Child Support Services Monday Resource Fairs
By Dianne Anderson
No more trying to get blood from a stone.
For whatever reason, if a parent can’t afford to meet their court-ordered support for their kids, San Bernardino County Department of Child Support Services can work with them, and help with services for both children and the parents.
In the old days, trying to evade child support usually meant dads were hauled off to the District Attorney’s Office, and at times, jail time. Things have changed.
“I think we’re associated with 20 years ago deadbeat dad enforcement – the hammer,” said Marie Girulat, director of DCSS. “If they’re engaged and paying child support, they’re more likely to see their children, and be engaged in their children’s lives.”
This month is child support awareness month, and the department is holding resource fairs to the community every Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., held at the Loma Linda office at 10417 Mountain View Avenue.
Current and potential customers that may need assistance are invited out to get help, and information on local programs and services.
A variety of agencies will be on site, including preschool resources, Behavioral Health, Children’s Network, First 5, and a local dental clinic. Women, Infants & Children (WIC), Transitional Assistance, Colton Unified School District, the San Bernardino County Museum, and Loma Linda Fire Department will come out for the kids.
Also participating, the County Public Library is a partnering, and offers services at the library after hours for anyone needing child support resources and assistance.
She said services are free for separated or unmarried parents that need help in establishing or enforcing a child support order. Those going through a divorce order or a family law matter can receive help in collecting payment. The department also establishes paternity.
Mostly, the father is ordered to pay support, but there are also mothers that pay. If either parent is in jail, she said it defeats the purpose of getting help for the child.
In the past decade, she can’t recall anyone getting jail-time for child support.
Today, she said their entire caseload of about 109,000 cases represents the second largest local child support next to Los Angeles County for the state. They collect about 64 percent of the current support that’s owed.
“Which is good, it’s not excellent. We do the best with the resources we have,” she said, adding that more parents could receive help, but may not know about the department, or that services are free.
Fear also could be keeping others away. The department screens background to make sure that for any domestic cases, the two parents are not in the same room.
“We want to help the parent who is supposed to be paying child support get to the point where they are paying child support. Maybe they have an order that needs to be changed, or they need assistance finding a job, we’re here to help,” she said.
In the process of establishing child support, the department works with both parents to bring them together into agreement in the office.
“We work really hard trying to bring those parents in. Once we have the order we try to help those parents remove any barriers in getting them to pay child support,” she said.
There could be several reasons why parents can’t pay. Some may be unemployed, homeless or dealing with substance abuse problems. The priority is to get them connected with the right services and on the road to self-sufficiency so they can start paying.
“Things happen, a parent might lose their job, or may get laid off, or get in a car accident,” she said. “We don’t want them to think if they’re coming to our office they’re going to jail. We’re here to help them.”
For more information, see http://hss.sbcounty.gov/dcss/ or call 866-901-3212