This morning I debated Cynthia Brown, the architect of the highly-publicized pizza box/deadbeat dad campaign, on FOX News' nationally-syndicated Morning Show with Mike and Juliet. Brown is the Executive Director of the Butler County (Ohio) Child Enforcement Agency. Her new campaign has been featured in several hundred news outlets this week--see the Associated Press story on it here. To watch video of the show, click here. The segment runs about 10 minutes. The in-studio audience was, of course, hostile, and our interview was set up with several misleading, dad-bashing statistics. In between the arguing back and forth I made the following points: 1) Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement data shows that two-thirds of those behind on child support nationwide earn poverty level wages; less than four percent of the national child support debt is owed by those earning $40,000 or more a year. 2) Butler County's top 10 "deadbeat dads" are all unskilled low wage earners 3) Child support arrearages are often created because men who suffer layoffs, wage cuts, unemployment, and work-related injuries are unable to get courts to reduce their child support payments. 4) While we enforce child support obligations, our system does almost nothing to enforce fathers' parenting time with their children. 5) The $106 billion in cumulative past-due child support that Brown and others cite as evidence of fathers' perfidy is largely meaningless because most of these arrearages are artificially-inflated paper debt, and do not represent what child obligors should actually have been expected to pay. 6) It is harmful to children to humiliate them by putting their fathers' pictures on these posters. Before flying to New York I had blogged about the issue--see Have a Pizza, Humiliate a Dad. To learn more about the "Deadbeat Dad" issue, see my co-authored column When Beating up on 'Deadbeat Dads' is Unfair (Houston Chronicle, 1/7/07).
Glenn Sacks, MA for Fathers & Families