Employment and Parenting Services for Noncustodial Parents

A Descriptive Study

Father and son on his hands
By Asaph Glosser, Hannah Engle, Sophie Shanshory, Keri West

The Building Evidence in Employment Strategies (BEES) Project is studying a range of approaches to improve economic mobility and stability for families. This brief describes the efforts of two county child support agencies in Ohio to increase the availability of supportive services to parents who owe child support, with the goals of improving their employment outcomes, increasing their ability to meet their child support obligations, and improving their relationships with their children.


This brief summarizes a descriptive study of The Journey and Right Path, which were operated by the Franklin County and Stark County child support agencies, respectively. It includes an overview of The Journey and Right Path, the employment and family circumstances of the families served by the child support agencies, parents’ perspectives on The Journey and Right Path services, and the degree to which The Journey and Right Path services aligned with parents’ needs. The brief also includes a discussion on the implications of these findings for practitioners and policymakers who seek to understand the role that child support programs can play in meeting the needs of noncustodial parents.

Primary Questions

  • What are the characteristics and needs of parents with new or existing child support cases in the two counties?
  • What lessons can be learned from the implementation of The Journey and Right Path programs, and what were the successes and challenges?
  • How do parents perceive the child support program and to what extent do they see it as a trusted source of services?
  • What successes and challenges do child support programs experience when engaging parents with new orders in employment and parenting services?
  • What lessons from the implementation of The Journey and Right Path can other child support programs learn when seeking to meet the needs of noncustodial parents with low incomes?

Key Findings and Highlights

Parents entered the program with negative perceptions of the county child support program. However, parents appreciated the opportunity to have a direct child support program contact who could answer their questions.

For noncustodial parents, relationships with child support agencies are often fraught. Many noncustodial parents who were interviewed described struggling to make ends meet and feeling unheard by child support agencies. The historically adversarial relationship that many of these parents have with child support agencies reduces trust and can make it difficult to engage with these parents.

These findings suggest that child support programs seeking to serve noncustodial parents should attempt to create flexible, parent-centered service delivery options that are responsive to the changing needs of parents. They should incorporate parents’ lived experience and perspective in program design.


The study of The Journey and Right Path began as a randomized controlled trial comparing the employment, earnings, child support payments, and other child support compliance outcomes of program participants to nonparticipant. Due to recruitment and engagement challenges that were exacerbated by the rapidly shifting remote landscape throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in early 2022 the research team shifted to conducting a descriptive study.

For this descriptive study, the team conducted in-depth interviews with county child support staff members, their partners, and parents. These interviews focused on understanding the financial and family circumstances of noncustodial parents, the services offered by The Journey and Right Path, and the degree to which those services aligned with parents’ needs.


Noncustodial parent refers to the parent who has been ordered to pay child support. This individual generally does not live with the child, though a wide variety of coparenting and custody relationships exist.

The child support program is a partnership between the federal government and the states, counties, territories, and tribal governments that administer the program. The core functions of the child support program include opening a child support case, locating parents, establishing parentage, establishing and enforcing a child support order through judicial or administrative hearings (once parentage is established), collecting and distributing payments, reviewing and modifying support orders, and establishing and enforcing medical support.

Document Details

Publication Type
March 2024

Glosser, Asaph, Hannah Engle, Sophie Shanshory, and Keri West. 2024. “Employment and Parenting Services for Noncustodial Parents: A Descriptive Study.” OPRE Report 2024-063 Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.