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Discuss the pros and cons of child support enforcement. What policy recommendations would you provide to your local state representative to assure that children have food, clothing, and shelter?

Quick answer:

The pros and cons of child support enforcement tend to fall along the same lines as general law enforcement. Enforcing these laws is an effort to make sure society functions as we (its citizens) deem it should. However, enforcing the laws also disproportionately affects those in poverty and can be punitive. Many state legislatures have come up with programs to help ensure a child's basic needs are met, though the reach of these programs varies from state to state.

Expert Answers

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In simplified terms, child support enforcement is an effort to make sure a child is provided for by their parents or guardians, who are legally responsible for a child until they reache the age of majority. Yet over the past two decades, there have been calls to modify child support enforcement, particularly when it leads to incarceration. Critics point out that incarcerating individuals for failing to produce income is counterproductive, much like incarcerating individuals who can't pay court costs.

State legislators have implemented programs to help fill in any gaps in critical needs for children, though few provide a holistic approach to poverty. Shelter programs, temporary cash assistance, and food programs, like free and reduced lunches and food stamps, are separate entities. Social workers or parent education programs become involved when children are already in crisis.

In short, state legislators would do well by identifying the systemic causes of poverty and addressing them in order to help make sure children's needs are met. For example, making sure parents are paid a living wage, have affordable health care and housing, and are given the supports necessary to excel in their educational goals. Though there are no one-size-fits-all approaches to ending child poverty, solutions that lift the most boats will have the biggest impact on communities.

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