Allen Circuit Judge Thomas Felts and county prosecutor Karen Richards are collaborating with WorkOne of Northeast Indiana to provide re-employment services to parents who are subject to child support collections through the Circuit Court’s IV-D Court.
The plan is to direct parents who cite unemployment as the reason they are not making their child support payments to services that can help them get jobs. Felts said a conversation he had with Richards about new ways to deal with this type of case sparked the idea.
Richards said one-third of her staff deals with child support complaints.
“Last year we collected $42 million in child support,” Richards said.
Because the offenders are unemployed, seizing the offenders’ material assets and selling them often pays the back payments. Richards was looking for a fresh approach that could break the cycle of unemployment. Most of the people found negligent for child support don’t have a high school education, have never held a job, and have no concept of how to go about applying for a job or what the interview process is like, Richards said. By connecting these people with WorkOne of Northeast Indiana they can get those in need the training to find employment and hold a job.
The IV-D Court orders and oversees child support that has been established as a result of paternity-establishment cases filed by the prosecutor. When child support payments become delinquent, the court conducts compliance hearings to determine if the parent ordered to pay support has violated the order. If the court finds the parent in contempt, jail time can be ordered. Magistrate Andrea R. Trevino is the judicial officer responsible for oversight of the IV-D Court.
Since the program started in late November, a WorkOne representative is stationed next door to the IV-D courtroom and has computer access to the WorkOne workshop-scheduling database. As Trevino progresses through the IV-D compliance calendar, she identifies those parents she believes can benefit from WorkOne services and sends them next door immediately after their hearing. Trevino explains to the parents that if they do not take advantage of the program, fail to complete the program, or fail to become employed in the given timeframe, ultimately leading to payment of support, the parent could face jail time.
In the meeting the WorkOne representative gives the parent an orientation to WorkOne services and enrolls the parent in the number of workshops. The parents leave the meeting with the schedule of assigned workshops in hand and with the understanding that they are expected to attend the assigned workshops before their next court date. Additionally, if the parents do not have a high school diploma or GED, WorkOne will collaborate with Anthis Career Center to complete their high school education. WorkOne can also make referrals for vocational rehabilitation services when appropriate. All of the WorkOne services and workshops are free of charge to the participating parent.
Since the collaboration, Trevino has referred more than 40 parents to WorkOne for employment services, education services, and/or vocational rehabilitation services.
Felts said they have tried involving other agencies for job training in the past, but are hopeful the comprehensive approach that WorkOne takes will be a success, and he sees the collaboration among the courts, prosecutor and WorkOne as a fresh, creative approach.
“Working together often turns out much better results,” Felts said.
Richards and Felts both agreed it is too early to see any results but they are both hopeful over time it could lower the caseload and make the offenders proactive partners in the support of their children.