Child-Support Crackdown

CHILD-SUPPORT enforcement is one of those rare issues on which almost everyone can agree. The Clinton administration says it has helped states collect record amounts of child support over the past two years, while Congress claims it can improve on that record with a welfare-reform bill it approved last week.

To Mr. Clinton's credit, collection of child support has grown - 40 percent by White House estimates. But more needs to be done. According to The Urban Institute, potential for child-support collections from married and unmarried parents is $48 billion per year. Yet the courts have ordered just $20 billion in payments, and only $14 billion is actually paid.

The House and Senate have agreed on federal child-support provisions that are tough but fair. Some states such as California, Maine, and Massachusetts have already implemented certain provisions included in the legislation - with positive results.

The goal is to ensure that children are supported by both parents. That means stricter enforcement methods, such as revoking the driver's licenses of those who fail to pay support. It also means outreach and public-education programs, including those aimed at getting parents to voluntarily establish paternity at the time of birth.

There has been progress. But child-support provisions in the welfare-reform bill go further in encouraging - sometimes forcefully - parents to fulfill their obligations to their children.

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