Aug 29, 2007

Back to school, but not for free

There is a long held myth in this county about the availability of a “free” public education. While it is true that many states have constitutions that require the availability of a free education, that is not true in all states. Ohio is one of the states that do not include specific constitutional language guaranteeing a free education.

In fact, Ohio goes a bit farther by actually having laws that permit schools to charge fees. Ohio simply regulates the type of fees schools can charge. It is therefore common for schools throughout the state to charge a “fee” of anywhere from $25 to $50 simply to attend school. Many schools also require that students bring in supplies ranging in cost from $10 to $50. These requests go far beyond simple paper, pencils, and crayons to include such items as tissue, plastic bags, and toilet paper. A family with two young children may have to pay as much as $200 to get their kids in the school door. This does not include the expense of school clothes, shoes or other personal items that a child may need.

While this expense is a hardship for many families, for some, it is a catastrophe. The truth is that there are hundreds of thousands of families in Ohio whose income falls below $12,000 a year. For those families, $200 represents twenty percent of their income for the month. I wonder if folks with a household income of $60,000 per year would be so willing to accept such fees if they were being asked to pay $1,000 to send their children to public school.

Fees charged by schools have become a perfectly legal and acceptable form of taxation initiated at the hands of the local school boards with few limitations or restrictions. These fees are also an extremely regressive type of tax, one that hurts those children in families who are already having the greatest challenges succeeding in school. Poor families are dealing with the day to day crisis of meeting their basic needs at home. Items like food, clothing, shelter, and transportation cannot be taken for granted in families living in the very lowest income levels.

It is these same children that already miss out on educational opportunities outside of school like vacations, educational toys and books. These same children are frequently precluded from participating in extra curricular activities in school. There are many people who are poor and are struggling every day just to get by. The last thing they need is another financial hurdle to overcome just to have their children participate in the local public school.

All children should be able to attend school and participate in school activities without needing to have money in their pocket. The concept of universally available education is one of the absolute cornerstones of our democracy. Education is intended to level the playing field for underprivileged children. Unfortunately, we are slowly but surely allowing one of our mainstream institutions, our public schools, to go the way of the “have versus have not.” To be sure, there are many schools that have chosen not to charge fees and have solved their financial problems without turning to this form of “taxation” on parents. Additionally, there are thousands of teachers who simply dig into their own pockets to help provide those supplies needed for children to participate in activities. All of this is unnecessary. Ohio needs to adopt the principle and practice of a free public education.

The average cost of education in Ohio’s K-12 schools is about $9,500 per child per year. The $100 collected in fees and supplies is roughly 1% of this amount. Perhaps the next increase in school funding could be targeted to eliminate school fees and pay for supplies. A “free” education would not be difficult to attain. The educational benefits to children in our society would be far greater than the minimal increase in funding that may be necessary to offset this loss of revenue.

--Jack Frech, director

[where: Athens, Ohio 45701]

Aug 21, 2007

e-QuickPay Cards Begin to Expire

Child Support recipients who have not updated contact information will not receive renewal e-QuickPay Cards

Ohio’s e-QuickPay MasterCards, which directly deposit child support payments, will begin to expire this month,Ohio’s e-QuickPay MasterCards, which directly deposit child support payments, will begin to expire this month. Those whose addresses are not up to date with the Athens County Child Support Enforcement Agency may not receive replacement cards on time.

“We’re prohibited from forwarding these replacement cards, so if your address isn’t up to date you’ll experience some delays in receiving your new card,” said Randy Galbraith, director of the Athens County CSEA. He encouraged anyone who has moved since their last card was issued to call the CSEA at (740) 593-5046 to make arrangements to change current address information.

First implemented in 2004, e-QuickPay MasterCards are automatically loaded each month with child support payments and can be used as Debit cards at stores and ATMs. The State Office of Child Support offers this option to make accessing payments an easier, faster process. Guardians can enroll in e-QuickPay without having a credit check conducted and can then access deposits without having to pay check-cashing fees and without needing a separate bank account.

Renewal cards will be issued by the 20th day of whatever month is listed as the “Valid Thru” date on current cards. Cardholders can use current cards until the end of that month, and if they do not get a new card in the mail by the 20th, they should call the Ohio e-QuickPay customer service center at 1-800-503-1283.

Activation instructions will be enclosed with the renewal cards, and any current balances in child support accounts will not be affected by the card replacement.

The expiration of the first-issued e-QuickPay Cards falls in August, the month recognized statewide as Child Support Awareness Month. The Athens County CSEA has sponsored billboards and parenting-focused public service announcements and will continue to feature tips, data and suggestions based around the theme: “Child Support: It’s more than just money.”

The Athens County CSEA maintains approximated 4,500 cases each year and reported collections of more than $7 million during FY06. The agency also recently received an award for the highest percentage improvement for collections on current support among counties with similar caseloads in the state.

For more information about the Athens County Child Support Enforcement Agency, visit, or call (740) 593-5046.

[where: Athens, Ohio 45701]

Aug 10, 2007

Child Support Awareness Month Parenting Tips

Throughout the month of August, the Child Support Enforcement Agency is trying to educate parents to improve their relationships with their children and encourage them to be responsible role models. Non-custodial parents certainly aren’t the only parents who can use this advice, however. Every parent in every situation can benefit from the tips we’ve gathered. If you listen to Power 105 in Athens or 107.7 in Nelsonville (or their AM affiliates AM 970 and 770, respectively), you’ve probably heard the public service announcements that assert: “Child Support: It’s more than just money.” Here are some of our top suggestions:

·Want your kids to respect you and others? Show them how by respecting them. Use their mistakes as opportunities to teach.
·You teach children not to call others names, so be sure you follow that rule, too. Never call your kids names, and watch how you interact with other adults in front of your children.
·Let your children know your love is unconditional. Praise them for their accomplishments and their efforts. Show them you’re there for them through failures and successes.
·Show your children you value them by giving age-appropriate responsibilities and showing your appreciation when these tasks are accomplished.
·Give your kids the opportunity to make decisions and try things on their own. This will give them confidence and help them acquire new skills.
·Parents shouldn’t fight in front of their kids. Protect your children from emotional violence just as you would any other violence.
·Children need structure, routine, limits and involvement from both parents. It makes them feel safe, secure and loved.
·Be interested in your children’s lives. Come watch their games and ask them about their day.
·Show your children affection not just when they are babies. Hug them and tell them you love them.
·PLAY with your kids! Don’t just watch them play. It will show them you’re interested in what they like, and you’ll have more fun, too!
·Make time to spend together, and also spend time with your kids individually. You will bond and learn to appreciate how each child is special.
·Listen to your kids when they talk to you. Stop what you’re doing, make eye contact, and listen. It will show them you respect them and they will learn to be better communicators.

Parenting—no matter what your relationship is with your children’s other parent—is the most challenging role an adult can have and comes with a lot of responsibility. If you have any words of wisdom that you think can help single parents or parents in general, or any other stories that go along with Child Support Awareness Month, we encourage your comments!

Also, here are some related links!
The Fatherhood Initiative
Athens County Child Support Enforcement Agency
Ohio E-Quickpay

[where: Athens, Ohio 45701]

Aug 8, 2007

Child Support Awareness Month

The ACDJFS Child Support Enforcement Agency is participating in a statewide initiative to recognize August as Child Support Awareness Month. Athens County’s theme is “Child Support: It’s more than just money.” The agency has developed public service announcements, fliers and other educational materials to raise awareness throughout the county and encourage parents in any situation to take a more active role in their children’s lives.

“Both custodial and non-custodial parents should be involved in the actual parenting of their children as much as possible,” CSEA Director Randy Galbraith said. “Of course kids need food on the table and clothes on their backs, but they also need the confidence and security that comes with knowing both parents love them. We can’t enforce that kind of child support, but we hope that raising awareness this month will help parents see how they can be a bigger part of their children’s lives, no matter what the circumstances.”

The Athens County Child Support Enforcement Agency was also recently recognized for increasing collections on current child support cases for FY05-06 at the State Child Support Training Conference on July 30 in Columbus.

Athens County CSEA Assistant Program Administrator Susan Douglas accepted the award from the State Office of Child Support on behalf of Athens County CSEA staff, whose efforts brought about the highest percentage improvement for collections on current support among counties with similar caseloads in the state.

During FY05-06, the Athens County CSEA increased collections from 61.76 percent to 63.12 percent, collecting more than $4.4 million in FFY2006. The agency maintains approximated 4,500 cases each year.

In addition to collecting child support payments, the CSEA assists Athens County residents in locating non-custodial parents, establishing paternity, and establishing and enforcing child support orders.

Aug 1, 2007

Help is NOT on the way

On July 29, 2007, USA Today ran stories: Disabled worker cases at record and Disability delays can lead to personal havoc, about the lengthy delays individuals have to wait for Social Security disability claims. The articles included a list of the Social Security Administration offices with the shortest and longest average waits for hearings on whether an applicant is too disabled to work, which included on the longest waits: Columbus with 841 days and Dayton with 735 days.

In Ohio, this means an average wait of 2 to 2 ½ years for determination; one of the slowest states in the nation. Not only is this havoc for the applicants, but for their families, many of which have dependent children. Families waiting for Social Security determinations are forced to rely on cash assistance (Ohio Works First) benefits from the state in the meantime. But living on cash assistance in Ohio, means living well below the poverty level; and in Ohio, there is a lifetime limit of 36 months for cash assistance benefits – which is likely to run out before disability determination is made. A typical family of three receiving OWF benefits would receive a maximum of $410 a month (Federal Poverty Level for family of three is $1431 per month).

For these families life is a constant struggle to meet basic needs. In Athens County, nearly one-third of the adults receiving OWF assistance have some serious disability. And, their family struggles are further compounded by the fact that the one or more caretakers in these families are disabled and trying to care for children while trying to deal with their own disabilities.
From the article, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue says the backlog of cases doubled in six years and could reach 1 million by 2010. Clearly, no help is on the way.