By: Susanne Rizo, J.D. Regional Director of Eastern Sierra Department of Child Support Services
September 23, 2019
When we invest in our children, we invest in our future. All of us recognize the importance of early childhood education and the need to raise children in a safe and stable environment that allows them to thrive and succeed. The support they need is both financial and emotional. “From birth, children who have involved fathers are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections.”
With marriage rates on the decline, traditional households are becoming less and less common. Roughly 40% of children were born to unmarried women in 2014. This is a 30% increase since the 1980’s.. This places strains on community-centered and social resources, as well as parents with primary custody, to provide for all that a child needs during their youth.
With single parenting on the rise, how should public agencies shape their roles to encourage fathers to stay involved in their child’s lives? In the area of child support, we strive to ensure fathers are involved in supporting their children financially by obtaining monetary support orders from the Court. Research reveals that an array of positive outcomes are found among children with fathers involved in their upbringing, including: higher IQ’s, advanced linguistic and cognitive capabilities, and improved quantitative and verbal skills.
Child support reinforces the importance of fathers engagement in their childrens lives. “We establish and enforce and modify child support orders for families. Not only is there an intrinsic value to children who know that both parents are supporting them, but children who receive support from their fathers have better self esteem and educational outcomes,” explains Susanne Rizo, Regional Director for Eastern Sierra Child Support Services. While child support orders are monetary in nature, they are a father’s commitment to his children.
 The Importance of Fathers, Ditta M. Oliker Ph.D. June 23, 2011 Psychology Today, citing Fathers and Their Impact on Children’s Well-Being, by Kevin Gruenberg, PSYD with Richard Cohen, Ph.D.,Ed.M.
 Pew Research Center. www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/1-the-american-family-today/
 Dyer, McBride, Santos, & Jeans, 2009; J. H. Pleck & Masciadrelli, 2004).
When our local child support agency proposes a child support amount to parties we discuss the impacts of increased visitation between fathers and their children, and how that increased visitation lowers child support calculations. When a parent is caring for their children through visitation, they pay less to the other parent for child support. The hours, days or weeks a father visits with and cares for his children directly effects the amount the Court will order a father to pay. In other words, the more you visit the less you pay.
Child Support is reshaping our focus on fathers. We spend time ensuring that we have the customer contact needed to adjust that order as customers situations change. With a job loss, incarceration, illness, we can change a parent’s order. Similarly, we monitor if visitation has changed or there is an increased employment of the primary custodian as children grow older. All of these things and more are evaluated to ensure appropriate orders are being enforced. Our agency now implements enforcement on a case by case basis, making our system less penalizing than in the past. There are local child support agencies available to assist families in each county. Statewide, child support data is showing that inaccurate or child support orders that are too high, only drives some fathers further away from supporting their children. Parents need to be encouraged and supported to participate in their child’s lives. Our agency is trying to be a positive part of that picture.
Our agency has a big role in encouraging fathers involvement in a child’s life. Our objective is to improve lives. We have looked at practices our agency has had in the past that caused or created unintended barriers to father’s engagement to ensure our process empowers fathers to get back in their kids lives.