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The Government’s Role

Enacted in 1975, Title IV-D of the Social Security Act requires each state to establish a child and spousal enforcement program. Section 45, Part 300 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) further details the responsibilities of the federal, state, and local governments for the child and spousal support enforcement program. The goal of the Child Support Enforcement Program is to ensure that children are financially supported by both parents. Recent laws, such as the Child Support Services Act of 1988 and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), provide for strong child support enforcement measures to assure that parental responsibility is met. Child support enforcement services are required for those families on welfare and available upon request for those families not receiving public assistance.

 Federal Government

The federal agency responsible for the child support enforcement program is the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). OCSE is located in the Administration for Families and Children (ACF) in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS). OCSE is responsible for:

  • Developing program regulations.
  • Reviewing and approving state plans and plan amendments.
  • Establishing and maintaining a Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) including the National Directory of New Hires (10/1/97) and a Federal Case Registry of Support Orders (10/1/98).
  • Funding states' programs, including funding of computer systems at regular and enhanced funding levels.
  • Approving state waiver requests.
  • Providing technical assistance to states on request.
  • Conducting on-site program reviews.
  • Auditing states' programs for compliance, efficiency, and effectiveness.
  • Imposing sanctions when a state's plan fails to comply with the federal laws or regulations.

  •  State Government

    The California Department of Child Support Services (CDCSS) is the responsible state agency for the child support enforcement program in California. Its responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining the state plan.
  • Seeking legislation as needed to implement program requirements.
  • Publicizing the availability of Title IV-D services.
  • Evaluating the quality, efficiency, effectiveness and scope of county program operations.
  • Maintaining a central registry for all interstate requests for support enforcement to assure compliance with the states' Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA) laws.
  • Paying county claims for administrative reimbursement.
  • Maintaining state-level intercept and /or withholding systems.
  • Developing and disseminating program policies, standards, procedures, and instructions.
  • Allocating and distributing incentive payments to counties.
  • Reviewing, evaluating, monitoring and recommending federal approval for electronic data processing efforts undertaken by local jurisdictions.
  • Providing technical assistance to counties on request.
  • Maintaining the State Directory of New Hires and State Case Registry.
  • Working with the Franchise Tax Board to create a statewide child support computer system and distribution unit.

  •  Local Government

    Prior to January 1, 2000, local responsibility for child support enforcement was assigned to each county District Attorney's Office. Effective January 1, 2000, California legislation required that each county establish a separate county Department of Child Support Services. The local child support agency is responsible for the following:

  • Receiving and giving out child support applications and referrals.
  • Opening cases.
  • Locating non-custodial parties and their assets.
  • Establishing paternity.
  • Determining the amount, terms and payment method of the obligation.
  • Maintaining accounts of what is paid and owed.
  • Enforcing child, spousal and health insurance coverage obligations through legal and administrative means.


  • In addition, the local child support agency complies with some general administrative programs, such as:

  • Keeping all records of case activities.
  • Securing case information.
  • Working with other states to deliver IV-D services.
  • Separating cash handling and accounting functions.
  • Processing and distributing collections according to state and federal regulations.
  • Maintaining an accounting system which utilizes the generally accepted accounting standards.
  • Maintaining an employee dishonesty bond or self-insurance.