THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS
Ken Paxton

Family Initiatives

Family Initiatives (FI), Child Support Division (CSD) reinforces and builds upon the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG’s) commitment to serve and value Texas families and children throughout all its programs, policies, and activities.  Family Initiative supports and serves the Child Support Division by providing effective project development and programmatic oversight to ensure good stewardship of resources and maximize the success of special initiatives, and developing and pilot testing field-generated ideas for program enhancement.

FI leads special projects and ongoing programs that enhance the Child Support Division's ability to respond collaboratively and effectively to the changing needs of families and children in Texas. Family Initiatives works in collaboration with community and faith-based organizations, courts, schools, legal aid providers, and other public agencies. These programs lead the nation in efforts to promote responsible fatherhood, conduct parenting and paternity education, increase noncustodial parent access to children, and provide services that encourage stable family formation.

Family Initiatives activities focus on two areas:

  • Prevention, Early Intervention, and Outreach (PEIO) – Initiatives in this focus area promote healthy family formation, encourages responsible parenthood, and increase safety during the child support life cycle.
  • Father and Noncustodial Parent Involvement – Initiatives in this area include projects and outreach activities that strengthen fathers and noncustodial parents’ financial and emotional contributions, encourage cooperative parenting relationships, and encourage active participation in the child support process.

Father and Noncustodial Parent Involvement

Noncustodial Parent Choices

NCP Choices provides enhanced child support case compliance monitoring and employment services for noncustodial parents who are unemployed or underemployed and owe child support. Participation in the program is mandatory as ordered by IV-D Associate Judges in the 21 sites currently funded by the Texas Workforce Commission and the OAG. NCPs ordered into NCP Choices have, on average, made no payments in the eight months prior to program entry and pay an average of $169 per month in the first year after program entry. Evaluation results show this as an overall 51 percent increase in child support payments for NCPs participating in this program as compared to a control group of similar NCPs in the OAG caseload.

View a short video to find out why NCP Choices is one of the largest and most successful NCP child support/employment programs in the nation and hear from actual program participants.

Read through the program participant pamphlet to learn more about NCP Choices services, requirements, and success stories.

HEROES: Help Establishing Responsive Orders and Ensuring Support for Children in Military Families

The goal of HEROES is to:

  • Offer service members, veterans and their dependents enhanced, personalized assistance in addressing paternity establishment, child support and parenting time (custody/visitation) matters;
  • Provide appropriate relief in Texas child support cases where military service/combat related injuries have contributed to non-compliance with court orders; and
  • Promote positive co-parenting solutions for service members and families.

To accomplish these goals, the HEROES team works closely with the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG), Family Readiness Group staff, the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN), the Texas Veterans Leadership Program (TVLP), Texas Yellow Ribbon, and child support and legal services programs across the United States and internationally.

During the HEROES grant evaluation period which runs from July 2010 through August 2013:

  • more than 3,907 service members and veterans with specialized, expedited case review, assessment and legal action
  • more than 345 Ft. Hood service members or dependents with individual appointments to discuss paternity, child support and parenting time issues
  • 87 paternity, child support and parenting time legal clinics to more than 940 parents at Ft. Hood, Ft. Bliss and Joint Base San Antonio
  • Presentations and legal briefings at multiple veterans legal clinics National Guard Yellow Ribbon events and with veteran service organizations
  • Interstate child support and custody training for JAG attorneys and legal assistance staff at Ft. Hood, Ft. Bliss and Joint Base San Antonio
  • All Texas Child Support Division attorneys with training conducted by VISN on recognizing and responding to post-traumatic stress disorder

HEROES services are overseen by CSD’s Field Operations. For appointments, legal clinic schedule or to ask general questions, email HEROES or call (512) 460-6400.

Are you about to deploy or are you returning from deployment? Check out the Military Parents: Paternity, Child Support, Custody & Parenting Time brochure for HEROES pre- and post-deployment checklists and to review frequently asked military parent questions.

HEROES project coordination is based in Austin with HEROES assistant attorneys general serving the San Antonio and Temple/Killeen areas. HEROES assistant attorneys general represent the State of Texas. They cannot and do not represent child support customers. If you are a service member and need an attorney to represent you, contact a private attorney or Legal Assistance through the JAG.

Access and Visitation Program

Although federal regulations do not allow the Office of the Attorney General to use child support funding for legal services about custody or visitation disputes, the OAG does receive limited special funding to provide shared parenting services. The Access and Visitation (A&V) program promotes noncustodial parents' access to and visitation with their children through a variety of shared parenting projects.

The OAG administers the federal Access and Visitation grant program by awarding funds to community-based organizations. The services provided under these contracts include early intervention, co-parenting education, mediation, and enforcement.

The A&V program also provides funding for public education materials promoting cooperative parenting after divorce or separation. These materials are distributed through local courts, county domestic relations offices, OAG child support offices, and community/faith-based social service organizations. Parents establishing child support orders or seeking Access and Visitation services receive a My Sticker Calendar: A Kid's Guide to Shared Family Time. This award-winning calendar is a tool for parents and children to use to track and plan time the child spends in each parent's home. The calendar features artwork by children across the state.

The OAG maintains an online A & V directory of programs and service providers across Texas designed to facilitate shared parenting after separation or divorce. Parents, counselors, and other professionals can search the online directory by zip code, county, or service provided.

Access and Visitation Hotline and website

The Texas Access and Visitation Hotline is the only service of its kind in the nation that provides noncustodial and custodial parents with free phone access to attorneys who provide legal information and assistance related to child custody and visitation issues, as well as paternity and child support information. Hotline attorneys do not represent parents. Rather, they provide explanations of legal orders; provide tools and guidance for resolution of child access issues; and answer parents' questions regarding possession and access orders, custody, paternity and child support.

The toll-free number 1-866-292-4636 is answered in English and Spanish, Monday - Friday, 1-7 p.m. The hotline has a corresponding website, http://www.txaccess.org/, where parents can download sample materials and tools for assistance with child access issues. Additional brief legal coaching or self-help assistance may be available to eligible Hotline callers.

 

Child Support and Justice-Involved Parents

Family Initiatives serves as the subject matter point of contact for Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Federal Bureau of Prison staff and provides professional development trainings to their staff and other re-entry professionals regarding the cross section between child support and justice-involved parents.  CSD developed a handbook entitled Child Support: Information for Incarcerated Parents and Parents Returning to the Community, which explains basic information about paternity and child support for justice-involved parents. The handbook includes an inquiry form incarcerated parents can use to request information about paternity establishment and the status of their OAG child support case. Parents also may use the form to request a review of their child support obligation to see if they qualify for an adjustment to their monthly obligation.

Straightforward information is also offered through the Six Ways to Get Straight with Child Support: A Checklist for Formerly Incarcerated Parents.

Prevention, Early Intervention, and Outreach (PEIO)

Parenting and Paternity Awareness (p.a.p.a.)

 

p.a.p.a. is an evidence-based, educational curriculum designed for secondary school students and young adults that teaches the rights, responsibilities, and realities of parenting and stresses the benefits of sequencing parenthood after a person has completed his/her education, started a career, and is in a stable, committed relationship. Key themes in the curriculum focus on the importance of responsible fatherhood, the value of paternity establishment, the legal realities of child support, the financial and emotional challenges of single parenting, the benefits of both parents being involved in a child's life, healthy relationship skills, and relationship violence prevention.

The Office of the Attorney General provides the 10-session curriculum and training at no charge to teachers, school counselors, school nurses, teen parent program staff, and parent educators in community-based programs. The p.a.p.a. curriculum is the method by which school districts comply with state law passed by the 80th Legislature requiring high school health to include a parenting and paternity awareness curriculum.

The OAG coordinates with TEA and Regional Education Service Centers to train teachers, nurses and counselors. Community-based organizations and larger school districts who wish to schedule training directly with the OAG can complete this form and e-mail it to OAG employee Rebecca Donley.

Family Violence Education and Outreach

Providing child support services safely is critical to the operation of the Child Support Division (CSD). The Family Violence Education and Outreach project has implemented recommendations made by CSD's domestic violence workgroup to ensure that child support policies address the safety needs of domestic violence victims and staff. The workgroup's recommendations are based on best and promising practices as identified by domestic violence experts from across the state.

The Family Violence Education and Outreach project includes:

  • developing and distributing public education materials designed to promote safe access to child support services for survivors of family violence,
  • reviewing and revising existing child support staff training on family violence,
  • developing and implementing advanced family violence training for child support field staff, and
  • developing training resources to assist family violence program staff in guiding survivors through the child support system safely.

Texas Start Smart

In 2014, Texas was competitively selected to receive funding through the Office of Child Support Enforcement’s Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services, a five year demonstration grant to implement the Texas Start Smart project. The grant’s purpose is to test the use of behavioral economics principles within the child support program to improve program operations that and increase child support collections. Start Smart is a collaboration between Family Initiatives and Field Operations for program delivery, and is made possible through partnership with Administrative Operations, Information Technology and Contract Operations.