When fathers miss child support payments, they’re sometimes labeled as deadbeats. Some cases exist where fathers are capable of making child support payments but refuse to do so for a number of reasons. However, people in Maryland are beginning to realize that many fathers who miss payments simply just do not have the money to give. A Baltimore nonprofit organization is now attempting to help both single fathers drowning in f debt and couples who are in need of assistance but cannot acquire it from the Department of Human Resources.
The organization, known as the Center for Urban Families, works with men that are behind on child support to create a payment plan with DHR, which sometimes involves alleviating or forgiving arrears. In four ZIP codes near where CFUF operates, there is an estimated $111 million in back child support owed. This represents about 25 percent of the total amount owed in the entire city. CFUF lists 4,642 cases in which an average of $130 is owed each month. DHR has received exactly zero payments in 68 percent of these cases.
DHR seems to agree with CFUF regarding “deadbeat” dads often just being completely broke rather than unwilling to pay. DHR officials state that many fathers are underemployed, unemployed or incarcerated, leading to situations where they want to pay but are simply too caught up in Baltimore’s inner-city turmoil. A former health commissioner for the city stated that the community needs better public schools, healthy food, health care, decent housing and livable-wage jobs in order for Baltimore to get out of this situation. He went on to say that large sections of Baltimore do not have any of these.
Child support arrears can also discourage low-income men from seeking employment, as their wages might be garnished. It can also cause a rift between father and mother, eventually leading to a distance between father and child. Some social service experts claim that child support policies are unfair for low-income fathers, because the laws are based on outdated notions of family. However, programs such as CFUF might be signaling some changes in the ways inner-city families receive support.
Source: america.aljazeera.com, “Dead broke, not deadbeat: Baltimore rethinks welfare policy” Alia Malek, Jan. 15, 2014