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Durham Initiative Aims to Help Deadbeat Dads Pay Child Support

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DURHAM — Dozens of deadbeat dads appeared at the Durham County Courthouse Monday to explain why they are behind on child support. The men could be fined or jailed if they do not pay. However, a new program offers them another solution.

Oscar Mack appeared in court because he owes $7,000 in child support to the mother of his three children. Mack never graduated from high school. He says it is tough to find a job that covers his bills and his child support payment.

"It's difficult to find a job without a G.E.D. Then, without a job, you've got child support on your back, and you can't get ahead. Once you get behind on child support, that's it," he says.

Mack could have been fined or jailed. However he was offered another option -- the chance to join a new program called the Fatherhood Initiative.

Warren Harris runs the program, and goes to court looking for men who fit the following profile.

That includes "low-income fathers who don't have a high school diploma or G.E.D., who have a poor work history, who have substance abuse problems, or who need treatment," he says.

Durham County used to target deadbeats with wanted posters. Now it plans to help men like Oscar Mack get better jobs so they can be more responsible fathers.

"We're going to provide them job training and job placement so they can increase their skills to obtain marketable skills to go into a better job situation," says Harris.

Just a handful of fathers have signed on for Durham's Fatherhood Initiative which is funded by the federalWelfare-to-Workprogram.

Programs leaders hope hundreds will eventually join.