and elsewhere. As black men become economically superfluous to their rural families they may simply focus their attention on the casual relationships they develop with women in urban areas. This can shift the locus of their fertility from rural to urban areas. Unless, they feel pressure from the private maintenance system in urban areas, this shift of fertility from rural to urban areas may also result in a shift in poverty from rural areas to urban informal settlements.

The increased financial independence of women that derives from the CSG and the Flagship Projects, may result in increased risk of sexual or physical abuse. We agree with the Lund Committee Report that the increase in social assistance received by black women will not necessarily increase their desired fertility. However, as the report acknowledges, her actual fertility is, subject to his, sometimes coercive, behavior. Some black men who are no longer able to exercise power and control over women by controlling their access to food, shelter, and other material needs, will attempt to do so through sexual demands. Reproductive health researchers have documented that conflicts over the more frequent desires of men for sex are a main cause of domestic violence against women.

South Africa's new welfare policies could also create strains on male-female relationships that have nothing to do with sex. We visited the Flagship Project at Bekkersdal in Gauteng, and observed the remarkable set of integrated micro-economic development activities in which women are involved. They are earning incomes through a restaurant, a small hotel, and a car wash, and they are beginning to generate income by serving one another in a beauty salon and child care facility. Although, some of their efforts are not yet working out as originally planned, they are all engaged in coordinated efforts to make each venture profitable. They are receiving training to become chefs, clerks, buyers, and waitresses in bars or restaurants. They are also receiving training in management, entrepreneurship, booking keeping, and computer literacy. These skills will serve them well in the Flagship Project, but also facilitate their entry into the formal labor market, or help them develop their own independent businesses one day. Most important, the women are proud of the change that was occurring for them and their families, which are described in a brochure as consisting of "… +/- 3 children and sometimes an unemployed husband or boyfriend."

Although our visit occurred at ten o'clock in the morning, we noticed a strangely familiar group of about four men who were drinking beer in the restaurant at that early hour. Undoubtedly, one or more of these men was the unemployed husband or boyfriend of one of the women who was active at Bekkersdal. These men reminded us of the working age, street-corner men, who sit idly by in U.S. inner cities, while women and children go about their business in schools, supermarkets, and so on. We wondered how long before the frustration that the Bekkersdal men experience because of unemployment and under-employment, clashes with the enthusiasm Bekkersdal's women are experience because of the opportunities for personal growth that they are receiving in the Flagship Project? How long before one of these women grows tired of her husband's requests for food, money, or another beer, and responds by asking him, why he does not go out and earn some money instead of sitting around with his drinking buddies and watching her and the other women work all day? How long before his diminished self esteem and her growing independence erupts into conflict, perhaps assisted by the beer? These are familiar scenes from black urban America, where women could always find low-wage domestic work, while men were often unable to find work in the formal labor market. In too many instances these scenes ended in conflict, domestic violence, and separation of the man from the family.

These questions raise a major shortcoming of the, otherwise thoughtful, South African welfare plan, namely: What role would policy makers like black men to play in family life? How do policy makers intend to promote changes in black male behavior that would move current and future generations in the desired direction? For example, the Lund Committee Report notes that most black rural families consist of three generations, presumably, child, mother, and grandmother, though sometimes HIV/Aids has removed even the mother from the family. Thus extended family members can compensate for the absence of one or both parents from rural families. However, these extended family arrangements are unlikely to operate in poor, informal urban settings, like Bekkersdal. What happens to children who grow up in these settlements without their fathers, or their mothers? How are boys acquire new norms about gender equity, parental responsibility, and violence against women and children, if their fathers are not present to model these norms or they if their father's relationships with their mother runs counter to these norms? How are girls to acquire new expectations about themselves and how they should be treated by the men in their lives? How are they to avoid becoming the victims of sexual predators, who are sometimes their own mother's suitors. Despite our recognition that observed poverty rates of black women and children were much higher than observed poverty rates for black men in the U.S., these questions led us to develop a specific and entirely different conceptual framework for social welfare policy in the U.S. I would like to take a few moments to illustrate this conceptual framework and to show how it is being used by the Clinton Administration to guide social welfare experiments that take low-income mothers, fathers, and children as a unit intervention for reducing child poverty and strengthening family life.

Strengthening Fragile Families in the U S.

This conceptual framework began to develop while I was working for the Clinton Administration's Welfare Reform Task Force in 1993. I lead a subgroup that was charged with creating a strategy for children born out-of-wedlock to a disadvantaged father and mother. The Clinton Administration's overall strategy for welfare reform was based on research that showing that that the most effective escape routes from welfare for single mothers were work and remarriage. This research also showed that single mothers varied dramatically in many respects, especially in the amount of time they spent on welfare. Some single mothers were on welfare for only a short time (24 months), others cycled on- and off- welfare at least once over a five-year period, and others remained on welfare continuously over a five-year period.

Continuous recipients differed from the other two groups in four ways. First they were somewhat less likely than short-term recipients and "cyclers" to have entered welfare after completing high school. Second, they were somewhat more likely to have entered welfare with young children. Third, they were much more likely to have entered welfare before being married or acquiring good basic skills. Finally, they were much more likely to be minorities. This research suggested that short-term welfare recipients and "cyclers" would need only a little help to get off welfare, but continuous welfare recipients would need major human capital investments and other supports. Thus, the Clinton Administration's welfare reform bill proposed short term job search assistance for most recipients and time-limited education and training for recipients with the profile of continuous recipients.

Unfortunately, this research ignored the diversity among fathers of children on welfare. I began to build on the work of a colleague to focus on this issue, and discovered evidence that patterns of assortative mating were evident in our nation's welfare system. This led me to speculate that the welfare system was influencing patterns of family formation among poor men and women in ways that had not previously been realized. This research, which is illustrated in the first table of my testimony, showed that the fathers who did not pay child support, our term for maintenance, were different in many ways from those who did. Almost a quarter of fathers who should have paid child support were low-income men, who, as the other tables illustrate, had many of the same characteristics of mothers who did not receive child support. Finally, both low-income, non-paying fathers and poor, non-receiving, mothers had characteristics similar to continuous welfare recipients. They were young minorities, with poor basic skills, who had their first children before they completed high school or formed consistent attachments to employment Thus, continuous welfare receipt occurred for children because the most effective escape routes from welfare-- work and marriage -- were difficult for their mothers to achieve. Moreover, the unstable employment and low earnings of their fathers made maintenance an unlikely supplement to cash benefits and mothers' earnings, especially if fathers received no employment assistance.

This conclusion led me to inquire as to how the U.S. social welfare system came to exclude assistance for disadvantaged fathers. The obvious explanation, budget constraints, did not tell the full story. As, I said earlier, the U.S welfare system dating back to the Widow's Pension Act of 1910, was originally intended to enable widows to continue to care for their children without working. Even in 1935, when the Aid to Dependent Children's (ADC) Program was passed as part of New Deal efforts to recover from the Depression, women's labor force participation was low, at least among whites. There was broad public consensus that society should support widows to stay at home and rear their children. Moreover, at the time, ninety-five percent of families with poor children were headed by widows. Thus, the ADC program established the idea that if society wanted to assist poor children it would do so through the mother. There was no better alternative, because the father was dead.

Over time the composition of families with poor children changed. Families headed by widows eventually declined to just 5 percent of poor families with children, while families headed by divorced or separated women became the largest share of such families. Also, labor force participation rates of women grew. By the mid-1970s, 60 percent of married women were working, at least part time. This evaporated the broad public consensus that society should use welfare to subsidize women to stay at home and rear their children. Why should divorcees be able to stay at home, while most married women worked and raised their children?

This produced two types of changes in the U.S. welfare system. First, the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Program began to be increasingly concerned with preparing mothers receiving welfare benefits for work. In addition to cash and food assistance child care, medical, and transportation assistance was offered so that welfare recipients would have the supports they needed to seek and hold jobs. Second, in 1975 policy makers created the Federal Child Support Program to collect child support, or maintenance, from the fathers of children on AFDC. Most of these fathers were divorced men who worked regularly and they earned much more than their ex-wives. Therefore, U.S policy makers began to insist that they support their children.

It is important to see the underlying hypothesis about poverty that supported the combination of AFDC and child support as the proper role of public policies designed to assist poor children. This model is illustrated in the figure entitled Traditional Model of Family Formation. This model assumes that a family begins with a male-female "relationship", in which couples date, and marry. Co-habitation, intercourse, conception, and childbirth all occur in the marital state. Of course, the traditional family is not always the end of the process of family formation. That process sometimes ends in divorce, separation, or the death of a spouse. When children are present, the result is a single-parent, usually female-headed family, illustrated on the bottom left hand side of the chart.

In this model, the relationship between the parents has gone through a full life cycle. Both parents usually completed schooling before marriage and began to work, although child bearing may have required the mother to withdraw from the labor force on a full-time basis. Eventually, however, the relationship disintegrates, and the couple decides that they would be better off apart. In this case, the goals of public policies are primarily to protect the economic security of the children by making sure that the father pays child support and to protect the rights of the mother to go on with her life without undue interference from her ex-husband. Attempting to strengthen the parental relationship may no longer be appropriate.

The traditional model of family formation is a terrible guide to policy making designed to reduce poverty among children in contemporary U.S. society. The model treats never-married female-headed families as outliers, exceptions or discrete events. It does not provide a way of thinking about the process by which such families form, and ignores actual or potential relationships between and among unwed parents and their children. Using this model policy makers are likely to assume, as in the case of divorced parents, that intervening to strengthen the relationship between parents is inappropriate. The only proper role of public policy is, again, to collect maintenance from the father to supplement benefits passing from mother to child.

While this model of family formation may have applied prior to the sexual revolution of the 1970s, many young people in the U.S. go through more complex process of family formation today. This process is illustrated in the next figure. In this figure families begin with a male-female relationships, as before, but the next steps are highly non-linear and complex. Intercourse, cohabitation, and conception are explicit events that can occur outside of marriage, and the sequence of these events is not always predictable. Recognizing this does not mean one has to condone it. It does, however, provide an opportunity for policy to lead young and poor men and women involved in fragile relationships to more stable relationships that are better for children. Policy can intervene, before the couple is co-habiting to reduce the prospects that sexual intercourse results in premature pregnancy. Policy can intervene while the couple is co-habiting, especially after a child is conceived, to maximize the probability of a safe and healthy birth. If the couple is experiencing financial difficulties, policy can assist both the mother and the father to ensure that financial stresses do not lead to parental conflict that can harm women and children. In short, there are plenty of opportunities to intervene before a divorce or separation, but these opportunities are ignored when one uses the traditional model of family formation as a guide.

To investigate and exploit these opportunities, the Ford Foundation launched the Strengthening Fragile Families Initiative when I left the Clinton Administration in late 1993. The Foundation had been supporting research since the early 1980s that suggested that welfare policies targeting women and children exclusively may have contributed to the disintegration of families formed as a result of a birth to low-income, never-married, couples in the U.S This research lead to the concept of a fragile family.

At least before and shortly after the child's birth, many young unmarried parents share a relationship that is more than casual and a desire to provide for their child's emotional, financial, and developmental needs. However, these young couples often do not define the status of their relationship until the pregnancy. In fact, the pregnancy is often a surprise, a shock, leaving young couples to define their relationship to one another and to their child in the ensuing confusion. The result is a single parent household, in which fathers, though unmarried, are still involved with their children and sometimes with their partners. However, efforts by young unmarried couples to respond to the unexpected pregnancy generally get no support from family members, community members or organizations, or government . As such, couples are unable to harness even the support of parents to help them work out a cooperative response to the pregnancy and the birth, and to define the nature of their on-going relationship. Instead, resources (e.g., parental support, pre-natal care, and other social services) begin to swarm around the mother, and later, the mother and child. This leaves the father guilty, angry, confused, and isolated, especially if he is incapable of providing financial support. Over time these feelings destroy the bond between father and mother and eventually between father and child. The result is a single parent household in which the father is absent.

Although this sympathetic view characterizes many of the unwed parents described in the literature, the out-of-wedlock birth creates immediate conflict among other unwed parents. Sometimes this conflict occurs because the putative father doubts or flatly denies paternity In other cases, conflict occurs because the father believes his partner became pregnant to trap him in the relationship. Finally, some couples experience conflict because the relationship between parents is a casual one. The putative father may not learn of the pregnancy until it is well advanced, or worse, until after the birth. Then, conflicts between parents develop around denial, entrapment, or the mother's reasons for failing to inform the father earlier. These conflicts are unimportant to welfare policy as long as a maintenance order can be established, income policy makers can continue to collect from the father to supplement supports being passed through the mother to the child.

Young fathers' feelings of victimization or neglect by welfare policy, only compounds these conflicts. First, fathers complain that maintenance orders are set too high and without proper regard for the instability of their earnings. Second, they complain that most of their maintenance payments are kept by the state to compensate taxpayers for welfare benefits to their children. Third, they complain that they get no help in their efforts to get access, visitation, and downward modifications of child Support orders. Finally, they complain that they are unable to make child support payments because they lack housing, medical care, employment training, substance abuse treatment, and other services, which are readily available to mothers.

In the view of fathers, welfare policies seem to impose obligations without making adequate provision to enable young fathers to meet their obligations. While none of this is the mother's or child's fault, animosity against the various public systems that constrain or ignore the father gradually spills over to embrace his (former) partner and child. None of this leads to collaborative relationships from both parents, which could be used to promote the child's emotional, financial, and developmental well-being.

If this hypothesis is correct, policy makers are missing opportunities to reduce child poverty and promote child well-being by treating low-income, unwed parents as if they were middle income divorcees. In the face of limited resources, policy makers must harness all the private resources available to those children. Currently policy makers conceive of these children

as if there mothers are their source sole source of private support. By contrast, the literature suggested that low-skilled, unmarried, noncustodial fathers often want to contribute to their children's emotional, developmental and financial needs. Community based service providers argue that establishing and maintaining relationships between unmarried fathers and their children is a potentially effective way of motivating these fathers to pursue lower risk lifestyles and make other changes necessary to prepare them to provide support for their children. This suggests that policy analysts and policy makers should treat unwed mothers, fathers, and children as a unit of analysis and policymaking. This is the approach of the Strengthening Fragile Families Initiative (SFFI).

The concept of a fragile family identifies unwed parents and their children as a unit of policy intervention. Specifically, a fragile family is composed of a child (or children) born out-of-wedlock and their young, low-skilled, biological parents, who do not legitimize the birth by marrying or establishing legal paternity. Because both parents are young and low skilled, welfare policies based on developing the earnings capacity of the mother and getting child support from the father will not be able to reduce the child's long-term poverty or dependency. To accomplish these goals, welfare policies must find ways to improve the skills, employment status and earnings of both parents and get them to pool their human and financial resources to provide better financial and developmental outcomes for their children.

The goal of SFFI is to change welfare policies in order to increase the willingness and ability of low-skilled, non-custodial parents to provide financial and other kinds of support for their children and to encourage unmarried parents to work together for their children's welfare? This goal is being pursued through a four-part strategy involving research, policy, intervention, and building the field of NGOs that deliver services to low-income fathers and families. In the last several years this strategy has had some remarkable results. In 1994, the Foundation began to support a study of low-income, unwed parents, not just mothers, near the birth of their children. This was the first time ever in the U.S. that such a study has been undertaken. Preliminary data from this study, reported in three charts in this testimony, show that, most low-income unwed mothers are romantically involved with the fathers of their children, want the fathers to be involved in their children's lives, and have few conflicts with the fathers of their children. Moreover, these data support the hypothesis that these fathers are in involved in their children's lives. These findings are moving policy makers in the U.S. to question the design of U.S. welfare policy and to experiment with ways of supporting both low-income, mothers and fathers to promote child well-being.

One such undertaking is a social welfare experiment, called THE Partners for Fragile Families Demonstration Project (PFF). The goal of PFF is to develop partnerships between local NGOs, that deliver services to fathers and their families, and local maintenance programs. These partnerships will encourage parents in fragile families to establish legal paternity for their children and help these families manage the financial and relational risks that follow. Thus, the NGOs will encourage the parents to establish legal paternity for their children and help the fathers negotiate with maintenance workers about the level of maintenance orders. Then, they will assist the fathers to find jobs, just as welfare programs are assisting mothers, so that fathers can pay their maintenance orders, and both parents can contribute to their child's well-being. NGOs will also reduce the cost of administering maintenance orders to government, because most of the costs arise when maintenance workers are searching for fathers who have gone underground. NGOs will also assist fathers to modify their maintenance orders downward when they experience unemployment, and upward, when they increase their earnings. Finally, NGOs help the mother and the father to manage the relationships that are formalized once the couple establishes legal paternity, including managing the factors that lead to domestic violence. This project is just getting underway in ten different states all over the U.S.

PFF is being coordinated and evaluated by the NGO lead by Dr. Johnson and is jointly supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Ford Foundation. It is the largest demonstration of its kind in the U.S. and involves an extraordinary collaboration of NGOs and local government officials involved in welfare, employment, and maintenance. It is the our hope that the lessons we learn from PFF will help to chart a new course in U.S. welfare policy that will help us achieve the same goals for women and children that are embodied in RDP.

Before, Dr. Johnson describes his work with the field of NGOs, policy makers on, and local welfare, employment, and maintenance workers in the U.S, let me close by summarizing the main points of my testimony.

· neither Apartheid nor the history of slavery and discrimination in the U.S. were designed to strengthen black families and children, in fact both have disrupted black family relationships in ways that leaves that endure after decades;

· policies designed to respond to the needs of women and children from non-poor, nuclear families that experience a divorce, will not promote poverty reduction and enhance family life for the women, children, and men in non-nuclear family relationships, whose poverty precedes childbirth;

· we agree with the noted American journalist, William Raspberry, that debates about

whether or not black children need their fathers are useless debates. Children need the emotional, financial, and developmental support of the both their parents (and their parents extended families) achieve their best;

· conversely, parents who want to contribute to their child's well-being, without compromising the safety or independence of the other parent, should be enabled by public policy to do so;

· social welfare policy that seeks to promote the well-being of women and children, exclusively can have unintended and harmful consequences, because fathers can respond in ways that reduce parental responsibility;

· And therefore, to promote the well-being of women and children, will require:

o research on the underlying circumstances an behavior of fathers,

including their relationships with women and children;

o development of policies that are sensitive to the needs and responses of all family members;

o development of the capacity of NGOs to serve fathers, as well as mothers, and children; and

o publicly and privately sponsored partnerships between NGOs and government, to create and deliver effective public services and benefits.

Appendix 2: Presentation by Dr Johnson

Johnson (National Centre for Strategic Non-Profit Planning & Community Leadership)



FEBRUARY 15, 1998


Jeffery M. Johnson, Ph D.

President and Chief Executive Officer

The National Center for Strategic Non-Profit Planning and Community Leadership



A. The National Center for Strategic Nonprofit Planning and Community Leadership (NPCL)

Mission: "Building the capacity of community and government organizations to empower communities to strengthen families."

In addition to development of basic and policy research, the Strengthening Fragile Families Initiative also sought to facilitate the development of innovative programs and to build capacity among an emerging group of nonprofit community-based organizations and government staff interested in expanding their knowledge and skill base to address the holistic needs of economically disadvantaged (fragile) families. To lead the capacity building effort, the Ford Foundation in partnership with other private foundations and federal government agencies, created the National Center for Strategic Nonprofit Planning and Community Leadership (NPCL). The founder and current President and CEO Jeffery Johnson, brings more than 20 years of progressive experience in working with organizations concerned with improving the life of poor families. Under his leadership, NPCL is dedicated to the development and realization of a new paradigm as it relates to how both the government and community organizations address the needs of poor families (very similar to the developmental welfare approach which is current being implemented in South Africa). NPCL believes that programs focused on poor families must lead to economic independence. Since 1996, NPCL has provided services to more than two hundred public agencies and over one hundred nongovernmental and community organizations. Additionally, NPCL capacity-building and program activities have been attended by more than 2500 public officials, organizational heads, community representatives, and parents.

A major project administered by NPCL is the Partners for Fragile Families: Focus on Fathers Project (PFF). The goal this collaboration-based initiative are to help government agencies, specifically child support enforcement (the equivalent of the maintenance system in South Africa), non-governmental agencies and community-based organizations to work more productively together to better support the needs of children of fragile families. While focusing on fathers, PFF is essentially a child well-being project. Every major study on the well-being of children has found that they do better of a variety of well-being indicators when they have the involvement of two caring parents in their lives. PFF achieves its goal by helping support both parents become private resources of their children, and, by promoting family friendly income security and other social policies that recognize the contributions of both parents (including those who are non-custodial). The PFF Project was developed to respond to welfare reform efforts and changing child support enforcement goals, while remaining vigilant about domestic violence issues.

PFF was designed to promote systematic change regarding response to the needs of fragile families. The Project seeks to support the formation of viable partnerships between public agencies and community-based organizations to strengthen the involvement of both parents in the lives of their children. To address PFF goals, NPCL administers collaborative efforts to:

· provide technical assistance to public agencies and community-based organizations through public and customized workshops;

· facilitate establishment of public/private partnerships through a national demonstration project, and through ongoing capacity development work with public agencies and community-based organizations;

· develop and conduct Peer Learning Colleges for child support (maintenance) officials that address legal fatherhood concerns, child support collections and inter-agency linkages; and

· promote and facilitate the development of family-friendly policies, programs, and cooperative agreements between the public and private sector.

Building on the solid foundation laid by the technical assistance workshops and the Peer Learning Colleges in 1996 and 1997 respectively, the PFF Project expanded to include the launching and implementation of a national multi-site demonstration project.

B. The Partners for Fragile Families Site Demonstration Project.

Vision: "Creating conditions at all levels whereby all children can have the maximum opportunity to grow and develop and reach their highest human potential."

The Partners for Fragile Families Site Demonstration Project is the largest social welfare initiative in United States history focused low-income mostly minority (the majority in South Africa) men of colour. Building on more than thirty years of social research and the work of hundreds of practitioners, the overall goals of the Site Demonstration are as follows:

a. To show how partnerships between community-based organizations and child support enforcement (maintenance) agencies can help secure the long-term involvement of low-skilled, never-married, non-custodial fathers in the lives of their children.

b. To increase the earnings trajectories of economically disadvantaged young fathers, ages 16-25 years, so that they and their fragile families move above the poverty threshold.

The PFF Site Demonstration model is built on a cooperative agreement between the local community and non governmental agencies and the child support enforcement (maintenance) agency. Each partner organization agrees to specified roles in order to facilitate the transition of poor fathers with children on welfare to legal fatherhood status, parent education training, job placement. In situations where the non-married father is ordered to pay child support (maintenance), the child support enforcement agency agrees to work with its community organization in partners in establishing a responsive order based on the fathers economic status at the time Orders are continuously modified to reflect increases in the fathers earnings to the maximum required under government guidelines. Having the partners' organizations agree on a set of roles and responsibilities the fathers flow through a mix of services leading to economic independence in critical to the success of the Site Demonstration Project. The specific roles of the child support enforcement (maintenance) and community-based organization partners illuminate the developmental approach to service delivery. Their roles are outlined as follows:

The child support enforcement agency agrees to:

1. Enter into a cooperative agreement with community organizations for the establishment of legal fatherhood.

2. Implement policies and procedures to ensure establishment of responsive orders.

3. Implement policies and procedures to ensure appropriate modification of child support orders for the fathers in the program.

4. Identify dedicated staff to coordinate internally with agency staff and externally with community organizations.

The community organization/non-governmental agency agrees to:

1. Develop procedures to help fathers voluntarily establish legal fatherhood.

2. Provide a full-range of services that enables the father to assume his duties as a responsible father.

3. Interface with child support enforcement staff to ensure that all obstacles to responsible fatherhood are removed.

4. Learn and understand the child support agency procedures, and be able to assist the clients in the process, for setting responsive child support orders and obtaining appropriate modifications when necessary.

Services offered to the father by the community agency include:

1. Employment Assistance (job readiness and placement)

2. Educational Assistance (leading to a high school diploma minimally)

3. Counselling Services (individual and family)

4. Parent Education Training

5. Post-Program Follow-Up Services

Other key partners in the delivery mechanism include early childhood development programs teen pregnancy prevention programs, public job training programs, private employers, and faith organizations.

In summary, PFF represents a model developmental approach to reducing welfare dependence by establishing a key focus on fathers.

C. A Partnership Between NPCL and South Africa Can Help Build the Capacity of Organizations to Build Partnerships that Strengthens Families

Building on the themes of the South African Reconstruction Development Program (RDP) and the work of the Department of Welfare and Population, NPCL proposes a partnership project that would lead to cross cultural exchanges in social welfare policy and program development. A key outcome would be building the capacity of South African government welfare staff and non governmental agencies to incorporate low-income fathers into social welfare policy. The framework of the partnership project would be based on the following assumptions:

1. The role of government is to assure child well-being by establishing family-oriented policies, procedures, and programs that provide the institutional framework for strengthening and empowers families

2. The role of non-governmental organizations is to provide family services holistic manner that encourages, enables and facilitates the involvement of both parents and extended family/community members in the development and support of children

3. The role of the private sector is to create access to opportunities that enables independence and self-sufficiency through work, education, and civic responsibility

NPCL is prepared to undertake following objectives to achieve the agreed upon goals of the cross cultural exchange:

1. Train welfare workers, court officials, and maintenance workers to think differently about how services are provided to low-income men in women in families

a. Conduct a Cross Cultural Exchange Peer Learning College

2. Train non-governmental and community-based organizations on how to implement services that are family-friendly, builds community partnerships, coordinates case management, and is an outcome focused effort

a. Offer Capacity-Building Workshops on Working with Low-Income Fathers

3. Offer best practice models that emphasize the partnership between government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector

a. Convene a Retreat in South Africa Between Influential Partners in South Africa and Representatives from Partners for Fragile Families Site Demonstration Project

In summary, NPCL has the ability to help South Africa strengthen families by building the capacity of organizations to serve families more effectively.


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