July 25, 2005

Deadbeat Parents

Johnston presses for payment
Sheriff's deputies rounded up two dozen parents who have not paid child support
I was just reading this story in the News & Observer about Johnston County Sheriff's rounding up deadbeat parents. As is so common in today's media, the story gives equal weight to both sides of the issue and fails to reach any conclusions.

Armed with arrest warrants for 185 moms and dads who have skipped out on child support payments, deputies knocked on doors before folks began stirring for the day. By 2:30 a.m., deputies hauled 24, including six women, to the county jail to settle their tabs.

"It's amazing how they can't come up with the money until they get behind bars," said Sheriff Steve Bizzell, who called for Sunday's roundup after the delinquent accounts started piling up at the county child support enforcement office.

OK, so I agree with this. That is why we call them Deadbeat Dads, and from the looks of it, Deadbeat Moms. But, then comes this story aimed at tugging at your heartstrings.
Carolyn Best, wiping sleep from her eyes, shuffled to a holding cell and stretched out on a belly swollen with ovarian tumors. Best, of 827 Ward St. in Smithfield, owed $548 to the grandmother of her 14-year-old, who had custody of the child for a while in 2004. Currently out of work to care for another sick child, Best couldn't figure out how she would settle up.

"Every time I go to court, I tell them I can't pay for it, but they just keep demanding it," said Best, a 34-year-old mother of five.

She'd pay this time with her freedom. Failure to comply with court orders to pay child support will keep her in jail for 30 days. She hoped a friend would look after her toddler until she got out.

Well, it worked. I feel sorry for this woman and it makes me wonder about the jaded nature of the night's work and our system. But, you know what. I'm not going to wuss out like that. What these Sheriff's did was a good thing. If you have a child, you have a moral and legal obligation to take care of that child. Ms. Best is an exception to the rule, perhaps given her healthcare issues she should be let off the hook. But, then who takes care of her other child? A grandmother? How is she to pay. She is "hoping" that a friend will look after her toddler? I'm certainly hoping that child services keeps tabs - what exactly does she think will happen to her toddler if her friend doesn't help?

If it takes getting thrown in jail or threatened with that action to get parents to pay, then so be it. Are there exceptions to the rule, of course. Ms. Best is one such exception, she should not be in jail given her condition. But, that does not detract from the overall good that comes from waking up Deadbeat Parents to the fact that they must pay for the children they brought into this world.

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