Posts tagged ‘Deadbeat Dads’

Those Who Are Last Shall Be First

By Josh Hoff
            The State of Illinois bears an uncanny resemblance to the uncle who for years looked like he just got out of bed when he attended the annual family reunion. The, one year, somehow, he gets motivated to pull himself together and charms the entire family much to everybody’s delight. This stems from the fact that the State of Illinois has done an about-face for child support collections in 2006.

            In the mid-1990s, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) Child Support Division’s performance fell steeply, causing hardship for thousands of Illinois parents.  In 2000, Illinois faced the threat of federal penalties for poor child support enforcement.  Recently, however, Governor Blagojevich announced Illinois’ 2006 child support collections reached $1.14 billion, the most collected in any single year ever.         
  
           
As a result the National Child Support Enforcement Association selected Illinois for the 2006 Most Improved Program Award.  What does all of this mean when the state has scored consistently low in this department in the past?

           
“It shows that the Governor is aggressively collecting child support,” says fathers’rights attorney Jeffery Leving.  “It is going to be more difficult for non-custodial parents.  They will have a harder time avoiding paying child support.”

           
The amount of child support collected in 2006 is over 11 percent higher than last year’s $1 billion in record-breaking collections, and more than 50 percent higher than the $729 million collected in fiscal year 2001.

           
“Every year, as the cost of raising children and providing a loving and secure home continues to go up, more and more parents are struggling to meet those needs alone,” Governor Blagojevich announced in a news release.  “Before I became Governor, the child support system in our state was the worst in the nation.  But this program has turned around and is now breaking its own records and receiving national recognition for its improvements.  More Illinois parents than ever are getting the payments they are owed so their children can have the childhood they deserve.”

           
While the trend of increased child support collections is beneficial for children and families in general, it could also have a positive impact on fathers in their relations with their children.  “There is a correlation between contact with children and payment of support,” explains Leving.

           
The increase in child support collection is attributable in large part to the implementation of several new programs, including: the Illinois/Iowa Joint Child Support Enforcement Office; the Deadbeat Parents Website; and the New Hire Initiative.

           
The Illinois/Iowa Joint Child Support Enforcement Office is a collaborative effort that ensures improved interstate information sharing, faster collection of court-ordered child support, and more efficient enforcement of child support laws.  According to the Governor’s office this collaboration has resulted in the collection of $234,351.  Further, the Deadbeat Parents Website has been an effective tool for the state of Illinois, in that it identifies parents who owe more than $5,000 in child support payments, and has resulted in the collection of nearly $190,000 since the program’s launch in November 2003.  In Illinois, 80 percent of child support is collected through wage withholdings, a method facilitated by the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s New Hire Directory.

           
Though these initiatives have led to increases in child support collection, they also have a flipside – that is, further alienation between some parents and children.  Most deadbeat dads, for instance, have no income or low income.  In fact, 66 percent of those behind in child support are at poverty level income.

           
“You can’t get child support from people who are indigent, sick, ill, or incarcerated,” warns Leving.  “It could alienate fathers from their children further.”

           
The question then becomes: What is the state of Illinois doing for parents, particularly fathers, who want to meet their child support obligations but are unable to do so?  Fathers’ rights guru Leving has some ideas for what the state might do to improve the lot of these parents.

           
“Fathers that are unemployed, find employment for them, empower them,” he suggests.  “Job training could be valuable.  They could use money allocated to chase down deadbeat dads to educate the jobless.”

            The state of Illinois bears an uncanny resemblance to the uncle who for years looked like he just got out of bed when he attended the annual family reunion.  Then, one year, somehow, he gets motivated to pull himself together and charms the entire family much to everybody’s delight.  This stems from the fact that the state of Illinois has done an about-face for child support collections in 2006. 

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March 6, 2009 at 8:01 pm Leave a comment

Hounding Low-Income Dads Won’t Pay

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By Jeffery M. Leving & Glenn Sacks

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and Child Support Services Department Director Steven Golightly have announced a sweeping new campaign against “deadbeat dads.” They say their new Most Wanted Delinquent Parent list is modeled on the FBI’s fabled 10 Most Wanted list. On paper the 10offenders owe over $2 million, but it’s very questionable that Cooley and Golightly will be collecting much. Golightly’s action is particularly remarkable considering that the California Department of Child Support Services, which supervises the CSSD, issued a report in January that contradicts any possible rationale for this campaign.

According to the CDCSS, there are four primary factors creating child-support arrearages in California: “high child-support orders established for low-income obligors”; “a limited number of child-support orders adjusted downward”; “establishment of retroactive child-support orders”; and “accrual of 10 percent interest on child-support debt.” Over a quarter of these arrears is interest.

Unlike the Most Wanted Deadbeat Parent put out by most states and counties, the CSSD’s list does not contain the occupations of the “deadbeats.” One can understand why.

Nationwide these lists are never comprised of well-heeled businessmen, lawyers and accountants, but instead of fathers who do low-wage and often seasonal work, and owe large sums of money, which they could never hope to pay off. It is rare to find a person with even a college degree on these lists.

In recent years there have been several highly publicized actions similar to CSSD’s, generally coupled with arrests.

For example, Virginia’s Most Wanted list was topped by a laborer, a carnival hired hand and a construction worker, who collectively somehow owed over a quarter-million dollars in child support. Similarly, Kentucky’s list during its campaign sported only one obligor with an education, and the most common designation for occupation was “laborer.”

How do men of such modest means end up with such fantastic arrearages? The child-support system is largely impervious to the economic realities working people face, such as layoffs, wage cuts, unemployment and work-related injuries. According to the Urban Institute, less than one in 20 noncustodial parents who suffers a substantial drop in income is able to get courts to reduce the support obligation.

To Cooley’s and Golightly’s credit, they did explain that some of the “deadbeats” they’re pursuing may be able to use California’s Compromise of Arrears Program. COAP allows some obligors to settle their artificially inflated paper debts to the state for realistic amounts.

The problem is there has been little outreach done on COAP, so few obligors are aware of it.  Fewer than 5,000 have used it since its inception in 2003.  Moreover, it’s unlikely that those on the list will view the Most Wanted approach as much of an invitation to turn themselves in.

Golightly says he’s doing this so the “deadbeats” will “take care of their children.” This is misleading, because 70 percent of California’s child-support debt is owed to the state, not to custodial mothers and fathers.

It is understandable that taxpayers want money spent on welfare benefits to be repaid.  Yet it makes little sense to hound low-income fathers, particularly since research shows that in some cases, were it not for child support, the men would still be playing a role in their children’s lives.

The Cooley/Golightly approach may be good politics, but it’s counterproductive policy.

March 5, 2009 at 9:16 pm Leave a comment


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