Background: This week Ohio's Butler County Child Support Enforcement Agency launched a highly-publicized new campaign which puts mug shots of the County's "Most Wanted Deadbeat Parents" on pizza boxes. The idea was the brainchild of Agency Executive Director Cynthia Brown. I debated Brown on FOX News' nationally-syndicated Morning Show with Mike and Juliet on Tuesday--to watch, click here. See the Associated Press story on it here. During my debate with Brown I pointed out that Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement data shows that two-thirds of those behind on child support nationwide earned poverty-level wages, and that less than four percent of the national child support debt is owed by those earning $40,000 or more a year. I also pointed to the Top 10 Most Wanted 'Deadbeats' list on the Butler County pizza boxes, and explained that none of the men on the list have good jobs, and only a few of them earn even good working class wages. (For the record, the Top 10 list is comprised of three roofers, two construction workers, a musician and four men with no known occupations.) FOX commentator Juliet Huddy got angry with me when I advanced this argument, saying that even if the fathers earn little money they still have the responsibility to support their kids. I agree, of course, but I explained that because so many low-income men are trapped in the system, obviously the system must be demanding more money than these men are able to earn. Juliet was unmoved. (According to an Urban Institute study of California child support, the average arrears owed is $3,000 higher than the median annual earnings of employed child support debtors. Those in the poorest category have a child support debt amounting to their full net income for seven and a half years. To learn more about the child support problems low income fathers face, click here). One of my readers sent me a link to the Butler CSEA child support warrant list. There are roughly 400 names on it. What I wonder is this--out of 400 alleged "deadbeats," couldn't they even find 10--hell, even one--who has a good job and a demonstrable ability to pay? Apparently not. What does that say about the child support system?
Glenn Sacks, MA for Fathers & Families