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TO AMEND CHAPTER 7, TITLE 20, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO THE CHILDREN'S CODE, SO AS TO ADD ARTICLE 34 ENACTING THE SOUTH CAROLINA NURTURING RESPONSIBLE FAMILIES INITIATIVE ACT TO DEVELOP POLICIES AND PROCEDURES TO REDUCE DEPENDENCY ON GOVERNMENT BENEFITS, TO ENSURE THAT CHILDREN FROM LOW-INCOME FAMILIES BENEFIT FROM THE INVOLVEMENT OF TWO PARENTS, AND TO FACILITATE THE INVOLVEMENT OF FATHERS IN THEIR CHILDREN'S LIVES; TO ESTABLISH THE LOW-INCOME FATHERHOOD COMMISSION TO PROMOTE INVOLVEMENT OF FATHERS WITH THEIR CHILDREN AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE COMPOSITION OF THE COMMISSION AND ITS POWERS AND DUTIES; TO REQUIRE THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES TO DEVELOP A STATEWIDE PLAN TO PROMOTE FATHER INVOLVEMENT AND TO REQUIRE THE PLAN TO INCLUDE VARIOUS STATE AGENCIES AND LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS IN CARRYING OUT THE STATEWIDE PLAN; TO REQUIRE STATE AGENCIES TO DEVELOP POLICIES AND PROCEDURES FOR THE DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION AND FOR REFERRAL OF FATHERS TO SERVICE DELIVERY ENTITIES THAT CAN PROVIDE EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING ASSISTANCE; TO PROMOTE THE UTILIZATION OF COMMUNITY-BASED AND FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS AND WORK DEVELOPMENT BOARDS IN PROVIDING SERVICES TO LOW-INCOME FATHERS; TO REQUIRE THE OFFICE OF CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT TO DEVELOP POLICIES AND PROCEDURES TO ASSIST LOW-INCOME FATHERS IN PAYING CHILD SUPPORT DEBT; TO PROVIDE REDUCTIONS IN CHILD SUPPORT ARREARAGES TO LOW-INCOME FATHERS WHO MEET CERTAIN ECONOMIC, EMPLOYMENT, AND PAYMENT REQUIREMENTS; TO REQUIRE THE OFFICE OF CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT AND THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS TO CROSS MATCH INMATES AND CHILD SUPPORT OBLIGORS, TO ASSIST LOW-INCOME FATHERS IN OBTAINING APPROPRIATE CHILD SUPPORT OBLIGATIONS, AND TO INFORM THEM OF THEIR CHANGING OBLIGATIONS UPON RELEASE; TO ESTABLISH THE WORK AND FAMILY REINTEGRATION INITIATIVE TO HELP REDUCE INCARCERATION RECIDIVISM THROUGH PROVIDING EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATIONAL, TRAINING, AND PARENTING OPPORTUNITIES FOR INCARCERATED PARENTS; AND TO REQUIRE THE DEVELOPMENT OF COMMUNITY ACCESS CENTERS TO HELP PROVIDE SERVICES TO INDIVIDUALS REENTERING THE FAMILY AND WORKFORCE FROM PRISON.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. Chapter 7, Title 20 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
Section 20-7-9900. This article may be cited as the 'South Carolina Nurturing Responsible Families Act'.
Section 20-7-9910. The General Assembly finds that a father's involvement with his children has a positive effect on a child's educational, social, psychological, and physical development. Children lacking the involvement of a responsible father are more likely to do poorly in school, are at higher risk of involvement with drugs and alcohol, are more likely to live in poverty, and are more likely to rely on government support as children and as adults. Additionally, the United States Congress has found that promotion of responsible fatherhood is integral to successful child rearing and the well-being of children. Low-income, unmarried fathers often become disconnected with their families due to unemployment, underemployment, or feelings of self-doubt regarding their skills as fathers. Fathers in these fragile families can benefit from policies and programs that support and nurture their role as a financial and emotional contributor to their child's well-being.
Section 20-7-9920. (A) To reduce dependency on government benefits and to ensure that children from low-income, fragile families benefit from the involvement of two parents, there is created the South Carolina Nurturing Responsible Families Initiative designed to facilitate the involvement of fathers in children's lives where appropriate. The initiative shall:
(1) develop a statewide strategy on low-income fathers;
(2) facilitate programmatic support for services that assist low-income fathers to develop or maintain relationships with their children and to ensure statewide access to these services;
(3) identify areas where systemic changes are necessary to remove barriers or obstacles to father involvement.
(B) The following principles must be used to guide implementation of the initiative:
(1) The historically low expectations held about fathers must change in all areas of society, and responsible fathers must be encouraged to be full partners in parenting their children.
(2) Women have a crucial role in promoting and supporting the involvement of responsible fathers in the lives of their children, and that role must not be overlooked or diminished.
(3) Family violence must not be tolerated.
Section 20-7-9930. (A) To carry out the purposes of the Nurturing Responsible Families Initiative the Department of Social Services shall develop within its existing framework the Low-Income Fatherhood Commission that shall:
(1) develop a comprehensive, statewide plan to promote the positive involvement and interaction of low-income fathers with their children. The plan must include involvement from the Department of Social Services, Department of Corrections, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Environmental Control, Office of Child Support Enforcement, the Judicial Department, workforce development boards, community organizations, and any other public or private entity the commission determines necessary to carry out a statewide plan to promote responsible fatherhood. The plan must include strategies that encourage father involvement before the birth of a child in families that are intact, in fragile families, and in instances where a father and mother are unmarried or divorced. The plan also must include agency recommendations for the development of policies and procedures for serving low-income fathers, through direct service or referral within their service delivery mission or as a partner to another entity or agency;
(2) annually, conduct an assessment or identify barriers within state programs and agency policies, laws, and regulations that inhibit father involvement and submit an annual report including recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor no later than November first on how these barriers could be effectively addressed;
(3) identify successful strategies that encourage responsible fatherhood and workforce development opportunities in low-income communities and recommend and promote those which should be recognized, expanded, or replicated;
(4) identify how existing federal, state, and community resources can be used to encourage responsible fatherhood and workforce investment for low-income fathers including, but not limited to, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant, Social Services Block Grant, and Workforce Investment Act;
(5) educate state and local government entities regarding the issues related to low-income fathers and their families;
(6) perform oversight and accountability duties regarding the statewide plan; and
(7) develop performance measures to be used by state entities to develop policies or procedures that facilitate appropriate father involvement across state government.
(B) The commission is composed of:
(1) the Director of the Department of Social Services or a designee;
(2) the Director of the Office of Child Support Enforcement or a designee;
(3) the Director of the Department of Corrections or a designee;
(4) the Superintendent of Education or a designee;
(5) the Director of the Employment Security Commission or a designee;
(6) a family court judge;
(7) a representative of the Governor's Office, Division of Children's Services;
(8) a representative from the Commission on Higher Education;
(9) a representative from the Commission on Minority Affairs;
(10) a representative from a philanthropic foundation;
(11) a representative from a local program serving low-income fathers;
(12) a representative from a local program serving low-income mothers or TANF recipients;
(13) a representative from a teen pregnancy prevention initiative;
(14) a representative from First Steps to School Readiness;
(15) a representative from a workforce development board;
(16) a representative from the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce;
(17) a representative from local clergy;
(18) a representative with expertise in family and domestic violence;
(19) a representative with expertise in child development;
(20) a representative of low-income, noncustodial fathers;
(21) a representative of low-income mothers or TANF recipients;
(22) two additional members to be appointed by the commission members based on specific needs.
(C) The Director of the Department of Social Services shall serve as chairman of the commission.
(D) The commission is encouraged to utilize the expertise of national organizations or entities with expertise on issues related to low-income fathers.
(E) The commission shall solicit and provide grants to nonprofit organizations or other entities that provide services to support responsible fatherhood activities for low-income fathers that the commission determines meet the purposes and principles of the South Carolina Nurturing Responsible Families Initiative.
Section 20-7-9940. (A) To facilitate access to programs or services designed to develop financial and emotional contributions of low-income fathers, the Department of Social Services, Department of Corrections, Department of Health and Human Services, family court, workforce development boards, and the Office of Child Support Enforcement are directed to develop policies and procedures to disseminate information and refer clients to or require participation with, as appropriate, service delivery entities that can assist with, but are not limited to, these services:
(1) securing employment;
(2) obtaining job skills necessary to secure employment or wage advancement opportunities;
(3) developing parenting skills;
(4) understanding child development skills;
(5) peer support groups;
(6) relationship management;
(8) obtaining legal assistance;
(9) navigating child support or custody and visitation issues;
(10) developing a payment plan for child support proceedings.
(B) Information resources and referral or required participation in these programs should be available in the following circumstances and on a statewide basis:
(1) for low-income fathers who have difficulty paying or maintaining monthly child support because of unemployment or underemployment;
(2) during contempt proceedings if unemployment or underemployment are reasons for noncompliance with child support obligations;
(3) during healthy start visits or other prenatal activities;
(4) at the occurrence of in-hospital paternity establishment;
(5) during a child support proceeding;
(6) during a divorce proceeding;
(7) during pre-release and post-release periods for incarcerated fathers;
(8) during application or redetermination for welfare;
(9) during application for child support enforcement services;
(10) with child support correspondence to obligors or delinquent obligors;
(11) other instances as determined by the Commission on Fatherhood;
(12) other instances as determined by the various departments or entities.
(C) In providing direct services to low-income fathers the departments are encouraged to utilize and cooperate with existing service delivery entities including, but not limited to, community-based organizations which have experience working with low-income fathers, faith-based organizations which have experience working with low-income fathers and workforce development boards. If no such entity exists within a geographic region, the Fatherhood Commission shall encourage the development of programs and services for low-income fathers.
(D) Based on findings from the Commission on Fatherhood, these departments and entities shall implement policies and procedures that include low-income fathers in their overall service delivery systems, performance measures, and program goals and purposes and other areas guiding policy and practice to ensure that children benefit from the maximum level of appropriate father involvement.
Section 20-7-9950. (A) The Office of Child Support Enforcement shall develop policies and procedures that allow low-income fathers who are delinquent in child support obligations because of unemployment or underemployment the opportunity to participate in employment opportunities in exchange for entering into and complying with payment agreements designed to enable low-income fathers to begin or continue providing financial support for their children. These agreements should consider:
(1) whether the current support order amount corresponds with an obligor's ability to pay;
(2) whether a modification of an existing order is necessary so that an obligor's ability to pay corresponds with the order amount;
(3) conditions upon which other enforcement remedies such as incarceration or license revocations will be utilized for noncompliance.
(B) If a low-income father enters into an agreement, the Office of Child Support Enforcement shall provide the father information regarding procedures to report changes in earnings and income and procedures to request a modification of an existing order.
(C) If a low-income father does not comply with participation in an employment program or repayment procedures, the department shall reinstate regular enforcement procedures, including license revocation, incarceration, or other enforcement remedies as determined by the department.
(D) As an alternative to incarceration, the family courts shall develop policies and procedures that refer to or require participation in an employment or other fatherhood program if a low-income father is brought before the court for failure to pay child support if the failure is determined to be the result of unemployment or underemployment. Failure to participate in such programs results in application of traditional remedies including incarceration.
(E)(1) The Office of Child Support Enforcement shall develop a debt leveraging policy that seeks to reduce the amount of past due debt owed to the State for reimbursement of welfare costs after a period of satisfactory employment and payment history.
(2) Low-income fathers eligible to receive a debt leveraging reduction include fathers who:
(a) have employment income at or below one hundred and fifty percent of the federal poverty guideline;
(b) have debt owed to the State to reimburse welfare payments made as part of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program or Aid to Families with Dependent Children which is in excess of five thousand dollars; and
(c) enter into a monthly payment schedule to satisfy current support obligations and who remain current on this agreement.
(3) Low-income fathers are eligible for a twenty-five percent reduction in their state debt after:
(a) completing required program criteria, including obtaining employment and participating in parenting classes;
(b) obtaining and maintaining employment for a continuous six-month period; and
(c) maintaining current monthly support obligations.
(4) Low-income fathers are eligible for an additional twenty-five percent reduction in their state debt after:
(a) one year of continuous employment; and
(b) maintaining current monthly support obligations.
(5) Low-income fathers are eligible for an additional thirty percent reduction in their state debt after:
(a) five years of continuous employment or when the child support order is satisfied, whichever occurs first; and
(b) maintaining current monthly support obligations.
(6) Low-income fathers are eligible for a reduction in their remaining state debt as determined by the department based upon satisfactory employment history, payment history, or other circumstances determined by the department.
(7) Low-income fathers who reunite through marriage to the mother of the child for whom child support is owed, are eligible for a complete debt reduction as determined by the department based on:
(a) employment history;
(b) a satisfactory period of reconciliation;
(c) evidence of providing financial and emotional support to the mother and child;
(d) providing legal documentation of marriage.
(F) The Office of Child Support Enforcement may develop good-cause exceptions to employment and payment provisions.
(G) The family courts shall distribute materials that provide information to the obligee and obligor in a child support proceeding, including a contempt proceeding, information on modification procedures, information on custody and visitation proceedings, agencies or entities providing assistance with mediation or parenting plans, and agencies or entities that can provide services to low-income fathers and mothers relating to employment, parenting, child development, peer support, and relationship skills.
Section 20-7-9960. (A) On a periodic basis, the Office of Child Support Enforcement and the Department of Corrections shall conduct a cross-match of current obligors, alleged fathers in paternity actions, and parties to a child support proceeding and current incarcerated individuals. If there is a match, the Office of Child Support Enforcement and the Department of Corrections shall develop policies and procedures to carry out the following:
(1) The Office Of Child Support Enforcement shall meet with incarcerated individuals who are alleged fathers in paternity actions for the purpose of establishing or refuting a paternity claim. If an alleged paternity is confirmed, child support workers shall pursue the establishment of a support order based on an individual's current ability to pay. Upon reaching the duration of an inmate obligor's sentence, the Office of Child Support Enforcement and the Department of Corrections shall develop policies and procedures to monitor an inmate obligor's progress through a work-release program, parole, release, or other situation for the purpose of modifying a child support order if the inmate obligor's income or other circumstances change significantly to warrant modification.
(2) Inmates who are current obligors must be informed in writing of their right to request a modification of a current support order based on a change in circumstances. The notification must include the procedural process for requesting the modification.
(3) Upon release or parole from a correctional institution, the inmate obligor must be informed of his obligation to report changes in income or circumstances that may affect a child support order, modification procedures, how to contact the Office of Child Support Enforcement, and new hire reporting and wage withholding procedures that will affect an obligor once becoming employed.
(B) The Department of Corrections and the Office of Child Support Enforcement shall develop policies and procedures to provide notification to the Office of Child Support Enforcement of newly incarcerated individuals for the purpose of identifying those individuals who are obligated to pay child support in this State. An incarcerated individual determined to be a current obligor must be informed of his right to request a modification to an existing child support order and must be informed of the procedural process for requesting the modification.
Section 20-7-9970. (A) The Department of Corrections, the Office of Child Support Enforcement, the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, and workforce development boards shall develop and implement a pre-release and post-release Work and Family Reintegration Initiative that will help to reduce risk factors including, but not limited to, unemployment and lack of family contact associated with recidivism.
(B) This initiative shall provide incarcerated individuals within one year of release, the opportunity to participate in activities designed to increase their labor market and employment related skills in addition to family and relationship skill. These activities must include, but are not limited to:
(1) adult literacy, English as a second language, and General Equivalency Diploma;
(2) technical skills associated with obtaining employment;
(3) life skills training that may include, but are not limited to, resume writing, hygiene, work ethic, punctuality, anger management, or other social interaction skills;
(4) child development and parenting skills;
(5) relationship management;
(6) child support and visitation issues.
(C) The Department of Corrections, the Office of Child Support Enforcement, the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, and workforce development boards shall develop a community access center for the Work and Family Reintegration Initiative that must be available in the community to newly released or paroled individuals who are the subject of a child support order or who have a minor child to whom they are obligated to provide support. The community access center shall provide participating individuals, through referral or direct service, these services:
(1) employment assistance, including job readiness, job skills training, and job and training referrals;
(2) assistance with finding supportive services including, but not limited to, transportation, housing, and tools or uniforms needed for work;
(3) information regarding child support issues, including procedures to seek modification of a support order, wage withholding, and employer reporting;
(4) information regarding rights and responsibilities for seeking visitation or parenting time with minor children where appropriate;
(5) peer support groups;
(6) substance abuse and domestic violence counseling;
(7) case management.
(D) The Department of Corrections, the Office of Child Support Enforcement, the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, and the workforce development boards shall make every effort to develop the Work and Family Reintegration Initiative within an existing entity that has experience providing services to low-income individuals in addition to maximizing the use of federal funds from the Workforce Investment Act, Welfare-to-Work, and other federal funding sources for the provision of services."
SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
This web page was last updated on Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 2:16 P.M.