Coshocton, MI–In 2004, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox sponsored a billboard contest wherein children would draw designs critical of noncustodial fathers who have allegedly not paid child support. Cox said the contest “encourages parent involvement in discussing the issue and assisting in crafting the message and visual representation…that clearly conveys the message of encouraging the payment of child support.”
I worked with other fatherhood activists in a campaign against this billboard contest. I explained:
In this campaign, custodial mothers are encouraged to coach their children to make designs critical of noncustodial parents behind on child support. And it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out which noncustodial father many mothers will be encouraging their children to criticize.
In fact, many divorce decrees specifically instruct parents not to denigrate or badmouth the other parent in the presence of the children. It is very inappropriate for the top law enforcement official in the state of Michigan to hold a contest which encourages parents to do this.
In the face of the protests, Cox, to his credit, canceled the contest. To learn more, see our campaign page here.
I was reminded of the Michigan events when I saw the recent article Coloring contest raises support awareness (Coshocton Tribune, 7/18/08). According to the article, “August is Child Support Awareness Month. The Coshocton County Child Support Enforcement Agency is sponsoring a Drawing & Coloring Contest as part of its 2008 awareness campaign.”
At first glance, I thought the contest would be similar to Cox’s billboards, or would at least utilize children as part of the effort to collect child support. I was wrong, and I am happy to be wrong.
The contest actually seems to have something to do with genuine child support, meaning the love and guidance mothers and fathers give their children. In the contest, children are urged to draw a picture of various ways parents and children spend time together, including reading together, doing school work, chores, hobbies, athletic events, family outings, etc.
I’m still not thrilled about child support enforcement involving children in any way, but the Coshocton County Child Support Enforcement Agency should be given some credit for making an effort to do something positive.
The full flyer for the contest can be seen here.