Local News

Court Helps Deadbeat Dads (and Moms) Get Back on Track

Posted April 22, 2008 7:03 p.m. EDT
Updated April 22, 2008 11:30 p.m. EDT

— A Wake County judge has a new approach to helping parents who can't pay child support.

The county has 19,000 child support cases. In 30 percent of those, parents are not making regular payments.

Judge Kristin Ruth presides over child support court and said many parents who don't pay are substance abusers.

“It was impossible to keep a job, to be a part of my family's life, to pay child support,” Christina Manchester said.

With a grant from the Wake County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, Ruth is offering substance abuse treatment to parents like Manchester.

“Many of these (people) have never paid or have paid very little, a few dollars, and now they're paying substantial amounts, even if it's $100, $200,” Ruth said.

Treatment coupled with job training and house arrest is getting people like Victor Ellis back on track. He owes $40,000 and is finally making payments after the program helped him get off drugs.

“It means a lot to me to know that I can be accountable and my kids can depend upon me,” Ellis said.

Manchester owes more than $34,000, but thanks to the program, she is sober, working and paying child support.

“It feels great to know my kids are getting exactly what they need. I've made them my No. 1 priority in my life, whereas drugs used to be my No. 1 priority,” she said.

There are 25 people currently in the program. After they prove they can stay sober and pay child support on a regular basis, they are taken off house arrest.

Ruth said she is tracking each case to help determine the success rate of the program.