Improving child support enforcementA great deal has been...

the FORUM

February 09, 1993

Improving child support enforcement

A great deal has been said and written about child support enforcement recently. Much of it has come from opposite sides of the issue attempting to justify their positions. As an individual directly involved in this field, I hear both points of view, and in many instances each side has legitimate concerns.

It is my feeling, though, that the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Actually, it is amazing that so much is accomplished under the present circumstances. This problem has festered over many years, and now that the proverbial horse is out of the barn, our society has decided it is time to shut the door.

Child support workers in Maryland collected nearly $206 million in the fiscal year 1992. With caseloads hovering around 700 cases per worker and the myriad social problems raised in many of these cases (unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, custody and visitation disputes, etc.), child support workers should be commended on the job they are doing.

Both parties have a responsibility to realize that the child support enforcement system is there to help guarantee that the best interests of the child are met. The professionals in this field do not prejudge every absent parent as a ''deadbeat dad.'' A little bit of honesty and communication from more of these non-custodial parents and a little less evasion would go a long way in promoting good will in the eyes of the courts. Conversely, the custodial parents must realize that there are limitations to what can be reasonably expected from the system.

The federal government has taken the initiative in the recent past to set forth regulations that require states to pass laws improving their child support enforcement systems. Additional staff is desperately needed, and it is hoped that under the present administration this may be possible. The passage of these new laws and regulations is a step in the right direction, but the key to all of this is the parents involved in these cases. Until they realize they need to compromise and consider what is best for the children, we may never be able to move beyond where we are now with this issue.

Michael Helms

Towson

The writer is the administrative supervisor in the Division of Child Support for the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.

'Nun stories' didn't tell the half of it

Certain stories are told and retold so often they lose their flavor. Your article "Nun stories and then some" (Feb. 1) merely resurrected the tiresome, stereotypical "nun stories" that have become hackneyed and offensive.

In fairness, there were some positive statements about nuns and Catholic schools. However, the unfairness involved perpetuating impression that the old "Catholic school war stories" were more the rule than the exception.

This is not to say that eccentric things didn't happen. However, the story often is embellished, and the more it is repeated, the less recognizable it is.

What gets lost is the significant contribution made by many established communities of religious women.

Catholic schools throughout the nation owe their existence to religious women, who founded, built and staffed elementary and secondary schools as well as colleges.

These women successfully managed their institutions both temporally and spiritually. It was religious women who initiated steps to ensure that European immigrants, Native Americans and African-Americans got the opportunity for an education that previously had been a luxury only for the rich.

Long before we knew about the women's movement and feminism, orders of religious women were in the forefront of taking assertive action by a commitment to a life style that was out of the ordinary. Women living a religious community life resorted to their own resources, managed their own affairs and HTC often reached levels of personal education that were unheard of for women.

There are many more positive associations with the memory of these nuns than patent leather shoes.

Ronald J. Valenti

Baltimore

The writer is superintendent of the Department of Catholic Education Ministries for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Saving tax dollars on tickets

We can save big bucks in our court system, cut out the backlog of cases, free up more judges to do criminal work, and make just about everybody happy with a simple change in the computer program that processes traffic citations.

At present, if you're stopped and receive a traffic citation, if you don't do anything a notice will come to your address giving you a court date to fight the case.

When you do appear and your record previously has been spotless and the case is minor (for example speeding over 10 mph over the limit, which is a two-pointer), you will be in a court that is probably packed with similar cases.

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