A fugitive people within a nation is tyranny.

Posts tagged ‘justice’

Maryland, Prison & Unrealistic Child Support

As lawmakers meet in Annapolis this month to examine possible reforms to the state’s criminal justice system, we hope they will take a hard look at a related issue as well: The plight of inmates who fall behind on their court-ordered child-support payments, which continue to accumulate while they’re behind bars and which leave them with crushing debts they cannot possibly pay off when they are eventually released. [“American Poverty: An American Criminal Subclass“}

That’s because inmates who are ordered by the courts to make child support payments that seem reasonable when they’re working lose those incomes — but not their obligation to pay — while they are incarcerated. The amounts in arrears can climb into the tens of thousands of dollars, and because these convicts emerge from prison saddled with a criminal record, it can be difficult, if not impossible, for them to find a job that allows them to pay off what they owe. All too easily, their involvement with the state’s child-support enforcement authorities can leave them with a lifetime of indebtedness.

The consequences for them and their children can be devastating. Sixty-five percent of the inmates in Maryland’s prisons are parents, and most of them want to participate in some way in their children’s upbringing. When they can’t, it’s likely to not only alienate them from their partners and children but also to compound the problems they face finding a job, getting an education and avoiding returning to a life of crime.

Some inmates come out of prison so overwhelmed by accumulated debt and shamed by their inability to pay that they are actually discouraged from contacting their families. Others feel the only way to meet their obligations is by selling the drugs that got them incarcerated in the first place. Both are inimical to policies aimed at enlisting the support of families in the re-entry process.

The federal government and some states, including Maryland, have explored pilot re-entry programs that match up newly released inmates with service providers, such as the Center for Urban Families in Baltimore, that offer temporary housing as well as job training and employment counseling. But such programs are small compared to the need. States must begin focusing on preparing incarcerated parents for release earlier and helping them navigate child-support issues so they don’t emerge from prison thousands of dollars in arrears with little prospect of ever paying such sums off.

In Maryland, custodial parents are entitled to collect child support even when the non-custodial parent is incarcerated. If an inmate can’t pay, and if the family is eligible for public assistance, the state pays an equivalent amount to the custodial parent, then seeks to recover the funds upon the incarcerated parent’s release.

Under a law passed in 2012, state authorities can temporarily reduce or suspend inmates’ financial obligations while they’re in prison. But they can’t alter the terms of a child support order issued by the courts to reflect an inmate’s reduced earning capacity while locked up, nor can they forgive accumulated debt that is owed directly to a custodial parent rather than to the state. [“Unemployment, Child Support & Bradley Law“; “Bradley Law and Real Justice“; “The Bradley Amendment Child Support Mess“; “New Legal Research Available on Bradley Amendment“]

Nevertheless, Maryland could significantly ease inmates’ re-entry into society if its laws allowed child support officials to modify child support orders to reflect inmates’ actual earning power on release. The state already has a debt abatement program that allows inmates have their cumulative debt reduced by half if they make their support payments on time for 12 straight months; if they continue doing so for 12 more months the state can forgive entire amount remaining in arrears.

That represents progress, but it doesn’t take into account the fact that most recently incarcerated parents still won’t earn enough to make regular payments at the same level that was set based on their earning power before they went to prison. So they fall behind on their payments again and the vicious cycle of debt accumulation resumes.

Lawmakers could address this problem by authorizing The Department of Human Resources to modify court-ordered child support payments to make them more accurately reflect the current earning power of recently released inmates. That simple change would allow many more inmates to pay off what they owe the state as reimbursement for public assistance to their families, but leave undisturbed payments owed directly to a non-custodial parent. Moreover, it would cost the state relatively little to forgive debts that, in any case, stood very little chance of ever being collected.

Critics may charge that such a plan amounts to a free ride for deadbeat dads and moms. It isn’t. Rather, it’s simply a recognition that most people in Maryland’s prisons are poor and that saddling them with mountains of debt for unpaid child support is counterproductive. Nationwide, four out of 10 single parents live below the poverty line. Nobody’s is going to get rich because of a change in the law that acknowledges that reality. It’s in everyone’s interest to bring parents recently released from prison out of the shadows so they can begin to fulfill their obligations to their families and their communities.

from the Baltimore Sun

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Child Support Laws Crippling Poor Fathers

by Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph.D

The more one learns about our system of criminal justice, the more one must wonder about some of its senseless policies.  That the United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world is pretty much common knowledge to most.  But in case you have been asleep at the wheel, here are some mind-numbing numbers. With about five percent of the world’s population, the United States is home to nearly 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.  About 2.2 million people are locked behind bars on a given day.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 1,561,500 inmates in state and federal prisons at year-end 2014 (serving terms of one year or more) and another 744,660 in local jails at midyear 2014.  About 6.9 million Americans (one in 35 adults) were under some form of correctional supervision (incarcerated, on parole or probation) at yearend 2013.  The number of adult Americans with felony convictions is estimated to be about 24 million (8.6%).  About 25 percent of black American adults have a felony conviction.

That’s the big picture.  However, throughout our criminal justice system there are laws, regulations, and issues that are antithetical to the notion of a free and democratic society.  The coercive and often deadly policing of neighborhoods of color, discriminatory “stop and frisk” laws, criminalization of the mentally ill, bail policies that unfairly impact poor suspects, and what many consider to be the inhumane over dependence on and arbitrary use of solitary confinement.  Family members and friends are often forced to travel inordinate distances to visit children, friends, and other people they care for.  They are charged exorbitant fees to speak with them by telephone and are treated without dignity during visitation.  Much of this has occurred because various elected officials compete to see who can be toughest on people who defy the law.  Many books and hundreds of journal articles have been written about our unjust system of crime control.  My dissertation focused on the impact of incarceration on the earnings and employment of indigent fathers.

InmateThe Washington Post ran an article on one particularly perplexing policy impacting poor inmates which disproportionately affects black and Latino fathers.  Child support obligations continue during periods of incarceration which often amass significant amounts of debt while these fathers are behind bars.  Once released, indebted fathers are under pressure to pay down their arrears.  Failure to do so results in more late fees and penalties and could ultimately put them back in prison.  In many jurisdictions this occurs because incarceration is considered “voluntary impoverishment”.  The term generally refers to those who quit their jobs or otherwise forfeit income in order to avoid paying an ex-spouse alimony or child support.  A classic example might be Marvin Gaye’s 1978 release of “Here My Dear,” thought to be a lackluster recording whose proceeds were going to his ex-wife, Anna Gordy Gaye.

The idea that poor fathers would deliberately get themselves locked up to avoid paying child support is ludicrous on its face and a ridiculous justification for current policy.  Columbia University social work professor Ronald B. Mincy and Urban Institute scholar Elaine Sorensen first wrote about child support policies that were burying poor incarcerated fathers back in 1998 differentiating “deadbeat” dads from “turnips”.  Deadbeat dads were those who could afford to pay but did not.  Turnips were fathers who were unable to pay—the thinking being the old adage that you can’t get blood from a turnip.  Although there is a judge in Alabama who thinks giving blood is a reasonable substitute.

The Obama Administration believes current child support policy that piles debts on poor incarcerated fathers is helping no one.  It does nothing for the mother or her child’s circumstance.  Housing the father as an inmate is significantly more costly than what the state could recoup from fathers for welfare payments to their children.  Fathers are often removed permanently from the lives of their children which one could argue might be good or bad.  The Office of Child Support Enforcement has drafted new rules that will go into effect in 2017 that changes the definition of incarceration to “involuntary” impoverishment and would allow indigent incarcerated fathers to push the pause button or negotiate a payment reduction while incarcerated.

Not surprising Republican lawmakers oppose what appears to be a commonsense rule change.   Utah Senator Orin Hatch and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have introduced legislation to block the new rules.  There are many things wrong with our current system of criminal justice and reform is moving at a glacial pace.  In the meantime, much too much human capital is being obliterated by the many indelible scars being inflicted on far too many people—particularly African American males.

Child Support Laws Crippling Poor Fathers was originally published @ Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy » Charles Lewis.

Child Support & Terrorists

drinking the kool-aid?

drinking the kool-aid?

Your nation is under attack by terrorists!

When a nation is attacked, people will go to war, risking the loss of life and limb. They are willing to suffer in their standard of living because of what they judge to be a noble or righteous cause. Families are under attack from an enemy within our borders, yet most victims refuse to be part of the war effort.

Instead most injured persons concentrate on their own personal loss by falling into the money trap. They support the enemy, the fascist divorce industrial complex that has swallowed the nation, part of the international unity promoted by the United Nations. Most support terrorists by hiring an attorney, and imagining that they can receive justice in a weighted court system. They may even fool themselves by equating the expense of court with love for their kids. Supporting a fascist terrorist system to achieve justice is insanity of the highest order. Some have fallen into this trap in the past, and now see the light. Most are still lost in the darkness of state propaganda.

justice and moneyBoth the military industrial complex and the divorce industrial complex thrive off creation and perpetuation of real or perceived “enemies.” Collusion between private corporations and government corporations, or fascism, is on the increase at the expense of civil rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Today, the founding documents of the United States are sometimes given lip service, but are commonly violated by modern government officials. Just as foreign wars are profitable for war industries, war within families is profitable for the divorce industrial complex. This industrial complex consists of judges, courts, lawyers, psychologists, social workers, “child support” workers, and all who assist in separating parents who have committed no crime from their children.

Neither industrial complex have use for peaceful resolutions. They thrive from trickery and slander.

Scott-police-fatal-shootingVictims of the divorce industrial complex that are still alive need to unite, to fight terrorism against families and against a renegade court system that ignores the foundation of law in the Constitution for a modern take on legal precedence. This tyrannical sickness is being spread across the globe to benefit special interests behind the scenes. No one is safe. A new world order of tyranny is already upon us.

baby moneyIn the United States, the founding fathers provided the means for people to address tyrannical government. This begins with the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees free speech, free press and the right of the people peacefully to assemble to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

mob-rule-child-support-governmentExposing the Fascist Divorce Industrial Complex: family court judges, family lawyers, psychologists, social workers, child protective services, child support agencies, and all who assist family courts in the process of diminishing relationships between fit parents and their children.

VIOLATIONS OF CIVIL AND CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS:

1) Denial of First Amendment Freedoms of Religion and Speech – Parents cannot train up their children according to their beliefs when stripped of parental authority.

2) Denial of First Amendment Right to Petition for Redress of Grievances – Parents, mostly fathers, are denied justice in family courts – their petitions are denied or dismissed.

3) Kidnapping – State “family” court judges steal children from fit, law-abiding parents, perpetuating custody battles.

4) Denial of Fourth Amendment Right to Privacy – Unsubstantiated accusations result in invasion of homes and stealing of children by police or child protective services without probable cause; judges routinely order psych evaluations which invade and probe every detail of private family life of law-abiding parents. Parties who come to court to address legal issues are diverted into a wilderness of psychological evaluations because judges refuse to do their job: enforce the constitutional right to parent, further draining family assets.

5) Denial of Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights to Due Process of Law – These include: denial of the right to free counsel for poor defendants, denial of the right to take depositions, lack of evidenciary hearings, lack of notice, and improper standard of proof – with defendants being presumed guilty and being sentenced, like criminals, to loss of the fundamental constitutional right to be a parent.

6) Denial of the Sixth Amendment Right to a Speedy and Public Trial – “Temporary” pendente lite orders in secretive unrecorded hearings usually become permanent orders. Justice delayed is justice denied. Fathers are treated as guilty in either or both criminal and “civil” court upon mere accusation, and are in effect sentenced to loss of the fundamental right to parenthood in civil court even if criminal cases are dismissed.

7) Denial of the Seventh Amendment Right to Trial by Jury – Heartless, treasonous judges make decisions to sever loving parent/child relationships which no jury would allow, which perpetuates continual litigation and profits for the divorce industry.

8) Denial of Thirteenth Amendment Prohibition Against Slavery and Involuntary Servitude – Usually fathers are enslaved as non-custodial parents and forced to pay extortion (so-called “child support”) or risk being thrown into debtors’ prison.

9) False Imprisonment – Fathers are typically arrested first in domestic disputes upon mere accusation. Usually fathers are thrown into debtors’ prisons when they do not or are unable to comply with the illegal extortion/”child support” orders.

10) Denial of Fourteenth Amendment Right to Equal Protection of the Laws – Mothers initiate most divorces and are “awarded” sole custody in the vast majority of contested cases even though both parents are equally fit and loving parents, resulting in state sanctioned gender discrimination and child abuse – stealing one half of the child’s world.

11) Denial of Fourteenth Amendment Liberty Interest in the Family – Numerous U.S. Supreme Court rulings have well-established the fundamental liberty interest in the family and the constitutional right to be a parent. Yet, treasonous family court judges daily and routinely ignore and violate the U.S. Constitution and their own state constitutions, and violate their oath of office to uphold those constitutions.

12) Fraud upon family courts – Judges and lawyers of the multi-billion dollar divorce industry increase the amount of custody and family law litigation in contradiction of its alleged purpose – to strengthen and preserve families, by trampling on the rights of U.S. Citizens.

violation of due process and civil rightsMany professed professionals routinely commit or assist in fraud upon courts of family law as they violate the U.S. Constitution by pretending to act “in the best interest of the child”. Then, under the false pretense, a created need for “child support” caused an unequal custody order, the same renegade, tyrannical judges issue extortion (“child support”) orders against these parents. They even routinely jail parents who do not or are unable to obey their extortion demands in debtors’ prisons of involuntary servitude. This false imprisonment is nothing less than slavery.

burning the constitutionThis involves a perversion of language in which some acts are given names opposite of the true meanings, the foundation of lies in which families are being destroyed in kangaroo courts across the United States.

PRIMARY EXAMPLES:

A. STEALING A CHILD from a fit parent is called the “BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD”.

B. EXTORTION against a fit parent, necessary ONLY because of the illegal, unconstitutional, forced unequal custody order, is called “CHILD SUPPORT “.

C. INVASION OF PRIVACY when no crime has been alleged is called a “PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION”.

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Child Support Clerical Error in Texas Leaves Dad With Jail Time, Jobless

compiled by Moody Jim Rathbone

captiveIn 2013, a clerical error landed a Texas father in jail after he received a bill. That bill stated that he owed nearly $3,000 in overdue child support that his employer failed to withhold. After receiving the notification, Clifford Hall immediately repaid the amount owed and even paid an additional $1,000 towards his debt. The repayment wasn’t enough for Texas. The 43-year-old father was sentenced to six months in jail. This compliant man willingly turned himself in for “justice.”

Texas justice child supportIn the end, Hall spent 13 days in prison after his case was reviewed. He was then released and was able to see his 12-year-old son. “That was what he was most excited about,” Tyesha Elam, Hall’s attorney, said.

I’m glad that Clifford Hall was grateful.

But despite the fact that the error was corrected, Hall suffered major consequences. Because of his jail time, the Houston father lost his job, putting him in arrears and in line for judgment by the Bradley Amendment, where child support arrears can never be forgiven.

Oh well, at least he has his son and his accruing debt for child support. This Texas sized mistake is costing him $10,000 to start off with.

Sometimes, you can be too honest (he turned himself in expecting justice) and lose it all because of bad law that violates Constitutional rights and due process. He also received less than stellar advice from his attorney.

Too bad that Texas can’t be put in prison for bad behavior for justice, Texas-style.

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The Federal Scheme to Destroy Father-Child Relationships

by Jake Morphonios

war on fathersCongress would feign admit its own dubious contribution to the suffering of America’s children. Rather, these politicians promulgate the myth that they are helping children through federal and state welfare entitlement programs. It is, in fact, these very programs which are responsible for the out of control rampage against children. Here is how the scam works.

The federal government levies taxes against citizens to redistribute as welfare entitlements among needy applicants. Congress created the Social Security Act, a section of which is called Title IV. Title IV describes how tax dollars will be distributed among the States to subsidize their individual welfare programs. In order for States to tap into the federal treasure chest, containing billions of dollars, they must demonstrate that they are complying with Title IV mandates to collect child support revenues. In other words, to get money from the federal government, each State must become a child support collection and reporting agency.

stress single motherEvery unwed or single mother seeking welfare assistance must disclose on her application the identities of the fathers of her children and how much child support the fathers have been ordered by a family court to pay. She must also commit to continuously reporting the father’s payments so that the State can count the money as “collected” to the federal government’s Office of Child Support Enforcement. As with all bureaucracies, this process has developed into a monstrosity that chews up and spits out the very people it was designed to help.

dollar bondageStates have huge financial incentives to increase the amount of child support it can report to the federal government as “collected”. To increase collection efforts, States engage in the immoral practice of dividing children from their fathers in family courts. Have you ever wondered why family courts award custody to mothers in 80%-90% of all custody cases, even when the father is determined to be just as suitable a parent? It is because the amount of child support ordered by the State is largely determined by how much time the child spends with each parent. This means that the State “collects” less child support if parents share equal custody. By prohibiting fathers from having equal custody and time with their children, the State’s child support coffers are increased and federal dollars are received.

obamas new dealOpponents try to paint loving fathers as “deadbeat dads” for daring to challenge the mother-take-all system of family law. This is nothing more than diversionary propaganda. The concern of fathers is not that they are unwilling to support their children financially. This is not an argument against paying child support. Any father that cares about his child will do everything in his power to provide for the child. The concern is, rather, that children are being separated from their fathers by family courts because the State stands to reap huge financial rewards as a result of the father’s loss of custody. The higher the order of child support, the more money the State can collect – even if the amount ordered by the court far exceeds the reasonable needs of the child or if the father is required to take second and third jobs to keep up with outrageous support orders and escape certain incarceration. The truth is that most fathers don’t care about the financial aspects of these family court verdicts nearly as much as they care about having their time with their children eliminated for nefarious government purposes.

The root of this evil is a State-level addiction to federal tax dollars being doled out as entitlement monies by a monolithic federal government. In the wake of this horror are millions of children drowning for lack of the care, guidance, and companionship of their fathers. Statistics and empirical evidence universally confirm that children forcibly separated from their fathers by family courts are considerably more likely to suffer anxiety and depression, develop drug addiction, engage in risky sexual activity, break the law, and commit suicide. This travesty must end.

homelessUnconstitutional federal bureaucracy creates many of the societal ills it claims to be trying to solve. There are several steps incremental steps that could be taken to restore a child’s right to the companionship of both parents. For example, citizens should insist that States abide by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. No father should be automatically deprived of his fundamental right to the custody of his children without due process of law. Being a male is not a crime. Absent a finding of true danger from a parent, family courts should order shared parenting rights and equal time sharing for divorcing parents. These rights are fundamental and should not be abridged. The automatic presumption of custody-to-the-mother is unconstitutional.

whippedThe history of America is brim with examples of the federal government denying basic rights to its citizens. Women were denied the right to vote until the women’s suffrage movement secured the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Black Americans also were denied the right to vote and suffered myriad other cruel and humiliating indignities under the law until the civil rights movement brought about desegregation, put an end to Jim Crow legislation and compelled the enactment of the 15th and 24th Amendments to the Constitution. In each of these examples, society was slow to recognize that a problem even existed or that some of our laws were unjust. It took considerable time, concerted effort, self-sacrifice and perhaps even divine providence to realign concurrent societal paradigms with the principles of liberty and justice for all.

Our generation is not exempt from similar assaults on liberty. While many just causes may stake claims for redress of grievances, one group, more than any other, pleads for immediate support. The need to defend the rights of this group of American citizens, reeling from the unjust consequences of state-sponsored oppression, is before us. It is time to stand up for the rights of children and demand their equal access to both parents.

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Owe Money? You’re A Deadbeat

by Moody Jim Rathbone
child-support-sweep

these are the ‘good guys’

They want you shaking in your boots. If you owe child support in the United States, authority claims you are a “deadbeat.” People owe money for all kinds of debts, but that doesn’t make the person a deadbeat, nor are they called one. In fact, the current Administration wants you in debt to grow the economy, but most “deadbeat” parents with an average or less income don’t have any money to spend to support the dreams of the state. In fact, they don’t even have the mythology of the “American Dream” that American Presidents push like candy. They are too busy supporting the state and Federal government to prop up unconstitutional child support. It’s all about “justice” they say.

For example:

Early Wednesday morning, a group of Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies went around the county seeking “deadbeat” parents who have failed to appear in court for failing to pay child support. The nine parents taken into custody owe a total of $66,382.90 to nine children.

violation of due process and civil rightsIn fact, as far as these authorities are concerned, you owe them money. That is because according to Federal Law, you do owe the state. Child Support is federal debt per the Bradley Amendment for Social Security Administration. The Federal government pays the state corporations handsomely for collecting what debt they can, all backed and funded by federal taxpayer funds. It’s Constitutionally illegal, but justified by fed and state alike (as statute or policy) as they work together to pry money from “deadbeats” any way they can. The Feds may be financially bankrupt themselves, but you won’t have that privilege, if and when you decide to file bankruptcy. That is because President Bush signed eternal child support into law by modifying bankruptcy code. The state has all the rights. There is no way out in their eyes… you know, the death and taxes sort of thing. That is the sad path that this nation has taken – the path of exploitation, extortion and tyranny.

criminal conductIn this day, depending on the local authority around you, the sheriff is seeking to shame anyone that is behind on child support for any reason. They post your name, address and face on a billboard or online with your local newspaper. To authorities, your debt of child support is a public issue that is all your fault. The reality is entirely different. The state persecutes you because of corporate policy. You see, each court, each government department is a corporation that seeks to make money off of you. Many of them have decided that you will be cuffed and slapped in jail, with the expectation of coercing you to pay up your child support. The court doesn’t even need to be right. Much of the time, the ‘judge’ isn’t right – not even close.

kangaroo courtActually, these “family courts” are wrong 100% of the time. American ‘citizens’ are supposed to have Constitutional guarantees that preclude evil treatment by the authority of courts, family judges and those that take their orders from them. Due process has become fiction. Most attorneys are fearful of standing up for real justice. That justice certainly isn’t oppressing non-custodial parents, even if they are ‘guilty’ before the law (that means what they want it to mean). For that matter, human rights have become fiction too – even as the Feds point a finger of accusation at China or Russia. The Feds have made themselves the holy arbiter of ‘human rights,’ the church of morality. In the case of any court-ordered child support, your human right is for you to pay up and shut up. That is called tyranny.

Everyone is affected. Nobody is immune. They just think they are – immune that is. The only vaccination is to overthrow the tyranny.

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Walter Scott and the Need for Child Support Reform

by Joy Moses

Scott-police-fatal-shootingWalter Scott’s death was striking because a police officer fired eight shots at him while his back was turned. When something so tragic occurs, observers tend to wonder why. The officer’s actions and utter disrespect for human life can never be justified. But recently, the New York Times published new information about Scott’s split second decision to run — his child support case. According to his brother, “Every job he has had, he has gotten fired from because he went to jail because he was locked up for child support.”

Elements of Scott’s story reflect existing concerns about the child support system. A debate over potential large-scale reform is more than a decade overdue. The seeming impossibility of change has always loomed ominously large, overshadowing calls for reform and pushing them into the dark corners of the policy world. However, at this current political moment, there are national conversations about policing, bipartisan criminal justice reforms and an existing White House initiative focused on men and boys of color — concepts that would have seemed laughable just a few short years ago.

indigent in America

child support can make a man indigent

There are some fathers who absolutely refuse to care for their children and they should be held accountable. However, the current system reaches well beyond that group, creating negative consequences for men who are rarely credited with being caring parents and are simply too poor to pay. The political explosiveness of the “deadbeat dad,” a figure that some researchers say sprang out of the same sources as his female counterpart (the “welfare queen”), helped distort the foundations of child support policy. The system seems to partially rest on underlying beliefs that low-income men, and especially those who are black, avoid work and financially providing for their children at all costs while also being permanently childlike and in need of both discipline and lessons on how to behave.

Over the years, the program has effectively served many families (transferring funds from one parent to another) for which it should be applauded. However, policies built on a foundation of stereotypes about numerous men who don’t want jobs stand in stark contrast to the reality of numerous jobs that don’t want the men. Researchers like William Julius Wilson (More Than Just Race), have documented decades long trends of disappearing job opportunities for low-skilled workers as well as increased criminal justice involvement which further leads to employment discrimination.

billboard-crimeWhen entities spend significant time on activities that fail to help and that actually hurt parents and families, it’s often useful to redirect their energies elsewhere. Reforms should shift the program mission and values away from damaging racial stereotypes that hurt families of all races and towards efforts to accurately diagnose the needs of families and take ‘pro-social’ action to address them.

One useful primary goal would be to comprehensively address the family law needs of low and middle-income families, helping with a very real challenge — the increasing and extraordinarily large number of families who can’t afford an attorney or who don’t feel comfortable representing themselves in legal matters. In doing so, agencies should assume that parents of all racial and class groupings share in a desire to care for their children, suggesting that they be treated with respect and provided with quality customer service. This would build upon efforts to accurately identify bad dads whose non-payment is rooted in an adamant refusal rather than their economic circumstances.

chronic-stressWith such a vision, services would start to look much different. No longer treated as enemies of the state, low-income fathers would be less likely to literally and figuratively run away from child support. The sole focus wouldn’t be on a father’s monetary value but on improving father-family relationships. Court decisions and unaddressed legal needs would be replaced by model practices like mediation that support mothers and fathers in making their own decisions for their families. Punishments like imprisonment would be replaced by employment assistance. And other proposed reforms designed to guarantee child support for women and children would avoid potential incentives to hound men for unaffordable reimbursements of funds states pay out to women and children.

Some states have already experimented with such reforms, finding positive results that have included increased child support payments by fathers and greater parental satisfaction with agency services. The Obama Administration has encouraged states to adopt these best practices while proposing helpful new rules. However, there are limits to the changes that can occur without Congress overhauling currently existing state requirements and incentives.

We need a fruitful, progressive conversation that abandons a focus on the status quo and reform efforts that toy around existing edges — instead choosing a new vision for the future that endeavors to do the hard work of changing the culture and functioning of a system that means so much to so many.

—-

Of course, there is no mention in this article about U.N. Treaty or the Bradley Amendment, which prohibits child support arrears from being changed or removed – but the article does pretend to care (and is much kinder than I am). Meanwhile, the welfare queens still have control over America at great cost to all Americans. – MJR

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