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DEADBEAT DADS, DEAD BROKE MOMS

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by Jody Vilecco

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We're all familiar with the title "Deadbeat DadÓ - those fathers of countless children in this country who can't or won't pay their court ordered child support. It's a big deal right now - in the news - because someone finally realized that public aid is having to pick up the tab for so many single parents who are struggling to support their children because the child support supplement to their income is not paid...even after countless trips to court and contempt findings against the "Deadbeat DadÓ.

I am one single mother and welfare recipient who has been there and done that through the court system and still can't seem to get paid the child support that I am owed.

I live in subsidized housing with my two school-age boys. Subsidized means that my rent is not the "market rate", but it is still not, by any means, free. My rent equals exactly one week's take-home pay per month. I receive food stamps in the amount of $127 per month. I usually spend at least $200 more than that on food. (Growing boys can eat!) I also receive a state medical card for my boys. It is specified in our divorce papers that their father is required to carry medical insurance on the children until they are 18. He never has, and their medical bills have always been paid by the state (more specifically, by you, the taxpayer) since the time of our divorce three years ago. I have no health insurance coverage because my job does not offer medical benefits. According to the state, I make too much money to be covered by a state medical card. My take-home pay is $212 (plus change) a week. Hardly a fortune with which to raise two children. I do not receive any cash assistance from the state, and never have, because I have always worked.

What is my point? I am drowning! I can only afford to pay the very most basic bills that I owe: rent, phone, electricity and food. I cannot save any money and I cannot get ahead. I cannot afford to buy clothing for my children, let alone any of the extras that life constantly requires. I dread August when it's time to buy school clothes and supplies - and new shoes and winter coats! I am sure that many deadbeat dads out there do not think that child support is such a big deal. They know that the kids will be fed and clothed and bathed, and have a roof over their heads. What these fathers may not realize is that their children truly are missing out on a lot. The main point is that they should not have to! Why should you, the wage earner and taxpayer, have to help support my children when they have a father who is simply too lazy or selfish to contribute?

We always hear that they are cracking down on Deadbeat Dads. They have even made child support enforcement federal law. But what has really been done? It is hard for me to see any light at the end of the tunnel. My ex-husband has been found in contempt of court for non-payment of child support four times in less than three years. His wages were garnished, but he quit his job and hasn't worked since 1997. At this point there is no way that I can hire an attorney to get him back into court and collect the $4,000 he owes me and our children. There is an online service that will go after him for no money down, but they will take a third of the amount of back support collected and 20 percent of anything thereafter - for the next 15 years!

In the meantime, I continue to slowly sink in my attempt to raise my children. Their Deadbeat Dad continues to buck the system. And taxpayers continue to support my family as well as countless others across the country.

Is it just me, or is there something very wrong with this system? Why do these men, and there are many of them, simply refuse to follow the law and pay? Because they can! I feel very strongly that all these Deadbeat Dads should be made to work off their debt. They do go to jail sometimes, but what good does that do? Then you, the taxpayer, have to support them as well as their children! I feel that fathers who have been found in contempt more than once should be sent to a work-release center and made to stay there until the entire balance of back support is paid in full. They should also have room and board taken out of their wages so taxpayers don't have to support them. After they have paid their debt, they will still need to be monitored - much like probation or parole - to ensure that they continue to pay support until their children are self-supporting. No ifs, ands, or buts. Make them work!

Does this sound extreme? If so, please remember that is extremely difficult to be a single mother who has a good job and is on every type of public assistance she's eligible for, and still isn't able to come up with $3 for her son to play miniature golf on a field trip. It took years and years for M.A.D.D. to get tougher laws on drunk drivers, but they did it. Isn't it time to get tougher on Deadbeat Dads?


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