Thursday, March 13, 2014

New work possibility?

I could probably resort to this if I had to…  

I'm kidding, of course.

I just wrote a book review on my travel blog.  If you're interested in the former Soviet Union and its foods, I would recommend that you check it out.  I also posted an old review of Conor O'Clery's The Last Day of the Soviet Union, since it's related to Anya Von Bremzin's Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking.  I happen to find the former Soviet Union pretty fascinating because it was always this big, mysterious threat when I was growing up.  Then I moved there for a couple of years after it fell apart and realized the truth about what life was like there.

Yesterday, I was remarkably prolific on my blogs.  The only one that didn't get an update was my "porno" story, which is turning out to be more of a psychological thriller with kinky elements.  I just can't bring myself to get too graphic.  I know there are a lot of pervs out there, though, because anytime I use the words "sex", "porn", or "kink" in my posts, I get a lot of hits.  Curiously, a lot of them come from countries where that kind of thing is forbidden.  You'd be surprised by how many hits I get from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries where folks aren't supposed to be looking at dirty pictures, not that there are any of those on any of my blogs.

The Bradley Amendment and Child Support Collection...

After I shared my fourth blog post yesterday (just from this blog), I started doing some research.  Alexis's comment on my "father's rights" post reminded me of a job interview I attended in Richmond, Virginia back in 2003.  I was desperate for work then.  We lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and I saw an ad for Fatherhood Initiative coordinator.  Having worked in maternal and child health and healthcare policy as a graduate assistant at South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control, I was under the impression that the job was about encouraging fathers to be part of their children's lives.  As it turned out, the job was about getting unmarried women to name the fathers of their babies.  The fatherhood registry is important for many reasons.  It assigns parentage to children, gives putative fathers rights, and makes two parents responsible for their child's welfare.  But the registry also makes it much easier to go after parents, especially fathers, who don't support their kids.

The company that interviewed me in Richmond was Policy Studies Inc. (PSI) out of Colorado.  I didn't end up getting the job, but after the interview, I did do some research as to what the company was about.  Months after my interview, I learned that child support enforcement is big business for the government. From the link:

Much of the problem can be traced to the arithmetic used to calculate the payments. Back in the 1980s, Robert Williams was hired by the federal government to come up with a formula to figure how much fathers in various income brackets would have to pay. Then Williams created his own company, Policy Studies, Inc., to track down the deadbeats and receive a cut of the take.

But there’s a basic conflict of interest at work here – the higher the guidelines that Williams sets, the bigger the profits that flow to his company. That’s like telling the IRS that they can increase their agency’s budget by jimmying the tax rate charts.

In 2012, PSI was purchased by Maximus, another company that interviewed me in 2002. If I recall correctly, that job was for grant writing, since in 2002, Maximus wasn't, at least to my knowledge, involved in child support collection. I probably would have been hired there, except we lived in Fredericksburg and the office was in Reston. I was engaged at the time and trying to plan our wedding and it didn't sound like it would have been a workable situation in the short term, so I declined a second interview. Then we ended up moving to military housing and I sort of regretted not taking the job.  It probably would have been good experience and I would have been paid quite well.

Of course, now that they're involved with child support collections, maybe I wouldn't want to work for Maximus.  My mind has changed a bit about child support collections and the big business/big brother aspect behind it.  I used to be wholeheartedly on the side of custodial parents and kids needing support.  But having been married to a man who paid it and heard and read many horror stories related to child support collections, I feel kind of glad I was never involved in that business.  I am all for parents supporting their children, but I hate the way children are used as pawns in what has become a big business.  Because states collect child support, they have a huge stake in getting non-custodial parents, usually fathers, to pay even when it's impossible.  And while I certainly know there are a lot of true deadbeat parents out there, I also know there are a lot of decent non-custodial parents who are buckling under unreasonable pressures to pay child support.      

As I was refamiliarizing myself with the Bradley Amendment last night, I felt more long buried but familiar pangs of anxiety about what can happen to people who get behind on child support, even if it's through no fault of their own.  As the wife of a soldier, I cringed when I read the case of Bobby Sherrill, a man who was a government contractor in Kuwait back in 1990.  He paid child support to his ex-wife, but was captured and held hostage by Iraqis for five months.  When he was released, he came home to Fayetteville, North Carolina, expecting a hero's welcome.  Instead, he was arrested for not paying $1425 in child support while he was held hostage.

In 1980, school janitor Clarence Brandley was arrested and convicted for murder.  He was on death row in Texas for ten years before he was exonerated in 1990 because he didn't commit the crime.  He sued the state for falsely imprisoning him and was then presented with a bill for $50,000 in back child support that he couldn't pay while he was in prison.  Brandley struggled to pay the arrears which, with late fees and penalties, grew to $73,000 by 2003.  A judge finally lowered the debt to $25,000, which he still couldn't pay.

Anthony Graves, yet another man who was wrongly convicted of murder and spent years on death row, found his wages garnished by the state because he couldn't pay child support while he was in prison.  The law makes no provision for people wrongly convicted of crimes, so they are out of luck when they get out of prison and have no means of paying the massive debts accrued by unpaid child support while they were incarcerated.  

Taron James and Geoffrey Fisher were ordered to pay child support for children who were not theirs.  James was ordered to pay child support until 2006 even though a DNA test in 2001 proved that the child he was paying for wasn't his.  Fisher ended up owing over $11,000 for a child who wasn't his because he had failed to file a motion to relieve himself of responsibility for the child.  But if you can't pay your child support, how can you afford decent legal counsel who would tell you want you need to do in order to avoid such a mess?  Fisher ended up losing his driver's license, which no doubt further made finding suitable work a challenge.

There are many other cases involving fathers who have gotten sick and couldn't pay or have lost jobs and were unable to pay what they had been paying.  Being in a coma and unable to work doesn't excuse a parent from their child support obligation.  It doesn't go away, no matter what the circumstances are.  Some parents have become so distressed by the prospect of paying overwhelming child support that they've resorted to suicide.

Don't get me wrong.  I do understand how the Bradley Amendment came to be a law in 1986.  I think the original intentions of the law are sound.  Of course we need to have some recourse when non-custodial parents skip out on supporting their children.  I just think the law needs some fine tuning that incorporates common sense and fairness.  We shouldn't be burying non custodial parents with unreasonable child support demands that leave them so overwhelmed that they'd rather kill themselves. We shouldn't be arresting people for non payment of child support because they were being held hostage in Iraq or the state has wrongly sent them to prison for crimes they didn't commit.  We shouldn't expect non custodial parents who've been in comas to pay back child support when they're struggling just to stay alive, nor should we hold their spouses accountable for paying support for kids that aren't theirs.

There have been some attempts to change or overturn the law.  In 2004, the law was challenged as unconstitutional.  In 2006, a judge dismissed the case.  As of last year, there was a petition to stop the Bradley Amendment, again because it was "unconstitutional".  I do see a need for custodial parents to have some way of collecting support that is owed to them, but I think the Bradley Amendment is too rigid and doesn't allow for extenuating circumstances that would prevent an otherwise responsible non-custodial parent from paying their child support obligations.

And yes, I am also aware that innocent children shouldn't be punished because of situations involving adults who don't know who their child's biological father is.  Gloria Allred was on Dr. Phil once, hammering a guy who was complaining about paying support for a child that it turned out wasn't his.  She was laying quite a guilt trip on him, letting him know in no uncertain terms that it wasn't the kid's fault that her "dad" wasn't really her dad.  I do empathize with kids in that situation… but I also don't think it's right or fair to saddle just anyone with child support responsibilities, especially since we don't hold custodial parents accountable as to how the money is spent.  It doesn't seem right to me that a man who was lied to by a child's mother should be forced to pay for that deceit if he doesn't want to.  Instead, we should be doing more to ensure that the right people are held responsible for their children and discouraging women from lying or being manipulative about their children's paternity.

Anyway, I'm just glad Bill's ex-kids are now grown.  And I am actually very grateful to his ex-wife for not putting us through the hell that she could have.  Yes, denying Bill the right to see or have any influence over his kids other than financial was wrong and cruel, but I fully understand that she could have really put him through the wringer if she'd wanted to.  I remember feeling almost panicky on some nights early in my marriage because I was in contact with a lot of women whose husband's exes were putting them through legal and financial hell.  Fortunately, Bill's ex wife was happy to get her $2550 a month for Bill's two daughters and former stepson.  She never bothered us for more than that, once she realized we would put up a fight that would likely expose her for who she really is.  Hopefully, we'll never hear from her again.

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