Look to Europe.
That’s the suggestion made in a recent media piece addressing some of the more troubling — even seemingly intractable — problems related to child support collection in the United States.
We spotlighted some of those problems in our immediately preceding blog post, noting in our April 22 entry that the typically coercive mechanisms in place that are aimed at underperforming noncustodial parents often do little to bring about payment or promote the best interests of any affected person. Locking up a parent, for example, benefits neither an incarcerated parent nor his or her children.
The above-cited article notes that the United States is a singular rarity for being among a small minority of nations that locks away fathers who cannot pay child support. Moreover, that piece states that “American fathers have the highest obligations among 14 of the richest nations.”
That “look to Europe” reference is made because of this number: Reportedly, about 95 percent of custodial parents receive child support payments through some type of government assistance. That is, of course, neither the case nor the general policy operative across the United States.
Perhaps, though, the European model should be more closely examined domestically. From the perspective of children, notes one commentator, such support is “the single most important thing that could be done.”
Of course, acceptance of such a model — guaranteed payments with, often, the government thereafter seeking to get what it reasonably can from a noncustodial parent — would likely have to be predicated on its proven ability to be cost effective.
And, arguably, it is, says the aforementioned commentator, who notes that a modest government outlay for every affected child might cost the country about $10 billion per year. That is far from a formidably high number, he says, “and it would make a massive difference.”
Moreover, guaranteed support for all children would pay big dividends in the future across a wide spectrum of areas. Those would centrally include things such as lowered crime rates, less money expended on health care needs, more taxation revenue realized because more children had the time and energy to focus on education while young and secure higher paying jobs, and so forth.
The standard European child support model is markedly different from what operates in most American states. It is certainly worthy of dispassionate appraisal.