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Tribal Child Support Enforcement Act Reintroduced in Congress

Press Release

The Tribal Child Support Enforcement Act was recently reintroduced by U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), The bipartisan legislation would improve child support enforcement for tribal child support agencies by allowing the more than 60 tribes that currently operate their own child-support programs to access the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program, which allows them to collect past-due child support from non-custodial parents.

The bill would also, among other things, create parity between tribes and states by ensuring tribal child support agencies have access to the same information as states do to administer their child support programs.

“Tribal child support agencies do not currently have access to certain federal programs and information that would make it easier for them to collect past-due child support from non-custodial parents,” said Thune. “By ensuring that tribes have the same access to these programs and information as states, we can help Native American families in South Dakota – and across the country – receive the child support payments that they are owed, and also put tribal and state programs on equal footing.”

“Tribes in Oregon and nationwide need and deserve the same abilities as state child support agencies to ensure families can recover past-due child support payments,” said Wyden. “This common-sense, bipartisan bill takes a significant step to ensure Tribal youngsters aren’t deprived of financial support that can be used for food, housing and other essentials that add up to the healthiest and safest possible childhood.”

“The National Child Support Engagement Association (NCSEA) has long-supported this legislation to provide our tribal partners with the same tax offset tools that states have as well as give all child support agencies necessary access to tax information to further support children,” said Erin Frisch, president of NCSEA. “This legislation is our top priority this year and we are pleased to see the bipartisan support for the measure.”

“The National Tribal Child Support Association (NTCSA) supports the legislation to provide tribal child support programs with the Federal Tax Offset Program,” said Sand Cloer, president of NTCSA. “Our state partners have had this tool for many years. Tribal child support programs continue to work hard for our Indian children in order to afford them the same financial opportunities as all other children. This legislation is vital to our programs.”

National Tribal Child Support Association (NTCSA) is a non-profit 501c(3) corporation dedicated to promoting the interests of tribal children and providing opportunities for the benefit of communities throughout Indian Country.

NTCSA’s objective is to benefit Indian children and develop, promote, and enhance family values by bringing together tribal programs such as tribal and CFR courts, Head Start, and Indian child welfare and domestic violence programs.

“The economic, political, and social linkages between our Tribe and children are critical and often ignored at the children’s peril,” said Gregg Duffek, president of the National Association of Tribal Child Support Directors. “With passage of this critical legislation, we will be able to provide greater enforcement of child support for our families. We applaud the efforts of Senator Thune and Chairman Wyden for continuing to support tribal families.”

States have several enforcement methods at their disposal to enforce child support, one being the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program. With this program, when a non-custodial parent is due a refund but owes past-due child support, the U.S. Department of the Treasury can withhold the tax refund and send it to the child support agency to get it to the family.

Child support programs assist families to obtain and maintain self-sufficiency by holding absent parents legally responsible for the financial well-being of their children. State child support programs have been unable to meet the needs of Native American and Alaskan Native children due to jurisdictional and cultural issues. Lack of this crucial service has caused many Indian children and their families to do without for a very long time.

The passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) [Public Law 104-193] in 1996 (and amended by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Public Law 105-33) that reformed welfare also authorized funding under Title IV, Part D of the Social Security Act giving federally recognized Tribes and Tribal Organizations the opportunity to apply for funding to establish their own child support programs.

By 1999, 11 Tribes in six states had submitted applications and been approved to receive federal funding to establish their own tribal child support programs. From 2001 to 2004, eight of those original Tribes, plus one additional tribe (that was granted funding in 2003 but was not one of the initial 11), operated under interim regulations which only provided funding for Tribes already able to meet the interim regulation requirements.

Tribal child support programs are bound by different regulations than state programs, but both state and tribal regulations contain the same basic requirements that they must be able to establish paternity, establish, enforce and modify child support orders and they have to be able to locate both custodial and non-custodial parents and their assets.

Because federally funded tribal child support enforcement was a brand-new endeavor, the new tribal child support professionals identified a need for a centralized location of resources to meet the training concerns of tribal, local, state, federal and private child support entities. As a result, the National Tribal Child Support Association was founded.


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