Dead Beat Dad's Programs Brings in $1 Million - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

04/29/03 - Tyler

Dead Beat Dad's Programs Brings in $1 Million

Some family law experts say jail time for dead beat parents is not the answer, because offenders can't earn money to make their payments while they're behind bars. That's why Smith County has taken a differnt approach to the problem.

Judge Carol Clark developed a system that puts parents on probation rather than in prison. On average, about 30 percent of parents who owe child support statewide, never pay up. So, Judge Clark has been targeting that thirty percent.

Over the last year Clark's Child Support Accountability Program placed 448 people on probation. They owed $1.27 million. The probation process collected $1.02, or 80.3 percent.

The idea has a lot of support among lawyers and probation officers in Smith County. While the money that's been collected is making a big difference for single parents and their children, even some of the dead beat parents are getting help through the program.  "They may see their probation officer once a month," says Judge Clark. "They may see their probation officer once a day depending on how much supervision they need. And that's the beauty of the program. Every case is different and the probation officer is going to work with that particular person."

Judge Clark says the program also pays for itself. All of the parents put on probation have to pay a fee on top of the child support and back payments. That fee covers the entire cost of administering the probation.

The program has been so successful, many other Texas counties, including Gregg county are now looking at copying the program.

Stephen Parr, reporting.

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