One of the most unrelenting issues that create barriers for parents trying make on-time and consistent child support payments is the lack of employment opportunities . At the peak of the great recession, it is estimated that the US lost 8.7 million jobs between 2007 and early 2010, (Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, 2014). The federal government has initiated a large grant in the hopes of assisting Americans with finding and keeping gainful employment. According to a United States Department of Labor (DOL) Press Release (2014), the DOL announced $169,771,960 in grants to expedite the employment of Americans struggling with long-term unemployment. This announcement should bring hope that the many counties across the country will receive more money to assist non-custodial parents combatting extraordinary child support debt. Grantees will work with numerous sources including state unemployment insurance programs and faith-based and community organizations with the anticipations of getting Americans back to work.
As it stands, there are several programs around the country that are tasked with assisting non-guardians with becoming gainfully employed. Most are funded by these same government grants awarded to assist unemployed citizens, but the demand from parents seems to exceed the supply of programs and assistance. The Parent Success Initiative or PSI is a work employment program that has received a significant grant to assist non-custodial parents with job placement and arrears management. The Greater Syracuse Work and Onondaga-Cortland Madison Board of Cooperative Educational Services (OCMBOCES) received $3,947,065 from the United States DOL in 1999 to create and operate the PSI (Greater Syracuse Works, 2009). Even with such a healthy budget, it does not seem that enough parents benefited from the grant money. As of 2009, there were only 555 noncustodial parents served and only 135 employment entries, (Grater Syracuse Works, 2009). This means that less than 3% of parents were truly being helped with steady employment over any great length of time. If the government continues to pay grants to the cities, the money must be used to benefit the non-custodial parents in a more significant manner. This must include better employment opportunities for the hard-to-employ parents and realistic debt forgiveness programs.
The Department of Human Services of Georgia has been working with the Goodwill of North Georgia in an attempt to assist noncustodial parents tackle employment barriers. Even though the DOL has awarded millions to several states with the hopes of helping parents and ex-prisoners with employment, the reported data from the Child Support Fatherhood Program in 2011 leaves a lot to be desired. According to Robert Nibbs, a Georgia Community Outreach Coordinator (2012), out of six counties that participated in the initiative, there were only four intake classes and an average of two classes a month. This limited number of classes could hardly be expected to effectively serve or benefit the 150-500 targeted parents. Although the intentions may be pure and the government could actually care about the livelihood of parents and children, there must be more concentration focused on using the money to better ensure long-term growth and security. There were only 20 participants in the program group and 18 in the control group, (Nibbs, 2012). This low-number of participants will do little, if anything, to tackle the problems that accompany unemployment as it relates to child support payment reduction or eliminating child support debt. Throwing money towards chronic unemployment and accruing debt without an actual solution, will only perpetuate, not eliminate, the problems.
Finally, in the Buckeye City or Columbus, Ohio, the Columbus Urban League has offered the Father 2 Father program for several years. Listed as one of the organizations accomplishments is that the program encouraged graduates to pay or have waived $250,000 in back child support, (Columbus Urban League, 2011). This, although commendable, did very little to decrease the $1.9 billion in owed child support in the state of Ohio during that same year. Programs like the Columbus Urban League often operate on grants and donations. It is paramount that the money received is being fully utilized when taking parents from an unemployed to a gainfully employed status. With the $170 million in grant money being paid to various organizations across the country, these recipients must be held accountable before they spend one dollar.
According to the DOL (2014), participants of these programs will receive job training and support services. The federal government must ensure that the participants are receiving all services that have been paid for during the years that the grant is being paid. During the time of participation in any program, parents should not accrue any child support debt. These parents are not ‘willfully’ failing to pay child support so just as some programs reinstate driver’s licenses and lift arrest warrants, being billed for child support needs to stop as well. Since there is already evidence of lack of employment, failing to excuse the child support debt only guarantees that more debt will be added to the arrears. This can only mean that even employed, these parents have a very slim chance of ever being debt-free from child support.
Even with millions of dollars being awarded in the hopes of assisting the unemployed, without better program participation, more possible long-term employment opportunities and child support debt forgiveness that really works, there can never be success for these programs or these parents. Parents need real help and do not need to start jobs already indebted to the government. These parents can automatically be subjected to garnishments of up to 65% of their pay. The thought of garnishments can act as a disincentive to find work for unemployed parents. Working forty-plus hours a week and not bringing home enough money to cover basic living expenses can be quire discouraging. Since the bulk of the money is going to the state for arrears and not to assist with providing for the children, the child support system is parallel to modern day slavery. This system needs to be at least reformed, if it cannot be abolished. The citizens, especially the children, are the victims of the current child support system.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2014, October 7). Chart Book: The Legacy of the Great Recession — Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved from http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3252
Columbus Urban League, Inc. (2011). Columbus Urban League, Inc. | The Columbus Foundation. Retrieved from http://tcfapp.org/PortraitView/PrintPortrait?strBackground=%20&PortraitKey=1560
Greater Syracuse Works. (2009, April). Parent Success Initiative (PSI): A Greater Syracuse Works Employment Support Program for Non-custodial Parents. Retrieved from http://www.greatersyracuseworks.org/GSW%20Flyer%200908.pdf
Nibba, R. (2012, January 18). A Helping Hand to Self-Sufficiency. Retrieved from http://dhs.georgia.gov/sites/dhs.georgia.gov/files/imported/DHR/DHR_CommonFiles/DCSS_Enhanced_Transitions_Job_Grant_Board_Presentation.pdf
United States Department of Labor. (2014, October 16). Ready To Work, Employment & Training Administration (ETA) - U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved from http://www.doleta.gov/readytowork/
United States Department of Labor. (2014, October 14). ETA News Release: Nearly $170M in Ready to Work Partnership grants awarded to help long-term unemployed Americans find work [10/15/2013]. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/eta/ETA20141956.htm
A parent and an author who has survived adverse situations and lived to write about it..