Relief from Government-Owed Child Support Debt and Its Effects on Parents and Children: Evaluation of the San Francisco Child Support Debt Relief Pilot

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Hahn, H., Kuehn, D., Hassani, H., and Edin, K.
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Most of the money many low-income Californians pay for child support does not reach their children; instead, it reimburses the government for public assistance their children have received. In California, 40 percent of child support payments are for debt owed to the government. What would happen if 100 percent of parents’ payments went to their children, rather than the government? What benefits would accrue to children and parents? The San Francisco child support debt relief pilot tested this possibility, and the results are clear. When parents’ public assistance debt is paid off, so 100 percent of their child support payments go to their children, parents make more consistent and timelier payments, children receive more financial support, parents’ employment barriers are reduced, and parents’ housing status and credit scores often improve. Parents’ relationships with each other and their children also improve.

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