Wisconsin's Aid to Families With Dependent Children and Child Support Enforcement Programs Could Be Improved

HRD-78-130: Published: Jun 22, 1978. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 1978.

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In response to a congressional inquiry, the management of Wisconsin's Child Support Enforcement Program and the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was examined. AFDC is a federally aided public assistance program which provides financial assistance to needy children and their parents or relatives to encourage the care of dependent children in the home. The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) estimates that over 7 million children who have an absent parent receive AFDC benefits. The Child Support Enforcement Program requires each State to establish a program to locate absent parents, establish paternity, and secure support.

In fiscal year 1977, Wisconsin's Child Support Enforcement Program cost about $7 million to administer; about $19 million was collected in child support payments from absent parents. Milwaukee County had 43 percent of the State's child support caseload in 1977, but the county lacks a centralized child support authority, and responsibility for enforcement is fragmented among seven organizations. From $4.8 million to $5.9 million in child support was unpaid as of December 31, 1977. Since 1973, corrective actions have reduced Wisconsin's AFDC case errors by half and payment errors by 23 percent. Other actions, including establishment of a computerized system to determine eligibility and benefits, are being taken. Other ways in which Wisconsin could reduce errors include verification of client-supplied information and cross-matching of recipient-reported income with employer reports to the State. Wisconsin follows the minimum Federal requirements for identifying and pursuing fraud cases, and clarifying guidelines have not been issued. Milwaukee County does have a fraud squad to investigate welfare fraud complaints.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and county executive could increase child support collections by: centralizing child support program activities under one county agency, reassigning the other duties of court commissioners who hear paternity cases, devoting additional personnel to locating absent parents, and directing the family resource coordinator to develop a more systematic approach to collection activities. The Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services could help reduce AFDC errors by: requiring all counties to verify eligibility information, revising the employer reports of wages for unemployment compensation to permit comparisons of recipient-reported income, and evaluating cost-effective strategies for reducing AFDC errors. The Department could improve its efforts to detect and prosecute fraud by requiring caseworkers to use the computer file to identify persons applying for multiple benefits and by issuing clarifying guidelines.

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