Cross-Agency Pilot Project Helps Parents Pay Child Support

27 January 2016

Essex, VT – When parents don’t make their court-ordered child support payments it does not always mean that they are unwilling.  Sometimes, they are simply not able to pay. They may be out of work. They may only be able to find part-time work. They may not earn enough to pay both their living expenses and child support bills. Those who can only make partial payments sink deeper into debt every time they miss or don’t make a full payment.

To help these parents meet their child support obligations, several state agencies are working collaboratively on Work4Kids —a pilot project that helps them find new or better paying jobs.  Partners include:

  • Vermont Department for Children and Families - Office of Child Support (OCS);
  • Department of Disabilities, Aging & Independent Living - Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VocRehab Vermont); and
  • The Vermont Judiciary.

Since it began in 2011, the project has helped over 420 parents make almost $1,000,000 in child support payments.  According to the payment data, Work4Kids participants paid over five times the amount of child support after being referred to the program.

“With this pilot project, we are seeing child support payments from parents who would otherwise not be able to pay,” said OCS Director Jeff Cohen. “Helping parents to consistently pay their child support helps improve the economic lives of hundreds of Vermont children.  It also helps keep their families from needing public assistance just to get by.”

How the Project Works

  1. When a parent is not making child support payments because they are unemployed or underemployed, a judge in the Family Division of Superior Court issues a court order requiring the parent to participate in employment-related activities through Work4Kids.
  2. The parent is referred to a counselor at Invest EAP, the Employee Assistance Program operated by VocRehab Vermont.
  3. The counselor develops a supportive relationship with the parent. Together, they assess the barriers keeping the parent from meeting their child support obligations.
  4. The counselor helps connect the parent to resources and services that reduce these barriers.  This could include:
    • Mental health or substance abuse treatment
    • Housing, transportation, and work search assistance
    • Medical treatment
    • On-the-job training

Work4Kids was recently expanded to the southwestern part of the state. It is now available in 10 of 14 Vermont counties: Addison, Bennington, Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orange, Rutland, Windham and Windsor.