The headline jumped out like a bright pink elephant. The article Philly locks up kids for truancy, fighting – then goes after parents for child support that image alone made me want to yell. I have heard many absurd things as a clinical social worker (one of the superpowers of the job is to decipher peoples’ bullshit). This was a new one- jailing parents because of their children’s truancy (I have been aware of this for a while now, but this purging brought it back to the surface). I firmly believe you raise your children to the best of you and your village’s ability, then allow them to go off into the world with the value system, principles, and skills that have been instilled in them. On the chance they fail and forget, please do not think you are a failure. However, our states and varying governments differ on this belief, as thousands of dollars in child support are being charged to parents, and kids in the system are also directly assessed fees, sometimes totaling hundreds of dollars. Collecting child support is just one-way juvenile justice systems are passing on their costs to families that are often already living in poverty.
“These consequences are often severe: Some kids are locked up because of inability to pay financial penalties, which significantly increases the likelihood of recidivism. Others have years added to their probation. They’re under supervision longer, making them more likely to be caught messing up in some way and then go deeper into the criminal-justice system. This cycle sets off a chain reaction: For some, debts are a barrier to getting records expunged. And for a few, the debts will follow them into adulthood in the form of credit-damaging civil judgments. That was the case for Shayra Hill, who was 16 and in foster care when she got into a fight at school, defending her brother from a bully. She was sentenced to a year’s probation, but remained on probation for three years while she bounced between foster and group homes. When she was almost 19, she sought to close her case.”
Though what really did me in reading this piece was this: “Kaplan said he’s passionate about the work: He also suggested that it actually could help these families, most of them among the working poor, become more financially responsible because once the child-support payments end, it’s like getting a raise.” This is BULLSHIT. Parents are having to make choices you would hope no parent would have to make: What’s best financially for an entire family vs. what’s best in a court process for one child.”