Program helps people who owe child support find jobs
Posted November 4, 2011
Durham, N.C. — With the help of a federal grant, Durham County has launched a program to provide people who owe child support with job skills to help them find employment so they can make their payments.
Almost $831 million is owed in child support across North Carolina, including $18 million in Durham County, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
"We have folks who really want to support their families, but in this economy, of course, they are unable to for a variety of reasons," Durham District Judge William Marsh said.
People who qualify for the New Life Court program go through an intensive job-training program, including learning computer skills. Court workers also help them search for jobs.
"We want to assure employers that we are backing them and that these people have the drive, the willingness and the will to go forward and support their families," Marsh said.
If participants don't make it through the program, they often risk going to jail.
Quincy Lynch said he struggled to find a new job and a place to live after he was laid off. The worst part of being unemployed, however, was not be able to pay his child support, he said.
"It makes you feel bad knowing that you have an obligation – something that you are supposed to do – and you can't do it because you don't have the means of doing it," Lynch said.
Failure to pay landed him in court and took him to the New Life Court program. Within weeks of entering, he said, he was working and was able to make his child support payments.
"It makes me feel really, really good," he said. "It gives you a new life."
The program was instituted once before in Durham County, but lost funding during federal cutbacks. Its funding is about to run out again, but organizers said they are looking for new ways to pay for it.