County gives help – not jail time – to parents behind in child support payments.
Chad Brown found himself in a vicious circle two years ago — one familiar to many of the 250,000 parents in Minnesota who must make child-support payments every month.
The Chaska construction worker lost his job. Without income, he fell thousands of dollars behind on his payments for his teenage son.
That brought him to the attention of the Carver County attorney’s office, which could have charged him and sent him to jail for not making the monthly $600 payments.
Instead, Carver County officials helped Brown, 33, find a job. They also fixed his car, paid his union dues, even bought him boots and winter clothing so he could work. “They helped me out a lot,” said Brown, who is in the process of catching up on his child support payments.
Brown is one of scores of parents who benefit each year from Carver County’s innovative approach to collecting child support from parents.
The county spends about $1.4 million a year on its collections efforts, but sending people to upgrade skills or find jobs doesn’t cost extra because parents are helped through established county programs for which they are eligible. As a result, parents might qualify to receive gas cards, bus passes or even have a county-paid cab take them to work.
The county handles more than 2,000 child support cases a year. County officials say they are willing to take these extra steps for one reason:
“It’s all about the kids,” said Diane Alsleben, the county’s child support supervisor. “The more money we bring in, the better their lives will be.”