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Crawford cracks down on dead-beat parents

July 30, 2008
If you're behind on your child support payments, you'd better not be living in Crawford County. There's a lady working in the Prosecutor's Office who's an award-winning child support administrator, and she just may make life miserable on anyone not paying their share toward the support of their dependent children.

Rhonda Haley
Rhonda Haley, of English, has worked hard the last few years to improve collections of support from delinquent parents in the county, and the work has paid off. In reports just released from the Indiana Department of Child Services, Crawford County is in the top 10 among the state's 92 counties in several categories.

In paternity establishment, only two other counties in the state can beat Haley's record. In cases paying on arrears (back child support), Crawford County can boast of being the seventh highest in the state. In support order establishment, Haley has moved the county up to the number nine position. And even in the current amount of child support collected, Crawford County was 25th in the state, which is commendable when the smaller population numbers are taken into consideration.

"I have about 500 open cases a year," Haley said. "If someone doesn't pay support for 60 days, I send them a delinquency notice. Then, if they don't contact me or come in so we can work something out, I'll file charges against them. I review all the cases I have every 30 days, so no one gets behind without me knowing about it."

Indiana uses a uniform child support calculation that takes into consideration the incomes of both parents and, Haley said, the state is doing well compared to other states.

"There's been a significant improvement in child support enforcement services," she said. "And let's face it, an absent parent needs to step up to the plate. If they are your children, you need to find a way to support them. A lot of them, especially the younger ones, have made these children, then act as if 'it's not my problem.' And a lot of them want to put the blame on someone other than themselves.

"It sometimes takes a while to track a person down, but we find most of them. And I hear a lot of excuses about why they haven't been paying child support, but most often they say they're unemployed, but I insist that they stay in touch with me — and different people have different circumstances — but even if they are unemployed, they are assessed as if they have a minimum wage job. They still have to pay something."

Single parents who are not receiving regular child support can apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to help, but it's difficult to be approved for the assistance.

"There's a lot of hoops to jump through to get help from TANF," Haley said. "A lot depends on the amount of income the custodial parent, usually the mother, has. And 95 percent of custodial parents are women. A lot of grandparents and other family members are often helping out, but it's still a struggle for many of them. But any time a parent applies for TANF or Medicaid, they are automatically referred to us. I contact the custodial parent for an interview and we begin working on their case. We usually will establish a order for the absent parent to pay, or enforce a current one."

Haley's hard work hasn't gone unnoticed. At a conference in Indianapolis recently, she was handed her second award in two years, citing significant improvement in child support enforcement services.

"She's really put a lot of effort into it," Crawford County Prosecutor Cheryl Hillenburg, said. "It's impressive what she has accomplished."

Any parent who needs help getting child support can contact the Prosecutor's Office.

"This service is available to any single parent," Haley said. "They will just need to fill out an application. But we don't represent either parent, we represent the best interests of the children."

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    Still Work To Do
    July 31, 2008 | 02:44 PM

    This article paints a pretty picture, but in reality there are a lot of single moms who do not get the support they need from the child support office. I am the grandmother in the situation and know first hand about multiple calls with no call back... father being over 60 days past due with no reivew, etc. So while we may doing better overall as a county, there is still a lot of work to do.

Schuler Bauer
Barbara Shaw
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