A law going into effect today moves children closer to the center of child support initiatives.

Maryland has a program called temporary cash assistance, or TCA. It’s the state application of what’s known federally as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF). The purpose is to help families achieve self-sufficiency, provide assistance so children can be cared for in their own homes, help prepare parents for work, promotion and/or marriage, and help support family stability. 

Before today, the challenge was that if one parent owed child support to another, and custodial parent received TCA, the child support payment went entirely to the government to offset TCA costs. In practice, this means that, whether or not a parent pays child support, the child does not see a difference in income. Knowing their child wouldn’t receive the money, parents who owed that support sometimes used it to pay for other basic needs like rent or utility bills.

Today, a law passed in 2017 goes into effect that gives a family with one child in this situation up to $100 of a monthly child support payment. If there are multiple children in the situation, the family can have up to $200 of what’s paid that month. These payments will not diminish the TCA benefit.

Catholic Charities led the advocacy on this bill, sponsored by Del. Pat Young and Sen. J.B. Jennings. It is one small step in fixing child support policies that ultimately leave children less supported. 

Recently, the Abell Foundation released a report calling for a complete overhaul, including an even more generous policy than this. We continue to advocate for the well-being of children and families by serving on the Department of Human Services Child Support Guidelines Advisory Committee, and on the Low-Income Obligors Subcommittee, which championed two pieces of legislation in 2019 to find a better balance that keeps children at the center. You can find those bills, which passed out of their initial committees but did not go further, here and here.