By Anonymous (not verified) on January 09, 2014

We need to revise our approach to fathers who fall behind in their child support payments.

Too often, they lose all custody of their children, and they often end up in jail, especially if they are black or Latino.

The county and court system is biased toward giving full custody to mothers since the stereotype has been established that minority fathers are unfit to be parents.

Many counties use outdated child support formulas and a punitive cookie-cutter approach to any father who is behind in his child support. This is especially the case when it comes to Latino or black fathers who become unemployed.

Counties typically report delinquent child support payments to all of the credit bureaus. Then the attorneys for the counties gather information that will be eventually used against the father. They want to know why he can't obtain a job, even when the economy does not allow millions to find employment.

They make the father fill out tons of legal paperwork, which can result in thousands of dollars paid to family law attorneys. But many low-income fathers cannot afford to hire adequate legal representation, and so they are at an even bigger disadvantage.

Most counties proceed to take the driver's license of the father away, which makes it more difficult for him to find or keep a job. Ultimately, counties file criminal charges against the father, who may end up in jail for noncompliance of child support.

That's how counties, through their Department of Child Support Services, turn many minority men into criminals.

The vicious circle gets even more vicious, as these fathers then will have an even harder time finding a decent job once they are released from prison with a criminal record and a ruined credit history.

There has to be a better way.

Yes, the mother deserves child support, and the child deserves it, too. But when the father cannot pay it, due to no fault of his own, counties and courts should not throw the book at him.

Almost every father wants to provide for his child. Let's make it easier, not harder, for him to do so.

Here's one way to do it: Take part of the money from Child Support Services and put it toward job training for fathers. Give them a chance to take this route, rather than force them down the path to prison.

Randy Jurado Ertll (www.randyjuradoertll.com) is the author of "The Life of an Activist: In the Frontlines 24/7." He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

Copyright Randy Jurado Ertll.

Photo: "Sad little girl," via Shutterstock.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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