As more and more noncustodial parents a labeled ‘deadbeats’ and are, in many ways, treated as felonious criminals, there needs to be action to prevent these personal and financial attacks. There has been programs on the books, initiated by the government, that are supposed to assist noncustodial parents as they face barriers that prohibit meeting child support obligations. In 2012, President Obama’s administration issued state waivers that linked unemployed noncustodial parents (usually fathers) to work-oriented services such as job training and job search assistance. Because of the recent and steady ‘deadbeat’ roundups, it seems that the employment opportunities promised by the government are consistently failing the noncustodial parents of America. There are several millions of dollars that have been allocated in grant money to states that are supposed to initiate jobs programs but it doesn’t seem that the states received the memo.
According to the Office of Child Support Enforcement, numerous studies in several states have shown that employment-oriented programs for low-income noncustodial parents increase child support payments. Based on this information, it is difficult to understand why the federal and state governments do not implement more employment programs. The obvious answer is that there would be a decrease in the revenues generated by child support related arrests when these parents could be referred to jobs programs. The media outlets consistently report about deadbeat round ups across the country, but fail to publicize the grant money and employment programs that are supposed to assist low-income noncustodial parents. It only seems fair that reporters should advertise the available programs that could possibly increase child support payments along with the amount of money a parent owes in arrears.
A perfect of example of the double standard associated with child support arrests and the failure to mention jobs programs was written in June of this year. Anthony Bellano of the Princeton Patch (2014), reported that a three-day Child Support Sweep resulted in the arrest of 118 people who had a total of 166 outstanding warrants for unpaid child support. The article continues with times and sheriff names but fails to include other important information that could be useful to parents living in that particular county. Mercer County, New Jersey offers a program called Operation Fatherhood. Operation Fatherhood serves the fathers of Mercer County through parenting classes, job readiness and other programs. This program information is not found by performing a simple Google search like the articles related to mass arrests. This information is buried in statistical reports and government official webpages and any other place that may be difficult for nonpublic officials to discover.
California is another state that relishes in the public humiliation of parents who fall behind on child support payments. The LA County, California Office of Child Support has a front page spread with pictures and personal information of delinquent parents. The law is clear on the Most Wanted List and says that a parent who is able to pay child support, and without lawful excuses, fails to do so, may be guilty, (LACSEA). There is a section of the child support program that is hidden nor is it written in bold and exciting colors and letters that explains a jobs programs offered by LA County. If there were such a section, it would explain the partnership between the LACSEA and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) that is attempting to help parents find and maintain employment.
One main objective is to have individualized child support services, (OSCE, 2014). This is especially important as hurdles are recognized and solutions are specific to the parent and not executed based on a one-law-fits-all model when analyzing unique situations. The advertisements for the WIA programs should be as heavily promoted as the most wanted posters that flood TV, radio, billboards, and webpages. Currently, there are four WorkSource Centers in Los Angeles and the Child Support Division provides on-site services at each, (OCSE, 2014). Considering past studies that have concluded the importance of such programs, more money should be spent on the expansion of employment programs instead of being wasted on ‘deadbeat’ roundups and costs associated with incarceration.
The federal government provides grant money to states in an attempt to assist with unemployment and the decreasing of child support arrears. In FY2012, the OSCE awarded nearly $6.2 million to child support agencies in eight states to link parents with employment service, (OSCE, 2014). These types of grants seem to be hidden from the general public and therefore may be underutilized is a recognized barrier for low-income parents. Even though unemployment is a recognized obstacle for low-income parents, there are always arrest and stricter penalties awaiting enactment by the government. It is time to force the federal and state government to provide adequate resources for low-income parents.
The $6.2 million allocated in 2012 is, obviously, inadequate when dealing with poverty among children and families. Perhaps the $558,799,851 in undistributed child support collections reported in 2011 could have helped with employment programs and opportunities across the country. It is not lawful for officials to demand child support payments from low-income and unemployed parents (while charging exaggerated fees) when it is apparent that without employment programs, this goal is nearly impossible. It is a must that money spent for hunting and arresting low-income parents be better utilized across the nation. The eight states that initially received the grant money for job programs should multiply to fifty as soon as possible. The programs and the money need to be used to uplift children and families out of poverty.
Bellono, A. (2014, July 21). Mercer County Arrests State-High 111 During Child Support Sweep - Police & Fire | Princeton, New Jersey Patch. Retrieved from http://patch.com/new-jersey/princeton/mercer-county-arrests-statehigh-111-during-child-support-sweep
L.A. County Child Support Services Department. (n.d.). Most Wanted List. Retrieved September 2, 2014, from http://file.lacounty.gov/cssd/cms1_153347.pdf
Office of Child Support Enforcement. (2011, June 11). Economic Stability | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.go v/programs/css/resource/economic-stability
Office of Child Support Enforcement. (n.d.). State Child Support Offices to Lead $6.2 Million Employment Project | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families. Retrieved fromhttp://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/state-child-support-offices-to-lead-62-million-employment-project