To be eligible for Parents' Fair Share (PFS), fathers had to be under- or unemployed and have child support orders in place but not be making regular payments. In addition, the children for whom they owed support had to be current or past recipients of welfare. In most cases, the men were referred to the program during court hearings or appointments scheduled by child support agencies. Some hearings were part of normal child support practice, and some were held specifically to determine whether nonpaying fathers were eligible for PFS. For the men who were referred to the program, participation in the PFS core activities was mandatory, and fathers were expected to participate until they found a job and started paying child support. Those who failed to participate were referred back to the child support agency for follow-up, which sometimes led to an additional court hearing. The PFS program comprised four key components:
-- Peer support. Structured around a “Responsible Fatherhood Curriculum” and run by trained facilitators, peer support sessions covered a range of topics, including parental roles and responsibilities, relationships, managing anger, and coping with problems on the job. The purpose of peer support was to inform participants about their rights and obligations as noncustodial fathers, to teach positive parenting skills, and to teach skills designed to help them stay employed.
-- Employment and training. This component was designed to help the fathers secure long-term, stable jobs at wage rates that would allow them to support themselves and their children. Program sites were encouraged to offer a variety of services, including job search assistance, job club sessions, skills training, basic education, and on-the-job training.
-- Enhanced child support enforcement. Although the child support system already had the means to enforce payments, local child support agencies in each site were asked to go beyond their traditional way of doing business. The biggest change was to focus more attention on cases that had typically received low priority — low-income, unemployed men. Sites were also expected to institute several new procedures, such as lowering the fathers’ child support orders while they participated in PFS, coordinating with PFS service providers, and quickly modifying support orders when the fathers found employment or failed to comply with PFS requirements.
-- Mediation. A father’s payment of child support and involvement with his children are influenced by his relationship with the custodial mother, which often includes disagreements about visits, household spending, child rearing, and the roles of other adults in the household. Sites were required to provide services, modeled on those used in divorce cases, to help parents mediate such differences. Participation in this component was voluntary.