A fugitive people within a nation is tyranny.

Posts tagged ‘parent’

Removing Barriers to Opportunity for Parents With Criminal Records and Their Children

InmateNearly four decades of mass incarceration and over-criminalization have made the United States the world leader in incarceration and arrests. The number of Americans in federal and state prisons and jails has quintupled over the past four decades. As a result, nearly 2.3 million Americans are behind bars today. The U.S. incarceration rate is at more than six times the average across developed nations. “Communities of color” and “men of color” are hit hardest, with black men six times more likely and Latino men two-and-a-half times more likely to be incarcerated than white men.

Between 70 million and 100 million Americans, or as many as one in three American adults have a criminal record. Many have been convicted of only minor offenses, such as misdemeanors and many have arrests that never led to a conviction. Regardless of whether an individual has been incarcerated, having a criminal record often carries a lifetime of consequences, lasting long after that person has paid his or her debt to society.  A minor criminal record can be a life sentence to poverty, while presenting obstacles to employment, housing, education, training, public assistance, financial empowerment, and other lifestyle choices.

dad-with-kidsWhile the effects of parental incarceration on children and families are well-documented, less appreciated are the family consequences that stem from the barriers associated with having a criminal record. A child’s life chances are strongly tied to his or her circumstances during childhood. Thus, these barriers may not only affect family stability and economic security in the short term but also may damage a child’s long-term well-being and outcomes.

Nearly half of U.S. children now have at least one parent with a criminal record. Parental criminal records create significant challenges among low-income parents and their families.

Income
Parents with criminal records have lower earning potential, as they often face major obstacles to securing employment and receiving public assistance.

Savings and assets
Mounting criminal justice debts and unaffordable child support arrears severely limit families’ ability to save for the future and can trap them in a cycle of debt.

Education
Parents with criminal records face barriers to education and training opportunities that would increase their chances of finding well-paying jobs and better equip them to support their families.

Housing
Barriers to public as well as private housing for parents with criminal records can lead to housing instability and make family reunification difficult if not impossible.

Family strength and stability.
Financial and emotional stressors associated with parental criminal records often pose challenges in maintaining healthy relationships and family stability.

Child Support Needs to Catch Up to Reality

By Ruth Graham

dad-with-kidsONE KIND OF FAMILY is the one in an old greeting-card picture: two parents, one or more kids, all under one roof.

But another kind of family has become more and more common over the last several decades. We tend to call it “single parenting,” but it is really better described as an unmarried mother and father living apart, their children, and the government whose laws regulate their relationship.

That set of laws is the child-support system, and it covers 17 million American children—about a quarter of them. But that system is nearly 40 years old, established during a different economy, and built on an old model where the mother was the caretaker and the father simply brought home the bacon. Today, a group of critics is saying the system needs an update, not only to be fair to adults but to avoid hurting the children whose interests it is supposed to serve.

These critics are particularly focused on the role of fathers, who make up the vast majority of noncustodial parents. Fathers are overwhelmingly the target of the current system’s narrow focus on collection and enforcement. And for middle-class and high-income men, it may make sense to require simply that they pay up or else.

But 29 percent of families in the system have income below the federal poverty line, and many more have great trouble making ends meet. Since the system was first put in place, out-of-wedlock births have become less stigmatized and more common, while devastating wage stagnation has hit male workers. As a result, there are legions of low-income fathers far less able to hold up their end of the deal. They may find themselves unable to pay child support, and yet caught in a system that expects nothing else from them.

“Child support is a remnant of the days when we used to think that dads didn’t matter,” said Kathryn Edin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who has spent years researching the ways poor American men cope with unmarried parenting. “With our right hand we’ve pushed these men away; we’ve said, ‘You’re worthless.’ With our left hand we’re picking his pocket….That’s how it feels to him.”

Today, Edin is one of a growing number of academics and policy makers looking at struggling families in the 21st century and concluding that the child-support system needs to do better. They envision a system that would more closely link providing and parenting, and would take a more pragmatic view toward the ability of disenfranchised men to come up with money they simply don’t have, while still benefiting the children the system is designed to serve. What exactly would that look like—and what would it take to make it a reality?

If forced to choose between child-support payments and buying diapers and winter coats, many fathers will go for the option that looks more like parenting than taxation.

THE CHILD-SUPPORT SYSTEM as we know it dates to the 1970s. It was originally a bipartisan policy reform, designed primarily to serve a population of parents who were divorced and steadily employed. Divorce meant there had been a marriage in the first place, and that custody agreements had likely been worked out. Steady employment meant the system could garnish wages directly from a parent’s paycheck if necessary.

Today, however, the lives of many low-income parents look dramatically different. Marriage rates among the poor have plummeted, so there often is no divorce to provide a formal structure for parents’ responsibilities. And employment prospects for men with low education are dismal. “We have a 1970s narrative about a 2010s reality,” Edin said.

hillary-clintonA central character in that narrative is the “deadbeat dad,” a figure who emerged in American culture in the 1980s. One moment served as a catalyst: In 1986, Bill Moyers interviewed a New Jersey father of six named Timothy McSeed for a CBS report titled “The Vanishing Family: Crisis in Black America.” McSeed bragged on camera about his “strong sperm,” and cheerfully admitted he didn’t support any of his children financially because “I’m not doing what the government does.” Editorial columnists seized on the shocking interview, and the segment went viral in a time when that meant more than a few easy clicks: Requests for the tape poured into CBS, including an order for all 7,500 schools in the California public school system. CBS News said it was the largest-ever demand for one of its products.

With this cartoonish bogeyman looming over the cultural and political landscape, the child-support system focused on collection and enforcement. Shortly afterward, Congress passed a law forcing states to be stricter about collecting past child-support debts. The approach was bolstered intellectually by a 1979 book by a University of Michigan law professor, “Making Fathers Pay,” which argued that aggressive enforcement measures, including incarceration, could corral deadbeats into complying with child-support orders. In 1996, President Clinton’s welfare reform act again strengthened the government’s enforcement powers against noncustodial parents.

There have always been, and will always be, some fathers who are not interested in fathering, and who would never help out if the law didn’t force them to. But recent research by sociologists and others who work with low-income fathers suggests that is far from typical. For their poignant 2013 book “Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City,” Edin and coauthor Timothy Nelson conducted wide-ranging interviews with 110 low-income fathers in and around Philadelphia over the course of seven years. They found the majority of men were thrilled to become fathers, even though the pregnancies were rarely planned and their romantic relationships and employment situations were often unstable.

Overwhelmingly, Edin and other sociologists have reported, 21st-century fathers do intend to provide for their children. Many of them fail, in the financial sense. But what Edin found, encouragingly, is that with few opportunities to succeed financially, many have crafted new definitions of what exactly it means to be a good father: emotional availability, consistent commitment, and direct fulfillment of their children’s concrete needs and desires. As one father told Edin, “That’s what kept me going in prison, knowing that I had to come out and be there for them.” Although low-income fathers remain much less studied than mothers, other researchers have found similar enthusiasm for parenting. In her 2002 book, “My Baby’s Father: Unmarried Parents and Paternal Responsibility,” Maureen Waller, an associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, interviewed both men and women who agreed that a father’s economic support was necessary but insufficient to qualify him as a good parent.

If forced to choose between child-support payments and buying diapers and winter coats, many fathers will go for the option that looks more like parenting than taxation. That may be particularly true in cases where a mother is on welfare, because then the father’s child-support payment typically goes directly to the state, sometimes with a token amount “passed through” to the mother and child. “Dads talk about that conundrum,” said Ronald Mincy, a professor of social work at Columbia University and coauthor of the forthcoming book “Failing Our Fathers: Confronting the Crisis of Economically Vulnerable Nonresident Fathers.” “They have to choose between meeting the formal order on the one hand and meeting the child’s informal needs.” If they choose the latter, they become “deadbeats” in the eyes of the law.

Yet researchers say that both mothers and fathers tend to prefer informal agreements, all things considered. If their relationship crumbles—trust is often low to begin with—or if the father gets distracted by a new family, informal agreements can disintegrate, so the formal child-support system is a crucial safety net for mothers and children. But it’s also a system that can alienate fathers from their children, sometimes by literally putting them in jail. Even the burden of debt can be enough to drive a wedge: Waller’s ongoing research suggests that men with outstanding child-support debts have less contact and involvement with their children.

Though mothers undoubtedly have benefited from the child-support system, there’s also a case to be made that they are its victims in a way, too. Unlike parents themselves, the formal system assumes that the custodial parent is the only one with real authority. “If we give in to the notion that the mom ‘owns’ the child, if that’s the default position, then the mom is also responsible for the child,” Edin said. “Moms just end up holding the bag for everything, and men are cast out of society. That is a very bad deal for women.”

OVER THE YEARS, the child support system has improved in one measurable way: enforcement. “The reach of the child-support program, it’s stronger than the IRS in some ways,” said Jessica Pearson, who directs the Center for Policy Research and has been studying child-support policy since the 1980s. The Federal Parent Locator Service draws on national databases to track down noncustodial parents and enforce payments; in fiscal year 2013, state (and tribal) programs collected $32 billion in child support, and the amount distributed has been steadily rising for years.

That’s good news for the families who have received this money. But more than $100 billion in child-support payments are still in arrears, and research suggests that most of that is essentially uncollectible because the fathers simply do not have the money. (About a quarter of that money is owed to the government.)

Would a more enlightened system—one focused less on enforcement, and more on involvement—do a better job of keeping eager fathers involved with their children? If so, it would mean broadening the state’s approach from one that is primarily punitive to one that works with fathers, presuming that most of them want to be good parents.

Some small signs of progress seem to be on the horizon. Last month, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement began circulating a 41-page list of proposed new regulations to modernize the child-support program. (Child support programs are administered by states, but the federal government influences state policy and how it is implemented.) The new rules would make changes like allowing states to spend federal child-support dollars on employment and training programs for fathers. Crucially, they also encourage states to take into account a man’s basic cost of living before making child-support calculations.

Scholars who work with low-income families all have their own favorite ways they would like to see the system change. Waller mentions limiting retroactive debts and revising policies on how states handle interest payments. Mincy would like to see the Earned Income Tax Credit extended more generously to noncustodial parents. Job training for fathers is another big focus: Small studies in New York and Texas have shown that if the state provides training for men who haven’t been able to pay child support, they are likelier to begin to comply. And almost everyone laments the fact that some states treat incarceration as “voluntary unemployment,” so child-support debts often balloon while men are in prison.

Experts also have ambitious ideas about how the system could help incorporate fathers into the lives of their children. Some would like to connect child-support and visitation agreements for never-married parents, the way that divorce court does. Some jurisdictions have experimented with versions of “coparenting court” to help unmarried parents negotiate a more complex agreement that covers more than just check-writing.

And language matters, too. Edin bemoans the widespread use of the term “single mother,” and the way that many government poverty programs are oriented solely around mothers and children. In fact, mothers who are truly single are vanishingly rare: In one way or another, fathers and boyfriends are almost always integral parts of the picture, and those relationships are assets we would do better to strengthen than ignore. She’d like to see researchers and policy makers adopt another phrase, one she hopes would remind us how many lives are at stake in all these arrangements. The term she prefers: “Complex fragile family.”

A Welfare Nation Created by Broken Homes

by Marshall Frank

Insanity definition: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

kangaroo courtIn a perfect world, all children would grow up in secure, loving families with a mom and dad, good role models and plenty of love. Alas, the world is not perfect. And the less perfect it becomes, the worse it is for all of us, not only those who are trapped into despair, poverty and neglect.

Kids who come from broken homes are lucky to have parents who still talk to each other, who love and care for the child, and who support, educate and meet psychological needs. Too often that’s not the case. Some fathers abandon their duty-bound responsibilities. Why? Because they can.

dollar bondageA 2012 study of deadbeat dads, aired by CNN, indicates that $100 billion a year was owed in unpaid child support. Taxpayers pick up the tab for nearly half that amount in the form of non-reimbursed welfare. Mothers comprise 82 percent of the custodial parents in broken home situations. Child support payments represent 45 percent of their income. Single mothers with multiple kids rely mostly on welfare for total income.

Recent studies show that 1.6 million babies are born to unwed mothers every year. Among blacks, 73 percent of new babies have no father at home, leaving mothers to bear the burden. For Asians, 17 percent; Whites, 29 percent.

It’s not only about financial support. Spin-off problems can be worse. Sure, it’s important to clothe and feed children, but needs go beyond physical welfare. It is equally important to develop kids into well-adjusted youths who do not turn to the streets for negative love and attention outside the home.

child abuseAye, there’s the rub, the unseen, unmeasured consequence of dysfunctional or abusive parenting, or no parenting at all. Psychological damage to children can ultimately cost taxpayers far more than child support checks, particularly after kids reach puberty and engage in behaviors that land them in jails, rehab centers or county morgues. Meanwhile, taxpayers must bear the costs of fighting crime and trauma, not only within the justice system, but in emergency rooms, property loss, physical loss, lost wages, victimization costs and more.

johnson-amendmentWhat kids from broken families seek out in the streets is what they often don’t get at home: acceptance, attention, guidance and feeling important. Thus, the substitutes. Boys enter gangs. Girls sell bodies. Kids use drugs — to belong. Any mention of morality is laughable. And we pay for it all.

Street gangs are replete with stories about mothers who had multiple kids from miscellaneous fathers who never felt the need to be part of their children’s lives. The mothers get all the help possible from Uncle Sam. Moms are better off staying unmarried because the government is a sure thing, the dads are not. It’s a vicious cycle.

When you hear about aberrant teens, violence and gangs, remember that most of these kids never had a chance from the moment they were born. Many were born of dysfunctional teens themselves, grossly unprepared for motherhood. They never learned how to parent because their parents were just as dysfunctional.

The Great Society of President Lyndon Johnson, it seems, has backfired. It was all about expanding welfare. From 1965 to 2008, according to Forbes, $16 trillion had been appropriated for welfare programs for the poor. That’s increased another $2 trillion since. Johnson may have meant to eliminate poverty, but it created a dependent society instead. When Johnson was president, more than 75 percent of black babies were born with fathers in the family. Dads stayed home to help raise kids. Not today.

Meanwhile, we continue to hear the same old drumbeat about the need for government to spread the wealth and take care of the poor. Seems that hasn’t worked very well.

I guess we must be insane.

overthrow

The War on Fatherhood in the United States

The South Carolina Killing & the Child Support Racket

by Phyllis Schafly

Scott-police-fatal-shootingWhy was Walter Scott running away from a policeman who tried to stop him because of a broken tail light? The media are trying to make a South Carolina policeman’s killing of a black man, Walter Scott, another sensational case of racism, but the media have missed the point of the tragedy.

The problem wasn’t racism, or even dangerous driving or stolen property. It was caused by the obnoxious anti-father rulings of the family courts and Scott’s fear that he would be returned to debtors’ prison. Scott had already been jailed three times for failure to pay child support, and he didn’t want to be sent to prison again.

captiveDebtors’ prisons were common in England in the colonial period. You can read about them in the writings of Charles Dickens, who wrote from firsthand knowledge; his own father spent time in a debtors’ prison.

We kicked out British rule by the American Revolution and abolished some of its trappings, such as royalty and its titles, primogeniture and bowing to our top national official. We thought we abolished debtors’ prisons even before we abolished slavery, but they continue to exist today to punish men who are too poor to pay what is falsely labeled “child support.”

We say “falsely” because the money collected from the poor guy usually doesn’t go to his kid or her mother. It just supports the welfare-state bureaucracy.

Of course, it wasn’t wise to try to outrun the policeman’s gun, but this sad event should make us re-evaluate the policy of repeatedly sending a penniless man to jail for failure to pay so-called child support.

These guys don’t have the money to hire a defense lawyer, which he should be given when jail is the cost of losing the case.

burning the constitutionWhen corporations can’t pay their debts, they can take bankruptcy, which means they pay off their debts for pennies on the dollar over many years. But a man can never get an alleged “child support” debt forgiven or reduced, even if he is out of a job, penniless, homeless, medically incapacitated, incarcerated (justly or unjustly), can’t afford a lawyer, serving in our Armed Forces overseas, isn’t the father, or never owed the money in the first place.

The reason “child support” debt can never be reduced by the court is the Bradley Amendment, named after a Democratic senator from New Jersey and one-time presidential candidate. That law should be repealed.

Fifteen years ago, a family court judge threw Scott in jail because he hadn’t made his child support payments on time, and that meant he lost his $35,000-a-year job at a film company, “the best job I ever had.” He then found some odd jobs but couldn’t make enough money to make the support payments the government demanded.

indigent in AmericaThe whole idea that a poor man is expected to support two households, including one with a child he never sees and may not even be his, is contrary to common sense and to all human experience. In too many cases, DNA investigations revealed that the poor guy is not the father of the kid for whom he is ordered to pay child support.

Scott seemed to turn a corner, but after making a couple of payments he fell behind again and was sent back to jail. He said, “This whole time in jail, my child support is still going up.”

Walter Scott’s older brother, Anthony Scott, told the Charleston Post and Courier, “Everybody knows why he ran away.” A bench warrant had been issued for his arrest for failure to pay enough child support.

A survey of county jails in South Carolina found that at least one out of every eight incarcerated people is there for not paying so-called child support. All this imprisonment is imposed without any jury trial, due process, or the benefit of a lawyer to defend the guy.

According to CUNY Law School professor Ann Cammett, an expert on incarcerated parents who owe child support, “We have zero evidence that it works. If the goal of the child support system is to get support for children, parents can’t do that if they’re incarcerated.”

kangaroo courtOne case on this issue went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011, but it didn’t produce much relief. Michael Turner of South Carolina argued that his constitutional rights had been violated because he didn’t have a lawyer at his hearing, even though jail was the penalty if he lost. The Court ordered some minimal “procedural safeguards,” but didn’t tackle the issue of giving a father the fundamental right of due process before sending him to jail.

We hope Walter Scott’s death may help some dads in the future who are unfairly treated by the family courts, not given a lawyer, denied due process and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

What America’s Child Support Problem is Really About

moneyHow much does it cost the average parent to rear three children from birth to age 18? Upward of $750,000, according to this nifty CNN calculator.

But Anne Dias Griffin, ex-wife of the hedge fund billionaire Kenneth Griffin, thinks the number lands closer to $1 million a month.

Griffin made headlines last month when she claimed that in order to keep up with the expenses of her three children, her ex-husband should be forced to pay a monthly six-figure sum in child support.

The Griffins’ legal battle has thrust the issue of unpaid alimony into the news once again, sold to readers with titillating headlines and expected outrage. Child support problems, from Janet Jackson to Dennis Rodman, make for perfect tabloid fodder. Spoiled celebrities, deadbeat millionaire dads and trust-fund children. That’s who doesn’t pay child support.

baby moneyBut FiveThirtyEight’s Mona Chalabi has shined a light on a far more complicated part of the narrative. Over $14 billion of child support funds went unpaid in America in 2011, according to Chalabi, and women are more likely to struggle with payments than men.

“In 2011, 32 percent of custodial fathers (meaning fathers who have legal custody of the children) didn’t receive any of the child support that had been awarded to them,” Mona wrote in her “Ask Mona” column on FiveThirtyEight. According to her analysis of the 2011 Census data, the number drops to 25.1 percent for custodial mothers.

Chalabi, who was understandably surprised by her finding, provided a few explanations as to why such a counterintuitive statistic might be true.

So many children, so many fathers.

So many children, so many fathers.

First off, women with custody of their children are more likely than men to be living in poverty. These women are more likely to have part-time jobs, or no job at all. The implication here seems to be that men are slightly more likely to help their ex-wives out with child support because it’s more likely that women will desperately need the financial help.

There are other interesting elements that play into why child support might not get paid, such as racial differences (which are closely related to economic differences in her analysis); actual marital status (Chalabi points out that “custodial moms and dads who have never been married or are in their first marriages are much less likely to get any of the payments they’re due”); and prenuptial agreements.

All of these factors, however, speak mostly to the struggle of mothers — and fathers — in poverty, and how divorce or lack of marriage in the first place contributes to economic struggles. Chalabi’s analysis acts as a stark reminder that the issue of child support isn’t about celebrity tabloid disputes. Poverty and marriage trends are the real headlines.

——-

The state and the greed of so called custodial parents are at the center of this offensive media bloodlust. – MJR

overthrow

Texas Court Clerk Grouches About Money

Texas child support court clerkHere is the latest scuttlebutt about corporate discomfort in dealing with child support provisions, and as usual, it’s always about the money for the corporate system. It’s certainly isn’t about privacy or about who really wants the information, some of it highly personal and confidential.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Republican from north Harris County, Texas, filed a bill last week that claims to make court records more accessible to the public and save people money. This provision would allow the public to print non-certified court records at no charge.

It is claimed that Senate Bill 967 would allow people to access and print at no charge non-certified copies of electronic court records. They now pay 15 cents for each page they copy, and sometimes court records number in the hundreds of pages. “If you can get government records on the internet, you should be able to download them for free.”

“If people are accessing the District Clerk’s online documents on their own computers and want to print them out on their own printers, using their own toner, there’s no reason why the government should be seeking a fee,” Daniel said. “The public’s money was already used to buy equipment to create the records and hire the workers needed to complete the process. Let’s look out for taxpayers and the public.”

“In the 21st century, we shouldn’t be charging people 15 cents a page like we did in the 20th century.”

Watch out when corporate government wants to look out for taxpayers and the public.

Daniel also urged passage of House Bill 1636, which would restore about $1.3 million in fees that used to be paid by the state Attorney General’s Office when it filed certain court documents in unpaid child support cases in Harris County.

The federal government has previously mandated that state and local courts crack down on child support scofflaws. Corporate courts dedicated to handling these child support cases, known as U.S. Title IV-D courts, were created as part of that mandate.

State lawmakers passed a bill allowing the state A.G.’s Office not to pay a handling fee for some child support case filings. The District Clerk’s Office has lost $1.3 million in the process and they want the money restored to them. Never you mind that they already make a profit. Government institutions would have you believe that they are cash strapped. Hardly. Plenty of money has been and continues to be generated with fees.

It’s always about the money to keep their corporations running smoothly, that is, unless they are robbing from poor parents, the only group of “scofflaws” that currently exist in this computer age. Anyone that can be plundered by child support laws are already being plundered.

original article

 

Tag Cloud