The father was “broken” when he reached out to the HCJFS Child Support division.
The 42-year-old father of three was unemployed, had a criminal conviction on his record and had failed to graduate from high school.
But he wanted to do right by his two young sons, ages 11 and 7. (He also has an adult daughter)
He asked Child Support Enforcement Technician Albert Johnson for help.
“I went over his case and explained the importance of complying with his order and making an effort even while not employed,” Johnson said. “The very next month, he made a partial payment and started to call me to keep me updated on his employment situation. Soon after his partial payment, he was able to have an income withholding processed and payments started to come in and are still coming. I was able to give him some encouragement by sharing some of my personal challenges with parenting time/custody.”
Johnson also pointed the father in the direction of the Talbert House Fatherhood Project. HCJFS contracts with Talbert House to intervene early with fathers who have barriers to paying child support. Talbert House’s Rickie Holt was able to help the father expunge his criminal record, obtain a GED and find a job. The father also attended and graduated from the Nurturing Fathers class, which provided him with parenting tools and a support group of fathers to help him on his path.
Encouraged by his progress and supported by his “fatherhood” network, he eventually sought custody of his sons. He felt they were missing too much school and didn’t have secure housing. During a court hearing, the court magistrate asked him why he put in the time to get his GED at the age of 42. His answer was simple: “So I can be the best possible father I can be.”
He eventually was granted full custody of his sons.
“That was perhaps my favorite moment out of all of our custody cases,” said Nancy Ludwig, staff attorney for the Talbert House Fatherhood Project. “The magistrate pointed out the impressiveness of this client’s achievements; and these are a direct reflection of the program and active case management. It is not easy to win a custody case for fathers, and these extra things are often the key to success. His sons are so excited to live with their daddy.”
Michael Patton, HCJFS assistant director – Child Support, said this is an example of why the agency has hired a fatherhood coordinator and is beefing up fatherhood activities.
“There are plenty of fathers out there who lack the necessary support and know-how to navigate this process alone,” he said. “The Early Intervention contract helps us provide the kind of support and encouragement they need be engaged in their child’s life.”
Johnson, who started it all, said hearing of the father’s success “makes my heart so happy.”
“It’s been amazing to see someone come in broken with many barriers and see the final product of the Talbert House Fatherhood Project,” he said. “I’m confident that the relationships we build with men in the program definitely has an impact on them complying with their child support order, but, more importantly, becoming better fathers.”