COLUMBIANA COUNTY JFS puts names in public eye
Children in Columbiana County are owed $59 million in delinquent support payments.
By D.A. WILKINSON
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Columbiana County officials call it "public pressure" rather than an attempt to embarrass parents who are delinquent in child support payments.
But Columbiana County's Job and Family Services plans to try something new: publishing the names of 30 men who are behind in their support payments in area newspapers.
Those 30 men alone are behind $1.1 million in child support.
Eileen Dray-Bardon, the agency's director, told the commissioners Wednesday that she is trying to "make child support a family issue."
August is National Child Support Month. The difference between getting or not getting child support often determines whether the family must go on welfare, according to county officials.
Dray-Bardon said many families mistakenly believe that her agency can pay them the court-ordered support and then collect it from the parent.
Susan Stryffler-Heim, the administrator of the family services' 40-person child support department that handles collections, said the move is also aimed at getting tips on the location of those who owe child support.
Those tips remain confidential, Stryffler-Heim said.
Jim Hoppel, commissioners board president, said the numbers were staggering.
Of the 30 people, the largest amount owed is $68,000. The lowest is $23,000.
Dray-Bardon said that there are others who owe more but are making payments.
The men who will see their names in the newspaper haven't made a payment for at least 90 days, the officials said.
The support payments by the 30 men range from $109 a month to $1,099 a month.
The last known address of 19 of the men is in Ohio, including 13 in Columbiana County. The others were last known to be in states ranging from Florida to California. Collection remains the agency's responsibility even if the parent has moved to another state.
The agency does know where some of the parents are located.
Stryffler-Heim said the job and family services workers may learn of a parent's whereabouts through Social Security payments made when the parent gets a job. But some delinquent parents get paid "off the books" in which the employer doesn't pay Social Security.
The agency has a total of $59 million in delinquent payments "going back to the beginning of time," said Stryffler-Heim. But collecting that money may not be realistic due to the age of the cases.
Still, there is some good news about collections.
Ohio has the sixth-largest child support caseload in the nation but ranks second for total collections.
The county is in the top third of Ohio counties for total collections.