Boston, MA–On Tuesday, the Associated Press (AP) ran a typical “deadbeat dad’ story. I was able to insert a bit of sober truth into the story as follows:
Ned Holstein, founder of Fathers and Families, a Boston-based organization that supports the rights of fathers, said the seizing of economic stimulus checks ignores the fact that most fathers who owe child support are earning little.
“We’re trying to support very poor people, the mothers and children, from the pocketbooks of other very poor people,’ he said. “There are those who are just downright avoiding their child support payments, but there are many more who just can’t make their payments.’
The story has appeared in 238 newspapers and other media outlets around the country so far, including the Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, Newsday, Miami Herald, Forbes, Philadelphia Inquirer, Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, Boston Globe and the major broadcast networks.
The AP story had a new twist: about one percent of the “stimulus checks’ that the Bush administration began sending out a few months ago to help the economy have been intercepted by state child support enforcement agencies for child support arrearages. The total has amounted to almost $1 billion.
I told the reporter that 70 percent of all child support arrearages are owed by people who earn less than $10,000 per year, and that 70 percent of all child support arrearages are owed by people who earn less than $40,000 per year. I also did the math for him, and showed that a minimum wage non-custodial parent working 60 hours per week would have less than $1,000 to live on per year after paying income taxes, payroll taxes, child support in Massachusetts, and $900 per month for an apartment rental. These facts and figures did not make the story.
Of course, there is no discussion of mistaken identities, inaccurate records, paternity fraud, access interference, or whether the child support orders were simply too high to begin with. The article did mention that some of the money will never go to the children, but will remain in the coffers of the states. But it did not tell how much of the money will follow that route.
If you have seen this article, write a letter to the editor briefly explaining your experience of the child support system.
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