A fugitive people within a nation is tyranny.

Posts tagged ‘reform’

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.

Aussie Fundraiser to Support Fathers

compiled by Moody Jim Rathbone

Courtney Hewett fundraiser child supportAustralian Courtney Hewett is holding a photo shoot for a cause and is asking for community support. After the sudden loss of a close friend, Courtney decided she wanted to create a fundraiser in his memory.

Courtney, along with Aleesha Watson of Creative Designs by Aleesha, makeup artist Catrina Loller and hairdressers Jordan Atkinson and Melita Newland, have coordinated a glamor boudoir photo shoot to raise much needed funds for the Australian Brotherhood of Fathers (ABF).

The ABF is a lobby group that seek social justice reforms in government and court to encourage fair child custody outcomes.

It believes fathers deserve equal opportunity for shared parenting with shared costs, providing a more fair child support payment system. “Twenty-one fathers commit suicide every week due to childhood visitation issues,” she said. That is in Australia alone.

The photo shoots will be held on Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, August 9, for a cost of $280. This price will cover the cost of hair, makeup, photography, 15 edited images, food platters, drinks and a a generous donation to the cause. “I just wanted to do something a little bit different,” she said.

So why is this article on this website. A little good news is needed… from somewhere.

The curse that has come to rest on fathers needs some good news, and this is about as good as it usually gets. This is a decent idea for a good cause. The good old USA needs some inspiration in this area, as well as some interest and guts. Australia child support is similar to other modern nations through United Nations treaty. Only the United States has the cursed Bradley Amendment, where the government cannot forgive or modify any debt retroactively.

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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.

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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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The Brilliant Idea From Europe That Could Revolutionize Child Support

by Bryce Covert

Scott-police-fatal-shootingWalter Scott, a father to four children, was shot dead by a police officer later charged with first-degree murder while running away from him. One of the many questions some asked after the news of the shooting broke in the national press was why he might flee such an encounter. His family said it was because he owed so much in unpaid child support. “I believe he didn’t want to go to jail again. He just ran away,” Walter Scott Sr. told the press.

If this is why Scott ran, his fear wasn’t necessarily unfounded. At least one in eight incarcerated South Carolinians were jailed over the last decade after failing to pay child support, and across the country as many as 50,000 parents may end up behind bars for the same reason. This punishment is perhaps the most extreme end of the aggressive measures states use to go after noncustodial parents who don’t pay up, which also include wage garnishment, revoking driver’s and professional licenses, and taking away passports.

captiveBut this strategy doesn’t necessarily help the parents who need child support, usually single mothers, and does little to help the fathers get jobs that pay enough to allow them to send money to their kids. A jailed father can’t earn any income, but his child support debts often keep accruing. Many states don’t allow people to reduce or suspend their child support obligations while they’re in jail, so they end up leaving with $15,000 to $30,000 in debt. They also face a more difficult time finding employment when they get out.

Yet child support is a vital source of income for custodial parents, and single mothers are particularly likely to be poor, with more than 40 percent of them living in poverty. Among poor parents who actually receive child support, it makes up four-tenths of their income. But just 43.4 percent got the full amount they were owed in 2011; on average, parents are owed an unpaid $2,281.

So what could be done to better ensure single mothers get the money they need to help them raise their children while reforming a system that penalizes poor fathers who can’t pay?

black-dadThe best model is likely to be found in Europe. As of 2010, all European countries except the Netherlands guaranteed child support payments to custodial parents even if the noncustodial parent couldn’t pay or could only pay part. Sweden goes even further and has a guaranteed assistance program in which all custodial parents get a child support payment from the government no matter what, and the government then collects what it can from the noncustodial ones. Such a system seems to work — 95 percent of these parents get child support payments. This system “gets you a guaranteed minimum benefit whatever the nonresident father can pay,” explained Irwin Garfinkel, a professor of social work at Columbia University.

He thinks this model could significantly improve the system if the United States were to take the same tactic. “From the perspective of the children, I would say that’s the single most important thing that could be done,” Garfinkel said.

equal justice fraudAny such reform, however, would also have to be paired with changes to how we calculate what noncustodial parents owe. American fathers have the highest obligations among 14 of the richest countries, even if they are poor or unemployed (in eight countries, an unemployed father doesn’t owe anything). The U.S. is one of four that doesn’t exempt some portion of the noncustodial parent’s income for basic living expenses. Only five countries are so extreme as to jail fathers who don’t pay.

Garfinkel proposes making sure the obligation is always a percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income. “That would protect the fathers,” he said. “If you express the obligations as a percent of income, it would automatically reduce the amount of harassment possible.” If a father has no income coming in, then he wouldn’t be obligated to pay and wouldn’t keep racking up debts as many do now. Mothers would also benefit in the long run, given that even a poor father’s income is likely to eventually increase down the road.

stressed single motherA guaranteed payment program, particularly one that doesn’t always try to recoup the costs from low-income fathers who can’t pay, would not come for free. But Garfinkel thinks the amount would be negligible compared to the benefits reaped. Even if custodial parents were guaranteed a payment as high as $3,000 a year, he estimated it would cost the government about $10 billion. Compared to the overall federal budget, “it’s not a big number and it would make a massive difference,” he argued. Poor mothers would not just have more income to invest in their children, but the stability of steady payments could be even more beneficial for children’s development.

Strangely, part of the American system was meant to act somewhat akin to Sweden’s for the very poorest, but today ends up being counterproductive. When welfare was reformed in the 1990s, one change enacted ensured that if a custodial parent gets benefits from Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF), any child support payments from the noncustodial parent are taken by the state, not doled out to the parent. “That was the basic concept of welfare,” explained Joan Entmacher, vice president for family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center, “that the state would pay public assistance and then collect child support and keep the child support to reimburse itself.”

stingy state 2Today, however, TANF payments are nearly all worth less than they were in 1996 and only reach a quarter of eligible families. Meanwhile, the system usually serves to discourage poor fathers from paying their obligations, given that they know their money isn’t going to actually make it to their children and the families aren’t usually getting an adequate amount of help from the state. As Elizabeth Lower-Basch, policy coordinator at CLASP, a policy organization for low-income people, put it, “Why on earth would you pay money to go to the state?”

One state, Wisconsin, experimented with changing its program from one where it withholds all child support payments for welfare recipients to now being the only one that directly gives custodial parents most of the support the noncustodial parent pays. In 2006, it evaluated this change and found that it ended up increasing how much noncustodial parents paid and how many custodial parents got support. More states could consider doing the same, but they aren’t incentivized to: they would have to make up for the money they no longer took from child support payments.

rich guyThere are also some efforts across the country to change the way that noncustodial parents’ support obligations are calculated. Currently, when courts hear from a father that he doesn’t have a job or enough money to pay support, some states still calculate the child support payment on his supposed earning capacity or deem that he voluntarily lowered his earnings by taking a lower paying job or even getting fired. And, of course, there is the fact that if a father ends up going to jail over unpaid support, he can still keep accruing debt while he’s there. The Office of Child Support Enforcement proposed changes at the end of last year that would base child support orders on actual earnings and income, not imputed income, and allow incarcerated people to modify their orders rather than treating it as voluntary unemployment.

Some states have also experimented with incarceration diversion programs that would allow noncustodial parents to enter into employment services rather than go to jail. Texas has one of the longest-standing programs, which has increased child support payments and made them more consistent, even after participants leave the program. The challenge, however, is that there isn’t any dedicated funding available to states to create these programs beyond diverting money from the TANF block grant they receive.

Some advocates are aiming higher, however. Jacquelyn Boggess, co-director of the Center for Family Policy and Practice, wants to get rid of the system for the poorest parents altogether. As a paper Irwin Garfinkel co-authored in 2010 notes, “A serious problem with the public child support system is that at its inception, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement viewed itself exclusively as a law enforcement agency. As a result, fathers have been viewed as lawbreakers rather than clients.” The paper recommends shifting it to more of a social welfare agency than simply about the law.

Boggess’ group is pushing a recommendation to fundamentally change this dynamic: “Taking the poorest families out of the child support system and making sure their children get taken care of,” she said. She noted that the way the system works for these families now, both the custodial and noncustodial parents are assumed to be shirking. “Women are shirking [because they] need to get a job, and men are shirking so we put them in jail,” she said. Instead, she wants the system to “stop taking that perspective and take the perspective that they’re like the rest of us, they want to take care of their children.” That would mean instead creating programs for these families that would focus more on giving them a leg up: housing, income support, employment services.

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Petition for Child Support Reform Now

How much more Government interference will you tolerate? Presently, family rights and especially the children are always the losers. Families are being destroyed by an antagonistic system and relationships are being ruined beyond repair. Thousands are being forced into jail while thousands commit suicide each year! American politics has cemented through unconstitutional law what will continue to be a subclass of American life preserved to further illegal government and exploitation of the family for political purposes and wealth distribution. This is what the federal law called the Bradley Amendment is about. Child support is actually a secondary purpose.

“The Child Support System is a little known mess of incompetence and corruption…unless of course you have been caught up in it.” These are the opening words to a new website that promises to play a part in gathering a petition to Reform Child Support Law! To those of you that are able to frequent or participate in this blog, you know the truth. Getting the truth out is what RepealBradley has been about for years! Now is your chance to do something meaningful in a group rally. Please visit “Petition for Child Support Reform” now!  We don’t need hope, we need action. Do your part today!

See the article and comments on Gather.

Beware of Secretive Politicians

Some politicians have an open door policy to their constituents and seek a balanced approach to their office. Other politicians prefer to work in secret and bolster their own private interests exclusively. These secretive politicians may claim to seek to greater good with bills and laws that fly in the face of Constitutional Law out of the desire for “reform” or a measure of “greater good”. You can seek out the public record pretty easily, but this process is still time consuming and fraught with details. Repeal Bradley is working on solving that problem with a new news feature coming soon so that you will know what your favorite politician is voting on behind-the-scenes.

This video appears to be about Hillary Clinton. The reality is that this video is about secretive behavior, agendas and behavior that many politicians adopt to get what they want. It is up to the citizens of the United States to elect quality and qualified leaders in government. Please watch this video in that light.

U.S. Child Poverty Up

Newly released data shows that poor families and children are being left behind as the benefits of a steadily growing economy fail to trickle down to their level. Congress is currently preparing to issue additional tax cuts and cut funding for programs that serve low-income children and families, just as these numbers come to light.

How can the Bush Administration and Congress can give enormous tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans who have benefited most from the economic recovery while threatening to cut the budgets for Medicaid, Food Stamps and other programs that assist poor children who continue to be left behind? Good question. So much for welfare reform or is this the new reform promised since the 1990’s?

Medical News Link

13 million children now living in poverty in the U.S.

In newly released data it appears that poor families and children are being left behind as the benefits of a steadily growing economy fail to trickle down to their level.

Congress is currently preparing to issue additional tax cuts and cut funding for programs that serve low-income children and families, just as these numbers come to light.

Marian Wright Edelman, CEO and founder of Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), says the persistent and growing high level of child poverty, reflects conscious and misguided choices.

She wonders how the Bush Administration and Congress can give enormous tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans who have benefited most from the economic recovery while threatening to cut the budgets for Medicaid, Food Stamps and other programs that assist poor children who continue to be left behind.

According to the CDF the number of children living in poverty in the United States now exceeds 13 million.

New health insurance data also released today serves to underscore the importance of maintaining these programs.

Apparently private health insurance coverage for children has declined since 2000, but because of the continued effectiveness of Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in filling coverage gaps, health insurance for children nationally has remained stable and even slightly improved.

But apparently there are still 9.1 million uninsured children in the U.S.

In 2004 more than seven out of every ten poor children had at least one employed parent, but that is not enough to lift families out of poverty, as even if a parent with one child works full time at the federal minimum wage, the family still lives in poverty.

Child poverty has risen significantly among all racial groups since 2000, and extreme child poverty increased by 20 percent from 2000 to 2004 to reach almost 5.6 million children.

Extreme poverty is defined as living with an annual income of below $7,610 for a family of three.

Edelman says that while far less wealthy industrialized countries have committed to end child poverty, the United States is sliding backwards.

For additional information, please read Defining Poverty and Why It Matters for Children in America available online.

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