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Together we can make a difference in a child’s life

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The 9th Annual National Tribal Child Support Association Training Conference is being held July 12 – 16 in the Regency Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in Milwaukee. The purpose of the conference is to provide discussion and information about regulations of tribal child support enforcement and partnerships with federal, state and local governments.

Tribes officially became part of the Child Support Enforcement Program, also known as the IV-D program, with the passage of welfare reform in 1996. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act allowed tribes to become authorized in the operation of child support enforcement programs and form cooperative agreements with state enforcement agencies.

Today there are 34 tribal comprehensive IV-D programs throughout the country, with an additional nine tribes receiving federal start-up funding. From the original nine IV-D authorized tribes in 1998, there are now a total of 43 tribes in some phase of child support enforcement funding. Comprehensive child support programs may issue, modify and enforce support orders, establish paternity and locate absent parents.

The Forest County Potawatomi Community Office of Child Support, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Office of Child Support Services and the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin Child Support Program are hosting the conference. Topics covered will include IV-D law and regulations, how to write a successful start-up application, tribal-state cooperation on jurisdictional issues and the programs impact on tribal clerk of courts, among others. Some of the workshops offer continuing legal education credits to participants. Vendors and display booths will be set up the week of the conference in the ballroom.

The NTCSA was established as a result of the first Tribal Child Support Enforcement Conference held in 2001, providing a national resource for tribal efforts to serve American Indian children through child support programs.

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According to Deborah Yates, director of the Comanche Nation Child Support Program in Lawton, Okla., and president of the NTCSA, more than $60 million has been collected by tribal IV-D programs. She said the Comanche Nation program began in January and has a current caseload of 100 clients. She estimates that number will quickly grow to more than 3,000.

“Comprehensive IV-D tribal child support enforcement agencies are equal to our state counterparts. We work very aggressively to form partnerships with state, federal and tribal agencies. In doing so, we reach more tribal families and collect more money for tribal children. Also, because of our jurisdictional boundaries, we are able to locate parents with a higher success rate than our non-Indian counterparts.”

Yates said tribal programs, if it is written into their code, also have the flexibility to recognize non-cash support payments. Both parties would have to agree and be able to assign a dollar amount for the non-cash support offered. Non-cash support has taken the form of car repairs, a beaded belt for ceremonies, wild game, fish and firewood. “It’s a nice option for tribal communities that may not have a lot of employment in their area.”

Regulations for tribes on developing and operating their own child support programs were published in 2004 by the federal government (45 CFR 309) outlining the requirements a tribe must meet to qualify for federal funding. Start-up funding pays 100 percent – up to $250,000 a year for two years with no tribal match required. Funding for the first three years for tribes meeting all federal requirements and operating a comprehensive child support program is at 90 percent with a 10 percent tribal match. For tribes who don’t become a comprehensive program until their fourth year, but continue to meet federal requirements, funding is at 80 percent with a 20 percent tribal match.

Funding is made available by the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement. A tribal child support computer-based training module can be found online.