Local News

Web site features Lee County deadbeat parents

Posted August 15, 2008 6:09 p.m. EDT
Updated August 15, 2008 6:32 p.m. EDT

— Lee County authorities have turned to the Internet to track down parents who have failed to pay child support.

For the past year and a half, deputies at the Lee County Sheriff's Office have posted a "Most Wanted" list of deadbeat dads and moms on a special blog page on the department''s Web site. Parents wind up on the blog after they fail to show up in court.

"They don't care," Sgt. T.C. Yarborough said. "I arrested one a couple of months ago that (owed) $52,000."

Embarrassment is the blog's main weapon, although residents are encouraged to provide authorities with anonymous tips to help deputies catch up with people on the list.

"I had a gentleman call me that was on there, and his main concern was, 'How do I get my picture off this Web site?'" Yarborough said.

Lee County collected more than $5.5 million in child support from July 2007 to the end of June, which is $211,000 more than the previous year.

Social workers who see families hurt by a lack of child support said the Web site has made a huge difference.

"You'd be surprised at the amount of tips we get," said Donna Cummings, child support manager for the Lee County Department of Social Services.

Cummings said families suffer when child support isn't paid. One family, for example, is about to be evicted.

"They have no food for their child or (diapers)," she said. "It's very very sad stories, and you really can't do anything if you can't find that person."

Officials said the most money ever owed in a local child support case was nearly $100,000. That parent has started making payments, they said.