Pressure on deadbeats rises After collection record in '97, state seeks more unpaid child support

March 28, 1998|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN STAFF

Never before has so much child support been raised from deadbeats. Last year, Maryland collected record amounts of money from shirking parents, but Gov. Parris N. Glendening said yesterday that the state is not stopping there.

The governor announced a new effort to go after hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid child support.

The campaign is anchored by a slick, three-year, $3 million advertising blitz that boils down to: Pay up, parents, or the state will put the squeeze on you. You will not be able to renew your driver's license. Your income tax refunds will be intercepted. You will have difficulty getting a new job. Your wages will be garnisheed.

"Yes, we have made progress, but we are not satisfied," $H Glendening told about 100 people, most of them social workers, at the campaign's kickoff at the Harbor LifeCourse Center in South Baltimore. "We will not stop working until both parents are fully responsible for their children."

Most of the programs designed to snag parents who owe child support have been in place for years. The campaign announced yesterday tries to make people more aware of those programs -- and stresses that children need emotional support from noncustodial parents as well as financial support.

Four television advertisements push the message, and will be shown throughout the state -- nearly 14,000 times this year alone.

One runs 30 seconds and is designed to appeal to the emotions.

"He's your flesh and blood," a woman's voice says as a baby is shown turning in a crib. "How can you sit there and not help?"

Three other commercials carry blunt threats.

One says: "Don't want to pay your child support? Don't worry. We know where you work. We'll do it for you."

Another: "If you don't pay child support, we can take away your license. Nobody gets a free ride."

The third: "If you're waiting for a tax refund and owe child support -- don't hold your breath."

In 1997, the state, through its Child Support Enforcement Administration, collected more than $317 million in owed child support. That included $95 million owed from before last year. Of the money owed in payments due last year, the state collected about $222 million of $426 million.

Also yesterday, the governor presented an award to Curtis Elder, 18, of Baltimore, who is helping his fiancee, Ebony Diggs, 17, raise their 8-month-old son, Naron.

Elder completed the Young Fathers/Responsible Fathers program, which helps develop skills to become a good parent.

"I learned you have to have patience with children; you have to be very careful," he said. "You have to love yourself to love your child."

Pub Date: 3/28/98

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