“Take care of your damn kids” is strengths based advice

6 06 2011

I recently tweeted my frustrations (oh, modern life) over assholes deadbeat dads. It went a little something like this: “‘I don’t have a job’ is not a valid excuse to not pay child support. Your employment status has no impact on your child’s need to eat.”

Most people seemed to agree with this sentiment. Lots of people are out of work. Plenty of people have difficulty paying their bills. However, your number one responsibility is your child. This is a human being who would not exist if it weren’t for you. So you need to figure something out, as soon as possible, rather than expect sympathy for how rough you have it.

I was surprised that some people (actually, only women) objected to my statement, and came to the defense of the fathers in question.

Before anyone tells me that I’m being sexist, or stereotyping, or any other nonsense, let me explain. I don’t care. I can only talk about what I see. I work with thirteen families at the moment. Three have a father in the home. In two of those three families, there are other fathers outside of the home. This leaves me with twelve out of thirteen families with at least one father each out of the home, not paying child support. The ones who are paying do so because public assistance brought them to court. One of those families has a dad who at least comes to see the kids regularly. But that’s it. These kids are being raised and supported by their mothers, or, in one case, their grandmother.

I will acknowledge that there are deadbeat moms in the world. I don’t deal with any, so I’m not talking about them.

In the past two years, I’ve heard lots of excuses for non-payment of child support. Most of them come from the fathers. Some, however, come from women defending the man they used to be with. (We’re still working on that.)

Deadbeat:   “It’s a hard time right now, I can’t find work.”
SocialJerk: “How are you supporting yourself then?
DB:                 “My mom is paying my bills now.”
SJ:                  “Child support doesn’t count as a bill?”
DB:                 “I fell behind because the credit card company was coming after me.”
SJ:                  “Oh, the credit card company doesn’t care about your mom and your unemployment, but your baby should?”
DB:                 “She’s got a new man now, why isn’t he paying?”
SJ:                  “Because they’re your kids! Do you hear yourself?”
DB:                 “I never get to see the kids, so why should I pay?”
SJ:                  “You didn’t show up for visitation! Do you want to reschedule?”
DB:                 “She just wants to spend it on herself.”
SJ:                  “Oh, I get it, you’re being willfully obtuse. Moving on.”

Now, if these men were living on the streets, I might have some sympathy. If they were starving to death, I might agree. If they were having a rough month or two, OK, they might fall a bit behind.

But four, seven, ten, seventeen years? Of not being able to find steady work and being unable to contribute meaningfully to your child’s life?

That’s bullshit.

Not to mention that, though they are at a complete loss as to how to support their children, they seem to be doing all right themselves. They have an apartment, and based on the fact that they are not dead, I gather that they are eating regularly.

One gem actually had the balls to ask the mother of his child for their four month old’s social security number, so he could claim the son he hadn’t seen since the day he was born, or provided a cent for, on his taxes.

Way to go, sir.

Then there is the idea of bringing your child things, like sneakers or toys. Isn’t that important? And isn’t it most important that the child gets to see his or her father?

I hate to break it to these guys (never mind, I actually love it) but their kids can’t eat sneakers and quality time. Yes, it’s great to do those things. You absolutely should do those things. Actually, I’d say that in becoming a father, you agreed to do those things.

But your child also needs food (everyday!) and a place to live. A place with electricity, preferrably. Popping around once every other month for a trip to the movies or Chuck E. Cheese might make you a hero in the eyes of your five year old. But as an adult, you should understand why it makes that child’s mother just think you’re kind of a dick.

I can’t imagine thinking that supporting your children is optional. These men aren’t disputing that the children in question aren’t theirs. They just seem to genuinely think that child support is not a top priority.

People asked me, “How are you supposed to pay for anything if you don’t have a job?” There are some options. The most obvious being, go get a job. I know it’s not easy. But it’s possible. People have made things work throughout history, under worse circumstances. Many of the mothers I work with find time to work, even as they care for their children on their own. I also happen to know that a lot of these dads are, in fact, working, though it’s off the books.

Another option is to talk to the mother of your child. She has figured something out. She had to. She has a kid. And no one would make excuses for her.

Kids are needy. They can be a pain in the ass. But they are innocent, they don’t get to choose their parents, and they deserved to be cared for appropriately. The custodial parent, usually, but certainly not always, the mother, deserves support. Financial support at the very least. It’s one thing that I will forever be hard-line jerk about.

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4 responses

6 06 2011
Fi

While I totally agree with the sentiments of responsibility, here in Oz, we have a welfare system that looks after kids (if mum is a non smoker, non drinker, non gambler, non addict of any kind), and child maintenance system that comes straight from dad’s pay packet (if work is on-the-books).

Yes, still breeds generational welfare dependence, but kids can eat.

6 06 2011
socialjerk

Kids eating is the number one priority, fo sho. I wish our system was more effective and going after parents who fail to pay, but, like I expressed above, it blows my mind that it’s even necessary.

The way child support works here is that the custodial parent has to take the non-custodial parent to court. They agree on payment, and then if the non-custodial parent fails to pay for a certain period of time, custodial parent has to go back to court (usually more than once) and they’ll garnish the other parent’s wages.

If the custodial parent (I’ll just say mom) receives public assistance, she is required to bring the father to court for child support. The city then takes the child support and allows mom to get cash assistance. So if dad is supposed to pay $50, and mom qualifies for $75 in cash assistance, she gets the $75 and the city keeps what they take from the father. I’m glad that the government goes after these guys, but I don’t think they’re doing it right.

A client of mine had this situation recently, and when her public assistance case was sanctioned and closed, they did not turn over the child support. I’m sure it’s not supposed to work that way, but it often does, and it’s rather fucked up.

18 07 2011
RS

The Mother is equally responsible for bringing the child to this world. All these Social Worker idiots seem to think it is the Dad’s only responsibility to pay and become a financial support person. It is time for you idiots to start thinking in terms of Single Mothers being the biggest welfare queens in this world (be it money from Dads or from the Government). Wake up and take responsibility. Tell those thirteen women you are looking after that they needed to think about responsibility in their heads before having a child. As a Social Worker is the Government paying for your salary, may be it is time to stop the Government from paying it so that you can do something worthwhile in the world and contribute.

18 07 2011
socialjerk

I will do so immediately. Thank you so much for your advice, you’ve really turned me around. I’ll get those women into a time machine instantly.

Might I also offer a suggestion? Learn to use capitals properly. People will tend to take your ridiculous, misinformed opinions more seriously if you express yourself with proper grammar.

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