©2017 by Research2Policy. Proudly created with Wix.com

Family Structure

Policy efforts related to family structure grew out of two legislative requests. One request involved a senator who wanted to know how to increase the pool of adoptive parents. The other request involved multiple representatives who asked about noncustodial parents (NCPs) or child support. For instance, Speaker Paul Ryan’s staff wondered how this issue might correspond to the poverty agenda. Questions raised involved how NCP involvement impacts children, and what were the challenges involving child support. For each request, the RPC contacted a variety of experts to compile information.  

 

Adoption – How to increase the pool of adoptive parents?

  • A variety of actions can help increase the pool of adoptive parents: 

  • We can provide financial incentives, such as tax credits. However, low-income families are less likely to benefit from tax credits because they are nonrefundable. Thus, making tax-credits available and refundable could help incentivize adoption. As another financial incentive, we can provide subsidies, which positively impact adoption rates

 

  • We must also focus on providing parents and children with the resources they need to achieve “relational permanency” (a lifelong connection to a caring adult, regardless of legal custody status). This can help prevent broken adoptions and reduce the number of children waiting for homes. To do this we can:
     

    • ​Recruit kinship providers. Many experts believe that if possible, it can be better to have relatives care for children than to put them through the foster care/adoption process. 
       

    • Provide adoptive parents with resources and training to improve the parent-child relationship. Trust-Based Relational Intervention is one example of a training that could be used.
       

    • Address children’s well-being. For example, striving for stability, keeping siblings together, encouraging social connections for kids, social engagement, and normalcy (e.g., participating in extra-curricular activities, employment, community organizations).

 

Noncustodial parents (NCPs) – How do NCPs’ financial and relational involvement impact children?

 

      Financial Involvement
 

  • Low-income fathers pay a much higher percentage of their income for child support compared to middle and high-income fathers. As a result, they could fall into insurmountable debt. Incarcerating fathers for failing to pay child support could negatively impact their children by increasing fathers’ debt and creating another barrier to relational involvement.  

Relational Involvement

  • NCPs, especially fathers, involvement extends beyond financial support. For example, fathers can be more involved by having more contact and time with the child, increasing closeness with the child, and having responsibility for the child’s care and behaviors. When this happens, children are more likely to do better in school, have increased social and emotional well-being, exhibit less more emotional and behavioral control, and less adolescent delinquency.   

  • Informing NCPs of their parental rights may encourage them to be more involved with their children (e.g., child visitations), encouraging them to spend time with child, and support co-parenting relations around birth. 

  • For more detailed information on studies investigating how father’s involvement impacts child well-being see Sylvester and Kathleen’s (2002) report, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.