Virginia Agency Uses Newspaper Ads to Shame Deadbeat Parents

By: Lesley Messer

On Aug. 16, The Virginian-Pilot published a full-page advertisement complete with the names and photographs of men and women wanted for failing to pay child support. The deadbeat parents appeared under the banner, ?Have You Seen These Parents??

The effort was to find these parents, not to embarrass them, said Nick Young, the director of the Child Support Enforcement Division, the state agency that placed the ads. He added that in the state of Virginia alone, over $2.1 billion are owed in unpaid child support, with that number skyrocketing to $90 billion nationwide.

?We’ve done practically everything we know how to do short of this particular enforcement remedy and now we turn to this to seek the public’s help to find these people,? said Young. ?Newspapers have probably the widest circulation and allow us to publish pictures. Names are not always helpful because people might use different names or change their names. Pictures tell a thousand words.?

Young said that the ad featured photographs provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Also included were details like the amount of money owed, height, weight and residence of wanted individuals.

So far, the campaign has been a success. The ad itself cost $5,400, but so far, Young said that people have paid upwards of $10,000 in overdue child support.

?Several people have paid lump sum amounts. More importantly, a number of parents have called in to [tell where the deadbeat mothers and fathers] work so we can place wage withholdings on their wages which gives children long-term security,? he explained. ?The third thing it’s done is a number of relatives, parents, grandparents, etc. have gotten a hold of their relatives who were pictured and made them aware that they don’t appreciate seeing their picture in the paper and they’d like them to take care of their moral and financial responsibility.?

Another tactic Young said he’s been using to track down deadbeat parents is subpoenaing their cell phone records. He also can track down their addresses from cable television bills.

At this point, Young said he isn’t sure what method will become most popular or helpful. He does, however, plan to publish more ads like the one in The Virginian-Pilot in other newspapers soon, as well as on the Internet and in magazines too.

?I always say, Virginia will not be a safe haven for parents who won’t take care of their children,? he said.

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