As is often the case, Maryland has been on the cutting edge of new thinking and, in November 2000 began the Arrears Leveraging Pilot Project (ALPP), a small demonstration project in Baltimore City. A collaborative effort among state and local child support officials and community-based organizations, the pilot was intended to encourage low-income, non-paying absent parents to pay their current support by rewarding consistent payment behavior with reduction or elimination of arrears they owed to the state. In mid-2004, the Child Support Enforcement Administration, Maryland Department of Human Resources asked the authors to study the program and to address certain important questions. This report is the result of our work on that task. Specifically, using a variety of administrative data sources, the remainder of this report addresses five questions:
1) What percentage of parents made it through each of the program phases?
2) What are the characteristics of program participants?
3) What changes, if any, occur in employment rates, stability and earnings after graduation from the program and what are the patterns over time?
4) What changes, if any, occur in the welfare receipt patterns of participants’ children after the participants have graduated from the program?
5) Are there any changes in participants’ child support payment behavior during their enrollment in the project?
ALPP was a small pilot, operating in one jurisdiction and suffered a variety of implementation and other difficulties. Nonetheless, answers to these five fundamental questions about the program should provide valuable information and insights for elected and appointed officials about a child support issue of great importance to low-income families, child support agencies and states. The issue, at root, is this: what strategies or programs are needed to permit us to effectively balance the need of our state’s children for financial support from their absent parents with the ability of absent parents to provide that support in the here-and-now without being crushed under the weight of insurmountable accumulated debt. (author abstract)