NORFOLK, Va. -- Is Virginia going soft on deadbeat parents who owe child support?
A recent report on WTKR.com showed Virginia's Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) abandoned its Top-10 list of deadbeat parents in the name of debtors' privacy and instead has focused on finding the parents who owe money and helping them find jobs so they can pay what they owe.
DCSE assistant director Ron Harris called his department's previous efforts "Draconian" and -- at times -- embarrassing to both parents and their children.
"We don’t like to use the term ‘deadbeat’ for those who don’t pay, but are dead broke," he said. "Putting a picture of somebody in the paper, sometimes it will make an individual dig in deeper, for the embarrassment, for a lot of different reasons."
Now, he said, the DCSE is trying to make a distinction between parents who CANNOT pay and parents who WILL NOT pay.
That includes state officials recommending something called ICMP, or an Intensive Case Monitoring Program, instead of jail.
Parents who owe are paired with a counselor who can help find jobs, help with substance-abuse problems, and help overcome other barriers to making regular child-support payments.
Some parents reacted to WTKR's initial report, saying the state needed to come down harder on moms and dads who owed child support.
Mother Eileen Fennell told WTKR.com that DSCE's softer stance will result in parents, like her ex, work the system. She said her husband moves around a lot and it takes weeks, or even months before his paychecks get garnished.
"I can wallpaper with court orders," she said. "They mean nothing… The system is very easy to manipulate when it moves as slow as it does."
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