Ohio Child Support Official Talks Some Sense on ‘Deadbeat Dads’

I’ve been hard on child support officials for their ridiculous pretense that when fathers don’t pay their child support, it must mean that they have the money but are being stingy with their kids. Research shows just the opposite–usually the fathers who can pay, do so. Most who don’t pay, can’t. To learn more about the problems with the child support system, see my co-authored column When Beating up on ‘Deadbeat Dads’ is Unfair (Houston Chronicle, 1/7/07), or click here.

In this article, Doug Thompson, deputy director for Ohio’s Office of Child Support, says:

“When you’ve got a parent in front of you who says, ‘I want to pay child support but I need help,’ before we lock that person up, before we put them on TV, we want to give them that opportunity to do the right thing.”

I’m not laying up nights waiting for child support enforcement bureaucrats to do the right thing, but there does seem to be an increasing recognition of the unfairness of the “deadbeat dad” raids and the child support system as a whole. In August, David Engle, director of Ohio’s Washington County Department of Social Services explained that one of the biggest barriers to paying support is unemployment. He said:

“The No. 1 reason why people can’t pay their support is they’re not able to find a job, or a job doesn’t give them sufficient funds to pay the support,” he said.

On a separate note, I absolutely do not condone violence, but with so many men being unfairly persecuted, I’ve often wondered about the possibility for violence against arresting police officers. Apparently Bob Cornwell, executive director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, is worried about it, too. In the article, he says:

“When you give people advance notice that, ‘I’m coming out tomorrow to pick everybody up because we’re having a big roundup,’ it gives some people an opportunity to lay in wait.”

The article is below. Thanks to child support expert Jane Spies of the National Family Justice Association for the first article. Jane discusses problems with the child support system in her recent article The Myth of the Successful Child Support System.

State ends annual deadbeat-parent roundup
Associated Press, 12/27/07

The state has ditched a decade-old program that rounded up deadbeat parents one day or week each year to draw attention to people late with their child support payments.

The Department of Job and Family Services said people behind in support payments don’t always deserve to be handcuffed on TV. The state also can’t say whether the arrests generated overdue money for children.

Sheriff’s departments said they had safety concerns about the program. Counties said they couldn’t always pull together the employees to administer the arrests.

“When you’ve got a parent in front of you who says, ‘I want to pay child support but I need help,’ before we lock that person up, before we put them on TV, we want to give them that opportunity to do the right thing,” Doug Thompson, deputy director for the state’s Office of Child Support, told The Associated Press.

The arrests aren’t going away, and many counties arrest dozens of people each day for failing to pay child support. But Thompson said the state is working with counties to figure out new ways to get parents to make regular payments.

This approach is consistent with recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Too often, social service agencies intervene in a child support case only after the parent piles up substantial debt that is unlikely to be collected, according to a 2005 strategic plan drafted by the agency’s Office of Child Support Enforcement.

“Severe enforcement remedies applied when necessary have their place,” the report said.

“But this Strategic Plan signals our intent to build a culture of compliance, in which parents support their children voluntarily and reliably.”

Counties weren’t sorry to see the roundup go. Some worried about a one-day influx of offenders with already overcrowded jails and limited staff to handle the intake.

Read the full article here.

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