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A Review of the CSPER Report Doug Dante 11/8/2007 Introduction The CASPER, or CSPER, report, made by State of Michigan

workers dependent on Title IV-D funds, and released to the public after 10 months, is a response to changes in federal child support reimbursement as a result of the Federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, and effectively an attempt to prevent job loss at the SCAO, FOC, DHS, and other government agencies at all costs. It is based on a lack of understanding of fundamental economic and business principles, includes recommendations to coerce vulnerable young mothers, deceive and exploit vulnerable young men, potentially illegal uses of federal funds, and dangerous cost shifting to deceive the public and elected officials about the program's true costs and benefits. The hardest hit are children, who's true needs, especially for contact and love with their mother and father, are ignored by the same child support bureaucracy that seeks to defend them. The old adage is true; the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Below I discuss these flaws and make recommendations that are truly beneficial to the state of Michigan. Very Little Actual Child Support Will Be Lost – Michigan May Save Money Firstly, it is the assumption in the report that a loss of about $18 million in revenue, generated by using federal matching funds to obtain more matching funds, now eliminated, will “result in a significant reduction in child support collections”. The report implies that the lost program revenue will result in a loss of about four times as much child support. This is almost certainly false,. because the authors do not understand the law of diminishing marginal returns.1 The law of diminishing marginal returns states that each additional unit of input yields less and less output.2 The first dollars of child support enforcement simply track parents who voluntarily pay support. For them, user fees are sufficient to cover program costs. Each additional dollar spent on support is used to get support from increasingly recalcitrant or broke parents. The $18 million in revenue lost will not be spent in the least efficient manner. It will not be spent on attempting collections from refuse to work or out of work parents who will only pay more under the most extreme pressure, or who are simply broke, and cannot pay any more, regardless of consequences. In fact, the report offers no evidence that this last $18 million generates any child support dollars or any additional revenues for the state of Michigan at all, beyond federal matching funds for the program itself. Instead, it assumes that because the Federal Government reimburses program revenue at 66%, the $18 million in local funding will provide an additional $36 million in federal funding, and that $54 million will automatically generate support payments of approximately $283 million, and
1 The application of this principle reduces the potential crisis atmosphere, and reduces the need to call for more funds, so it is perhaps understandable that the authors, in seeking as many program dollars as possible, ignore or neglect to account for this simple principle in their analysis. 2

reimbursement of public assistance of approximately $19 million.3 Also, in the financial analysis, no consideration is given to the prison costs of housing child support debtors who are held in contempt. This is an externalized program cost that needs to be factored into the entire program costs for the state of Michigan. It also creates stress and frustration for children. If possible, these costs need to be shared with the federal government. In fact, including this externalized cost, eliminating the last $18 million in program revenues may bring a net economic benefit to the state of Michigan, as less effort will be made to imprison parents whose ability to pay is marginal at best, at great cost, with no likely hope of recovering the associated costs of housing, feeding, and monitoring them. Recommendation: Request an economic review of Michigan's child support system by the economics departments at the University of Michigan or Michigan State University, identifying all program inputs and outputs, the actual program cost including incarceration, and the actual program benefits, including child support going to families and reimbursement going to the state for public assistance, and an analysis of the proper role of interest like fines on arrears as a program input or output. Furthermore, revenues collected from child support debtors to pay interest like fines on arrears, which are part of the program income of the program, are incorrectly treated as “child support” or a public benefit of the program. The “child” doesn't see these dollars, only the program itself. This is program income, not program revenue or a public good. This program income needs to be correctly identified. Please note that these fines may not be “child support” under the definitions of the DRA 2005, because these fines may violate new distribution rules for child support.4 Furthermore, under rules promulgated by the Michigan Courts, parents whose children are in the custody of the state must pay child support. However, these support payments are taken by the state – even if the exceed the actual cost of care of the child. The CSPER report included recommendations to streamline those procedures: Also, the report recommended that “Public assistance recoveries collected by the child support program should be reinvested into the child support program. The child support program can invest these additional funds and receive federal matching dollars that will triple Michigan’s investment.” These changes may also violate the disbursement rules.5 Furthermore, again, the child support
3 Estimated using ratios from on $1.3 billion in support and $90 million in public assistance reimbursement with a budget of $248 million (1300/248)*54 and (90/248)*54 respectively. They don't actually do this math in the report, and speak in more vague terms, but it is implied. 4

“(3) Families that never received assistance In the case of any other family, the State shall distribute the amount so collected to the family. “ Since arrears are pocketed by the Friend of the Court, they are never distributed to the family. Calling them “child support” as the Friend of the Court does, does not appear to be in compliance with current federal law. Similar rules are provided by former assistance and current assistance families. See also next footnote.
5 US Code TITLE 42 > CHAPTER 7 > SUBCHAPTER IV > Part D > § 657 says in part: (1) Families receiving assistance

bureaucracy confuses program income for itself with a public benefit for the state of Michigan. Obviously, if money is taken from DHS, DHS will suffer. Recommendation: Pro actively ask the Federal Government to clarify if fines for arrears collected and kept by the state may be treated as child support for the purposes of federal reimbursement. Verify that child support payments that go to the state for children in foster care are also eligible for reimbursement in this program. Furthermore, before making changes regarding public assistance recoveries, make sure that these also are not going to violate the new disbursement rules. Coercing vulnerable young mothers The report states unsurprisingly that, “In some cases the applicant’s willingness to cooperate with child support workers decreases after they qualify for public assistance.” This is likely because these applicants know that they will receive only $50 per month from the paying parent, and the state will get the lion's share of support money, so they'd rather take their chances and get free day care, or diapers, or free car repair, or under the table cash assistance from the other parent instead. Which brings about the ominous recommendation that the state “Require clients who apply for public assistance to obtain an approval from a child support worker that shows the applicant has cooperated before benefits are awarded.” This rather Orwellian rule would probably violate the applicant's statutory right to public assistance under Goldberg V Kelly6, and would leave vulnerable young mothers and fathers, who are struggling to make ends meet, dangerously at the mercy of government child support workers who often enjoy full judicial immunity for their actions.7 A young mother, upon seeking assistance, may find that if she doesn't cooperate with a child support worker, not only won't her baby get the help she needs, but if that child support worker is not satisfied with her compliance, he has in fact established legal grounds that mom is neglecting her child by failing to obtain support. The child support worker can now take mom's baby at will by calling the child support worker's friends at the Michigan Department of Human Services. Once a young mother seeks help, she may only keep her baby at the whim of the child support worker. Recommendation: Reject Orwellian permission slips for parents seeking help for their children.
In the case of a family receiving assistance from the State, the State shall— (A) pay to the Federal Government the Federal share of the amount so collected; and (B) retain, or distribute to the family, the State share of the amount so collected. In no event shall the total of the amounts paid to the Federal Government and retained by the State exceed the total of the amounts that have been paid to the family as assistance by the State. 6 The US Supreme Court said, almost as a sideline,“of course, an impartial decisionmaker is essential”, a bureaucrat dependent upon program revenue may not be impartial when faced with a young lady whose statements do not maximize the revenue in that program. 0397_0254_ZO.html 7 When making judicial type decisions, Friend of the Court workers are accorded absolute judicial immunity. FIXME Add link.

What is the Friend of the Court Doing with State of Michigan Tax Dollars? The CSPER report shockingly states that none of Michigan's tax dollars allocated for the Friend of the Court are used for child custody or parenting time expenses, as required in the Friend of the Court Act, when the report says, “As a result, child custody and parenting time expenses of over $7.7 million per year1are now funded entirely by the counties.” In another section, the report mentions that child support modifications are also handled with county dollars. The State of Michigan funds the Friend of the Court with the expectation that it will perform ALL of its duties as outlined in the Friend of the Court Act, and not pick and choose which parts of the laws it will obey for its own monetary interests. There is no evidence that the legislature intends the FOC to focus exclusively on collections activities which in some cases, amount to little more than beating a dead horse, jailing parents to see if their relatives will feel bad enough to pay for them, and ignore its duties to use Michigan's tax dollars to modify support obligations, enforce parenting time. or handle custody disputes, just because those activities, all of which are required by Title IV-D anyway8, aren't the activities which net the FOC itself the most federal dollars. Such lack of focus on required activities are not in the interests of children, families, or the state of Michigan itself. Recommendation: Pass a Friend of the Court Sunshine Act (like this9), so that the legislature and the public can be aware of how the Friend of the Court spends Michigan's tax dollars. The report further states “Recommendation: Amend the Friend of the Court Act to allow Michigan to use a COLA option to adjust support orders.” The Michigan Child Support Formula Manual is based on the net income of the mother and the father. It's a good idea to review it occasionally. However, wages for both mothers and fathers are stagnant to decreasing in this state. Automatic adjustments based on phantom income will just generate more modification requests to correct these orders, cause more paperwork for the Friend of the Court, and cause more consternation for parents. Orders can already be reviewed at least every 3 years. Recommendation: Base support on actual income.

8 “The Administration for Children and Families shall make grants under this section to enable States to establish and administer programs to support and facilitate noncustodial parents’ access to and visitation of their children” US Code TITLE 42 > CHAPTER 7 > SUBCHAPTER IV > Part D > § 669b “Expedited administrative and judicial procedures (including the procedures specified in subsection (c) of this section) for establishing paternity and for establishing, modifying, and enforcing support obligations. “, US Code TITLE 42 > CHAPTER 7 > SUBCHAPTER IV > Part D > § 666 Custody is implied because without it, the Michigan formula can't be applied as required above. The formula itself is also a requirement. “Each State, as a condition for having its State plan approved under this part, must establish guidelines for child support award amounts within the State.” US Code TITLE 42 > CHAPTER 7 > SUBCHAPTER IV > Part D > § 667 9 “Proposal: Michigan Friend of the Court Sunshine Act”

Deceiving and Exploiting Vulnerable Young Men The report makes several recommendations designed to make it easier for the Friend of the Court and the court to make false paternity judgments, or strip young men of their rights to their children, and make it more difficult for young men to fight the will of the courts. The report states “Establishment cases are infrequently contested in court. Reducing the formality and taking advantage of new technology could result in major cost savings and reduce the time for entry of support orders. It is recommended that a new summary process be implemented to establish paternity and support.” Certainly, new technology is helpful, but a summary process is not going to be able to handle the case of an identical twin who's paternity test isn't accurate, or the case of a man who is a victim of paternity fraud, for example, using a false DNA test with DNA from another child that the man did father. The report recommends“ Eliminate the notary requirement on the Acknowledgement (sic) of Parentage form and instead require a witnessed statement under penalty of perjury.” It's not hard for a young mother and her own mother to conspire to falsify an acknowledgment of parentage. Given the financial benefits to the family, the bonds of love, and the traditional lack of punishment for perjury in family court cases, the penalty of perjury is unlikely to be a significant deterrent, and young men will be forced to pay for children that aren't their own. Furthermore, these children will suffer without the love and attention of their natural fathers. Should these young women later wish to recant their statement, they may be caught in a Catch-22 by a Child Support enforcement officer who, sadly, may be interested in collecting as much money for the Friend of the Court, than by the interests of justice, particularly if she receives public assistance. Furthermore, the report recommends that young men who seek to stop a false paternity be placed at a further legal and financial disadvantage when facing the state of Michigan. “Recommendation: Require a person seeking to set aside a finding of paternity to post a bond to cover court costs and attorney fees associated with the proceeding.” This is akin to requiring a female employee, or an African American employee, to have to post a bond to sue for sexual harassment or racial discrimination in the workplace to fund the company's defense before proceeding. Already, the Michigan Acknowledgment of Parentage Act allows mothers to legally conspire with men to prevent children and their natural fathers from having a relationship.10 While no case has come forth yet, it is also medically possible for a father and mother to conspire to prevent a natural mother from having a relationship with her own child. Recommendation: Reject all recommendations CSPER designed to establish false parentage at the cost of justice, place young fathers at a disadvantage, or allow families to conspire against the interests of justice. Amend the Acknowledgment of Parentage Act to allow for natural parents to contest an acknowledgment of parentage within a reasonable time frame, such as 3 years or less.
10 The Acknowledgment of Parentage Act says in part that“The mother or the man who signed the acknowledgment, the child who is the subject of the acknowledgment, or a prosecuting attorney may file a claim for revocation of an acknowledgment of parentage. “ (From MCL 722.1101, Section 11, Paragraph 1) In various appeals court rulings, natural fathers have been shown to have no rights to question paternity established under the act.

The US Supreme Court said: “ (a) The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause has a substantive component that “provides heightened protection against government interference with certain fundamental rights and liberty interests,” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 720, including parents’ fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children, see, e.g., Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651. Pp. 5—8.”11 Virtually ignoring this, the Friend of the Court wishes to assign an affirmative duty to parents to ensure that the Friend of the Court has accurate address information on file:“Recommendation: Amend the child support laws to require that a person maintain only one valid address after the initial service of process has been effectuated and the court has obtained personal jurisdiction. Provide that if mail is returned from that address, no additional information is required to be sent to that person until a good address is established.“ This would be a grave error. Imagine finding that your child has vanished, trying to get parenting time enforced with the FOC, and being told “Oh, yes, your joint custody was stripped, your child has moved to an undisclosed location, and, um, yes, your parental rights have been terminated. Hmm. Too bad you didn't fill out a change of address form. What's that, you did? Oh well, it's possible that we lost it. Can you prove that you actually sent it? No, sorry, a US Postal mark with return receipt won't do.” To treat the parental relationship with such shameful disregard is the hight of government hubris. Recommendation: Do not implement this suggested change by the Friend of the Court. Condemn attempts by the Friend of the Court to destroy due process protections. Stepping Up To 1980s Technology The report recommended “21. The ability of MiCSES to recognize certain forms via optical recognition equipment would save program staff time in entering information into MiCSES, thereby increasing efficiency. Recommendation: Enhance MiCSES to accept optical recognition of the Uniform Support Order.” Recommendation: The standard support order should be a web based form on a secure web site. It should never be filled out on paper. Should a paper signature be required, even though digital signatures are legal, then a single slip of paper referencing the uniform support number on the computer and a statement that each signing party has received a copy should be used instead. The Good Parts There are many good suggestions in this report. Larger employers should be required to automatically send payments electronically. Support orders should be quicker to establish. Insurance data should be accessed. TANF cases should be reviewed automatically so that the income information used in them is accurate. These are mostly pass through changes from the Federal Government, and they should be
11 Troxel V Granville, 2000

implemented as recommended. What Is Missing Support modifications, particularly in Wayne County, are not “expedited”12 as required by federal law In a September 13, 2007 Free Press Commentary, Third Circuit Chief Judge Mary Beth Kelly wrote “For example, a modification of a child support order after a divorce judgment has been entered typically takes at least nine months to wend its way to the judge.”13 She also said “The Wayne County Friend of the Court is broken. Public services are suffering; federal funding is being lost. “. The data suggests that Michigan, if it continues to fail families by not providing the required services, may face stiff penalties.14 The report didn't address this situation at all. There seems little interest at the state level in measuring and verifying the performance of required functions of the Friend of the Court. Instead, there appears to be an attitude that worse service is better for the Friend of the Court. After all, if parents fall behind because orders are established slowly or modifications are processed slowly, that usually means that the Friend of the Court can profit by charging interest like fines on arrears gathered during their own processing delays. Recommendation: Pro actively protect federal funding by specifically allocating a small portion of federal funds to measure the effectiveness of required program elements, including child support establishment, modification, and parenting time. Verify that expedited services are handled in a timely fashion. The report pretends that Michigan does not receive Title IV-D funds for parenting time enforcement, saying, “The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) provides the state with 66% federal financial participation for IV-D child support services.”, but not mentioning the § 669b funds that Michigan receives for parenting time enforcement.15
12 US Code TITLE 42 > CHAPTER 7 > SUBCHAPTER IV > Part D > § 666 says in part: “In order to satisfy section 654 (20)(A) of this title, each State must have in effect laws requiring the use of the following procedures, consistent with this section and with regulations of the Secretary, to increase the effectiveness of the program which the State administers under this part: ... (2) Expedited administrative and judicial procedures (including the procedures specified in subsection (c) of this section) for establishing paternity and for establishing, modifying, and enforcing support obligations. “ (emphasis added) 13“Public-private partnership can fix Friend of the Court”, September 13, 2007, BY THE HON. MARY BETH KELLY, Detroit Free Press, 14US Code TITLE 42 > CHAPTER 7 > SUBCHAPTER IV > Part D > § 652 says in part: “The Secretary shall establish, within the Department of Health and Human Services a separate organizational unit, under the direction of a designee of the Secretary, who shall report directly to the Secretary and who shall— (3) review and approve State plans for such programs; ....(C) conduct audits ....(I) whether Federal and other funds made available to carry out the State program are being appropriately expended, and are properly and fully accounted for...” 15 US Code TITLE 42 > CHAPTER 7 > SUBCHAPTER IV > Part D > § 669b says in part: § 669b. Grants to States for access and visitation programs (a) In general The Administration for Children and Families shall make grants under this section to enable States to establish and administer programs to support and facilitate noncustodial parents’ access to and visitation of their children, by means of

Although parenting time enforcement is a required element of that plan16, Michigan doesn't use that money to fund parenting time, but rather only parent exchanges and supervised parenting time.17 Furthermore, FOC workers, tasked with actually enforcing parenting time18, never receive this money, but rather only contractors. Furthermore, courts have the power to hold parents in contempt19 when they fail to make children available for parenting time, but it's virtually never done. Courts should be instructed to use this contempt power to fine parents to cover the court costs associated with their own failure to obey court orders. Courts should not allow parents and children to suffer without being allowed to give one another the love and attention that they both need, simply based on the lame excuse that the court doesn't have the money to do the job with which the legislature has tasked it. Recommendation: At least half of § 669b funds should be given to local Friend of the Court Offices for the direct purpose of compelling parenting time. Parents who willfully fail to follow court orders for parenting time should be required to pay court ordered fines. Conclusion Michigan is running child support blindly, trusting that the bureaucrats whose jobs depend on maximizing federal funds are efficiently carrying out the tasks assigned to them, and ignoring issues at the Friend of the Court for fear that fixing them will cost the state government money it does not have. The CSPER report gives the public an enlightening look in the hearts and minds of the child support bureaucracy, and it's not pretty. They seek unlimited power, diminished job requirements, and more funding, but fail to show what they are doing for the children and families of Michigan and how they are doing it.
activities including mediation (both voluntary and mandatory), counseling, education, development of parenting plans, visitation enforcement (including monitoring, supervision and neutral drop-off and pickup), and development of guidelines for visitation and alternative custody arrangements. 16 Please note the word “and” in the previous footnote.

17 “Access and Visitation Funding Application for Fiscal Year 2008”, Michigan Supreme Court, State Court Administrative Office, Office of Dispute Resolution, SCAO has determined that service contracts for FY 2008 are available for FOC programs providing the following services: • Parent exchanges (neutral drop off and pick up) • Supervised (including monitored and therapeutic) parenting time 18 “The purposes of this act are to enumerate and describe the powers and duties of the friend of the court and the office of the friend of the court; ... ; to compel the enforcement of parenting time and custody orders” From MCL 552.501, Section 1, Paragraph 2. 19 “Civil contempt proceeding to resolve dispute concerning parenting time of minor child” MCL 552.644, Section 44

Once the state realizes all of the extra money that goes into feeding this bureaucracy, including a massive and questionable imprisonment program for debtors, its glaring injustices and inefficiencies, public officials will come to the inevitable conclusion that effective oversight of the program is better for the bottom line of both the state government, and for the children and families of the State of Michigan. With sincerity of conviction and the hope that my few words may in some way benefit the children of the state of Michigan, who necessarily represent the future of our great State,. Doug Dante