Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Child support gets job assist

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

        BATAVIA - Clermont County has a new way to deal with some parents who don't pay child support - help them get a job.

        “What we're hoping is that people will show up to take advantage of the program, get employment and then start making their payments,” said Theresa Ellison, an attorney with the Child Support Enforcement Agency.

        The person who owes child support begins with a contempt hearing before a Domestic Relations Court judge or magistrate. If the judge finds the person is in contempt for not paying the support, they have the option of referring them to the Business and Workforce Resource Center of Clermont County (BWRC).

        “I like being able to tell the court that this is one more tool they can use to collect the child support,” Ms. Ellison said. “Before the only tool was jail time and that isn't effective for getting someone who doesn't have the ability to pay.”

        The BWRC is an independent company contracted by the county for job search assistance, such as teaching resume and interview skills, and can also help individuals obtain their high school equivalency diploma, Ms. Ellison said.

        “The majority of the people we see are working people who are between jobs or seasonally employed or are being paid in cash and not on a schedule. Rarely do you see people who work and deliberately don't pay support,” she said.

        Domestic Relations Court Magistrate Michael Finney said he's optimistic the program will help because of the widespread problem with unemployment he sees.

        “That was one of the things that we saw recurring and bringing people back to court again and again,” Mr. Finney said. “Hopefully, this kind of intensive action will help people overcome the barriers they face to employment, and more employment will result in more child support.”

        The new program went into effect in August, and in that month alone, there were 42 referrals to the BWRC. About 75 percent have been attending the program to get job assistance, Ms. Ellison said.

        Most of those are scheduled for a hearing 90 days after they were referred so the judge or magistrate can review their progress.

        “We don't know how well it's going to work yet. But we're very hopeful that this will help people who owe child support to obtain and maintain employment,” Mr. Finney said.


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