In 1976, the huge Federal agency, Health and Human Services, established the office of the Inspector General, OIG, within the HHS with the mission to fight waste, fraud, and abuse in the programs HHS oversees.
One of those programs is the Administration for Children and Families which in turn oversees the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.
The HHS OIG is the largest inspector general’s office in the Federal government. While I contend they have their hands full with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security fraud, they do have an office dedicated to child support enforcement, along with a MOST WANTED DEADBEATS page.
The OIG clearly states under its child support enforcement page that “Parents who fail to pay court-ordered support for the care of their children put an unnecessary strain on the custodial parent and the children, as well as on agencies that are tasked with enforcing these matters.”
Read it again, “unnecessary strain on the custodial parent AND CHILDREN.”
Let’s take a look at some of these winners:
David Lawrence Adams
The Most Wanted Deadbeat in America; his arrears are $4,219,040.00.
Mr. Lawrence’s child support obligation started in 1994 and he was indicted in 2008 for failure to pay. He is a cardiologist and it is believed he fled to Israel to avoid his child support obligation, but may periodically return to the United States, (Florida) to continue his medical practice. There has been a warrant out for his arrest since 2008.
He was indicted in 2018 in the Southern District of New York. His arrears for his child now total $728,672.00. He has owed child support since 2009 and is now believed to be residing in Honduras.
Of the seven on this most wanted list, six are males, one is a female. All are believed to have fled the United States to avoid paying child support obligations.
The amounts owed to land these winners on the most wanted list are the outrageous 4.2 million for Mr. Lawrence to a mere $17,443.00 for the only female on the list, Ms. Theresa Fenerty. Her possible location is Italy.
Arizona Stepping Up
Now the Office of the Inspector General is not the only Most Wanted Deadbeat web page in America.
In Arizona, the task of enforcing child support falls to the Department of Economic Security. They also have a “Wanted-Child Support Evaders” page. They show pictures of the deadbeats along with the arrears total, monthly support amount, and the city they were last seen in. The requirements to be placed on the Evaders page are straightforward:
1. Owe more than $5000 in arrears
2. Location unknown
3.Arrears equal to or greater than 12 months’ worth of child support and finally:
4. Not be involved in bankruptcy proceedings or receiving welfare benefits.
Arizona has a dedicated email and tip line to report these evaders.
Doug Ducey, Republican Governor of Arizona made national headlines in 2016 when he called out “deadbeat dads” in his State of the State address and announced plans to “publicly shame” deadbeat parents on social media.
“For too long, you’ve been able to remain anonymous- able to skirt your financial and legal responsibilities with no shame. Not anymore!” The governor stated that “effective immediately” the state would begin posting photos, names, and arrears owed “by these losers” with the hashtag #deadbeat.
He continued, “It’s simple. If you’re old enough to father a child, then your old enough to accept financial responsibility for that child. If you don’t want your embarrassing-unlawful-and irresponsible behavior going viral: Man up and pay up.”
Does public “shaming” work?
Well, ask the kids of the 11 deadbeats who were turned in the first six months of #deadbeat in Arizona. I doubt they were upset to receive support for the first time in years.
In twelve months, the program #deadbeat had featured 130 deadbeat parents and located 25 of them. Including Anthony Howell who owed his children over $110K in arrears.
Administrators in the Department of Economic Security have publicly stated that they have parents now paying up due to fear of being featured on social media.
In the latest Report to Congress from the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, Arizona still carries $1,658,801,892.00 in arrears on 147,555 child support cases. However, Arizona is one of the few states to show a decrease in arrears owed AND a decrease in the number of cases in the last month’s report published by the Office of Child Support Enforcement. More states should follow Arizona’s lead and make use of social media.
It’s Not Just Arizona Though
Arizona is not the only state to have a Most Wanted list. In Texas, child support is managed by the Office of the Attorney General and they also have an evaders page. Texas DOES NOT impress me much. They currently have the second-highest arrears in the nation, second only to California at $16,928,274,680.00 on 1,723,910 cases with the OAG’s office.
If you check the Report to Congress, Texas arrears have been growing yearly from 13 billion in 2013 to the now 16.9 billion in 2018. The stories of non-enforcement I have heard out of the Lone Star state make me think the AG needs to use a Twitter account and make use of the #deadbeat hashtag.
To make the “Evaders” page in Texas you must meet the same criteria Arizona uses along with having an active arrest warrant. This can be problematic as in Texas “non-suit of service” is a reason to throw a child support enforcement case out of court. So, if you can evade a process server and are never brought in front of a judge for contempt charges ending up with an arrest warrant you can’t be put on the Evaders page.
Even with these criteria, Texas has 16 evaders listed with arrears from $29K to $190K owed to their kids. They also have an “arrested” page showing who has been arrested on their warrants for outstanding child support.
California is considering a bill proposed to do the same, starting with a website and putting deadbeat parents on blast. California leads all the states with $17.5 Billion in arrears owed to over 1 million children.
I have no problem with “deadbeats” being shamed. For TOO LONG the shame and the burden has rested on the shoulders of the custodial parent who struggles alone to provide everything needed for the children.
Every state agency in charge of child support should have a dedicated web page for evaders with regular social media posts to call these law-breaking individuals to account for their actions in denying children the support they need and deserve from both parents.