Child welfare? No, that is the program that gets the most attention.
Food assistance? No, we feed more families than anyone in southwest Ohio on a regular basis, but that is not our biggest program.
Medicaid? No, that is growing rapidly, but still has a good ways to go to catch our number one.
It is Child Support. Our Child Support program serves more children than any public program in Hamilton County except education.
August is National Child Support Month. We are one of the busiest child support agencies in the state and currently have about 81,000 child support cases. Conservatively, that is 243,000 people being served — one father, one mother, one child. But we know a good portion of those cases concern more than just one child.
These families come to us in many ways. The parents could be divorcing and have been assigned by the court to handle child support payments through us. They could be parents who were never married, but maintain relationships with their children. They could be single parents who no longer have a connection with the other parent.
In all cases, we are charged with collecting support from the non-custodial parent and providing it to the custodial parent for care of the children. In some cases, we are charged with locating the non-custodial parent.
Fortunately, many people — about one third of our cases — pay their child support with little intervention from us. Another third are in default, but pay sporadically and are actively trying to catch up. The last third is the group that requires our most attention.
We use a variety of tools to locate them and collect delinquent support. We will freeze and seize funds from bank accounts, intercept tax refunds, suspend driver’s licenses or professional licenses, confiscate passports and much more.
We go to great lengths because we are fighting for children. Some custodial parents can’t afford to keep a roof over their child’s head or food on the table without regular child support. Those are the most important things. But child support also helps pay for school clothes, extracurricular activities, tutoring or other extras that might be beyond the budget of the single parent.
There are few good reasons to not pay child support. Custody problems and other issues can be argued in court – after the child support is paid. Parents cannot let their personal issues get in the way of seeing that the child’s basic needs are met. Hamilton County Job and Family Services is not on either parent’s side. We are on the child’s side
The work we do strengthens families. I am proud of that.