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Changing Attitudes: Non Custodial Parents and the Child Support Enforcement Process. Innovative Partnership Aimed to Bring About Change. Fill the Gap Program Rev. Ernest and Cheryl Breaux 21 st Judicial District Court, Support Enforcement Hon. Leonora Estes, Hearing Officer

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innovative partnership aimed to bring about change
Innovative Partnership Aimed to Bring About Change

Fill the Gap Program

Rev. Ernest and Cheryl Breaux

21st Judicial District Court, Support Enforcement

Hon. Leonora Estes, Hearing Officer

Amite Region Support Enforcement Services

Ms. Joette Chavers, Supervisor

our common goals
Our Common Goals

-Have parents positively impact their children’s lives financially, emotionally, and spiritually.

-Give parents the tools and skills they need to accomplish this.

-Help parents understand the purpose of child support – that it is all about their child.

-Help IV-D agencies work together more effectively by providing documentation on program referrals.

service region
Service Region

The 21st Judicial District encompasses three rural southeast Louisiana parishes located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain:

- Tangipahoa

- Livingston

- St. Helena

fatherlessness in louisiana
Fatherlessness in Louisiana

Births to unmarried women and teens:

Annie E. Casey Foundation, KIDS COUNT State-level Data,

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals

Johnson, Tallese, Dye, Jane. Indicators of Marriage and Fertility in the US from the American Community Survey: 2000-2003

children in poverty
Children in Poverty

Divorce and unwed childbirth costs Louisiana taxpayers approximately $670 million per year.

Annie E. Casey Foundation, KIDS COUNT State-level Data,

Scafidi, Benjamin. (2008) The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and All 50 States

support enforcement services
Support Enforcement Services

Louisiana SES statistics show:

  • 284,393 cases (as of 5/2010)

2008-2009 fiscal year:

  • 27,459 paternity establishments
  • 21,611 new child support orders established

Louisiana Department of Social Services, Office of Family Assistance, Support Enforcement Services Overview:

support enforcement services8
Support Enforcement Services

Louisiana Support Enforcement Services 2008-2009 collections total:

Louisiana Department of Social Services, Office of Family Assistance, Support Enforcement Services 2008-2009 Statistics

cases rules court
Cases – Rules Court

In the 21st Judicial District:

  • Approximately 7,808 collection cases
  • Over 43% of these parents are facing possible incarceration for non-payment of child support.
so what is going on
So what is going on?

Survey conducted by the National Fatherhood Initiative:

99% indicated that being a father

is an important part of who they are!

Yet only 57% of them are paying child support…

Deadbeat Dads – Is it a Myth or Reality?

Reality is:

Many are not unwilling to pay – they are unable to pay!

Often those who are to pay have just lost sight of the purpose of child support.

why don t they pay
Why Don’t They Pay?

-Unemployed/underemployed and lack skills to maintain employment.

66.3% of referrals unemployed

30.1% of those employed are underemployed


42.5% of referrals have less than a high school education

50.0% have only a high school diploma/GED

why don t they pay12
Why Don’t They Pay?

-Other barriers to employment such as criminal history or lack of transportation.

42.6% have a previous or pending criminal offense

72.4% do not have a driver’s license

-Experienced a life event from which they have not recovered.

-Are angry with the person who has custody.

why don t they pay13
Why Don’t They Pay?

-Denied visitation by custodial parent (thus angry).

26.3% report they rarely/never have contact w/children

15.7% have only occasional contact with children

-Have no connection with their children.

-Feel trapped in a system they do not understand.

-Support order is more than they can afford to pay. 17.1% of referrals have more than one case

-Large arrears amount – default orders

what iv d agencies do to encourage compliance
What IV-D Agencies Do to Encourage Compliance

Administrative remedies include:

  • Income assignment orders
  • Locate and contact
  • Licenses suspension
  • Offsets
  • Credit Bureau
  • Court Actions
what iv d agencies do to encourage compliance15
What IV-D Agencies Do to Encourage Compliance

Judicial enforcement:

  • 90 days incarceration

Fails Our Common Goals!

how fatherhood initiatives help
How Fatherhood Initiatives Help

Fatherhood Initiatives partnered with the Court and Support Enforcement Services perform an important function that helps to make the job of enforcing child support orders much easier.

Fatherhood Initiatives work with non-custodial parents and address the very issues that stop non-custodial parents from paying their child support.

fill the gap program
Fill the Gap Program

Fill the Gap Program, a part of Christian Community Council, is a faith-based community outreach program

*Operating since October 2003

*Partnered with the 21st Judicial District and Amite

Region Support Enforcement Services

(Livingston, Tangipahoa, St. Helena parishes)

*Works with non-custodial parents who are in

Collections with Support Enforcement


results change in attitude
Results – Change in Attitude

Fill the Gap Program Participants Referred Between

January 2009 - January 2010

according to April 14, 2010 LA Delinquent Payers List


in payment status

September 2006 - January 2010

according to April 14, 2010 LA Delinquent Payers List


in payment status

This demonstrates long term change in attitude!

how fill the gap helps
How Fill the Gap Helps

We provide non-custodial parents a helping hand as we:

-Help them understand child support enforcement and court expectations.

-Help them find full-time employment

-Encourage them to build productive relationships with the custodial parent.

-Encourage them to become more engaged in their children’s lives.

-Encourage them to overcome barriers that are preventing them from living successful, satisfying lives.

how fill the gap helps20
How Fill the Gap Helps

10 classes

Orientation – “venting time,” discussion on court & SES expectations, plan of action

Class topics – includes parenting and relationship skills, communication skills, life skills such as goal setting, how to find and keep employment

In class assessments completed at each class; discuss how will meet court & SES expectations, contact with child(ren)

how fill the gap helps21
How Fill the Gap Helps


Report progress with program, employment information, other pertinent data (each court appearance) to Hearing Officer, SES, Public Defender, Assistant District Attorney

Report changes in information, requests, etc.

Report on referrals and participants

Reports assist court and SES in making decisions

how fill the gap helps22
How Fill the Gap Helps

Attend Court

Make sure client understands what they are being told

Encourage clients keep track of court dates, payment amounts/receipts, etc.

Encourage them to actively participate in process

Help them help themselves

how fill the gap helps23
How Fill the Gap Helps

Continued Monitoring

Those who have completed classes – continue to monitor them via telephone for up to one year

Contact and remind of court dates.

Offer services as needed.

results change in attitude24
Results – Change in Attitude

Fill the Gap Program addresses the disconnect non-custodial parents experience.

It provides the one-on-one services these parents need…

This results in non-custodial parents who experience long term change of attitude toward the payment of child support

results change in attitude25
Results – Change in Attitude

Non-custodial parents begin developing problem-solving strategies to overcome barriers in life.

Child support payments become a greater priority, resulting in non-custodial parents wanting/ making payments.

-Participants paid on avg. $2,695 compared to $1,646 paid by referrals that did not participate

-Participants on average made more payments (9 pmts vs 4 pmts)

Non-custodial parents trying harder to work cooperatively with other parent to co-parent children and spend more time with children.

-32.20% showed an increase in visitation/contact

results effective alternative
Results – Effective Alternative

Viable, cost effective alternative to incarceration

– Savings to taxpayers

- More space in jails for serious offenders

Fill the Gap Program cost per referral: $1129*

Cost of 90-day incarceration: $3150**

Savings of $2021

*Based on 155 referrals, with two year funding of $175,000

**Based average Louisiana taxpayer cost of $35 per day, according to National Institute of Corrections

results effective alternative27
Results – Effective Alternative
  • Parents have a better understanding of the role of Support Enforcement Services.
  • Parents have a better understanding of the importance of paying child support.
results effective alternative28
Results – Effective Alternative

Custodial parents have greater assistance in parenting responsibilities.

Payment of Child Support improves relationship between the two parents.

Children are connected to both parents – resulting in healthier outcomes.

results change in attitude29
Results – Change in Attitude

Responses from Program Participants:

“Allowed you to deal with emotions, to hear others on how they get through their struggles. It gave you suggestions on how to improve relations – with mother and child; encourage you to stop putting yourself down – system down, but to focus on your child.”

“Fill the Gap is a very educational class that encourages individuals about themselves, and help rebuild; what it takes in your life to feel good about yourself day to day, staying strong minded and help to be successful.”

“I am able to learn more about parenting skills and information about court proceedings.”

long term success change in attitude
Long Term Success – Change in Attitude


Cornelius was the Hearing Officer’s worst nightmare. He was very angry with the support enforcement system, and was working for cash to avoid paying child support. After attending several FTG classes, Cornelius went back to work in his trade and began making child support payments. Cornelius realized that he was only hurting himself and his daughter with his anger. Three years later we saw Cornelius – he was still making payments, still working in his trade, and had rebuilt his relationship with his daughter. He was able to watch her graduate from high school.


Tyronne had four child support cases with four different mothers. Tyronne admitted that he was young and foolish, and only had a relationship with one of his children. When referred to FTG, Tyronne was married and unemployed. Even though he did not have any children with his wife, they were raising four children belonging to other family members who were involved in drugs or incarcerated. FTG was able to refer him to a local employer, who hired him. Today, Tyronne is still working for the same employer (three years now) and states he loves his job. He continues to be in payment status, with his child support payments being deducted from his wages.

long term success change in attitude31
Long Term Success – Change in Attitude

Eric and Nikki

When referred to FTG, Eric was angry and had a negative attitude towards child support and his ex-wife, who refused to let him have visitation with the other two children. Eric chose not to work in his trade any longer because of safety hazards , the requirement to travel out-of-town, and the fact that he had custody of one son who was exhibiting pretty severe behavioral problems. He felt the need to be home every night with this son. In addition, Eric and his wife Nikki were raising Nikki’s two children and had his mother living with them.

Eric and Nikki both indicated that they were grateful for FTG classes – they were able to apply what they learned in class at home, improving family harmony. Eric also said one of the biggest benefits for him was that he quit being angry about paying child support. We still run into Eric and Nikki, and they continue to do well. A while back Eric and his ex-wife had contact when a family member was ill, and Eric said that for the first time, it did not end in an argument. He is still hopeful for the day when he will have access to and a relationship with his other two children.

long term success change in attitude32
Long Term Success – Change in Attitude


Christy lost her parental rights three years previous to being referred to FTG. However, she still had not accepted her responsibility in the loss of her children. When Christy completed all ten classes, we really felt a bit defeated because we saw not even a speck of change in her attitude, even though she was making her payments each month. About six months after completing FTG, Christy was arrested for possession (which, again, she did not take responsibility for and said the drugs belonged to her boyfriend). Christy was court ordered to a drug recovery program. About six months after starting her drug recovery program, Christy stopped by a FTG class meeting. She said that she had to stop by to tell us how much better she was doing in her life and to say thank you. She indicated that for the first time in a very long time she was happy, had a sense of peace and contentment, and acceptance of herself. She also stated that the only reason she was able to be in the place she was and accept the help she was receiving in her drug recovery program was because of the seeds FTG planted in her through FTG classes.

it s all about your child
“It’s All About Your Child”

Informational video created by Fill the Gap Program

It’s All About Your Child provides custodial and non-custodial parents information on the important role both parents play in the healthy well-being of their children. It also encourages non-custodial parents to stay current with their child support payments and get help immediately if they run into problems.

Available on line at:


Want more information? Contact us:

Rev. Ernest and Cheryl Breaux, Fill the Gap Program

- 985-974-5586 or

Hon. Leonora Estes, Hearing Officer, 21st Judicial District Court

- 985-748-9445

Ms. Joette Chavers, Supervisor, Amite Region Support Enforcement Services

- 985-748-2208