In Their Defence
● By Wendy Sipple
Photo by Dante Fontana
In a perfect world, all children would be born into and grow up in perfect homes, supported and nurtured by loving parents, where every need is met and every opportunity is provided.
That’s not the hand many children are dealt however, and it’s for them that El Dorado County Child Support Services tirelessly works. “We’re here to provide services that help single-parent families stay self sufficient,” says Laura Roth, the department’s director. “Our primary purpose is to establish and enforce court orders for financial support for children.”
The program was established more than 40 years ago when the Social Security Administration took note of America’s rising divorce rate and the growing number of single parents. With the belief that every child has a right to emotional and financial support from both parents, regardless of marriage status, Child Support Services started its work with a simple focus on ensuring non-custodial parents meet their financial obligations to their children.
Although that fundamental objective hasn’t changed, the work has evolved over the past four decades. Child Support Services now does everything necessary to identify and locate parents, even going as far as to provide genetic testing when needed. The motive behind that is to ensure children can receive any veterans, medical, inheritance or other benefits for which they may be entitled. It is about more than just “going after deadbeat parents,” however. It’s about working with families to ensure children get the financial and emotional support they deserve, and enacting policies that encourage – rather than force – parents to be involved in their kid’s lives. That’s because with parental involvement comes a host of societal benefits.
“It’s well documented that kids who are provided for by both parents stay in school longer, are less likely to end up pregnant as teenagers, and less likely to end up in jail,” Roth says. “Studies also show improved health, lower probability of drug or alcohol use, greater social interaction with friends and a decreased likelihood of growing up in poverty.”
Indeed, a 2002 analysis by the California Budget Project and the Center for Law and Social Policy reported that child support payments lifted more than a million Americans above the poverty line. In El Dorado County alone, Child Support Services collected nearly $13,000,000 in support for families just last year. Going back to the department’s philosophy of self-sufficiency, that kind of money plays a big part in keeping families off welfare.
Most importantly, every service the department provides is free to the public, regardless of income, language, or the child’s age. Anyone needing legal assistance with everything from locating a parent to enforcing a support order is welcome at the offices in Placerville or South Lake Tahoe. “We have 67 professionals on staff, we’re experts in our field and we’re here to serve,” Roth says. “We’re ready and willing to share our expertise at no cost with anyone who needs it.”
For more information, visit co.el-dorado.ca.us/childsupport or call 866-901-3212.