Two Clermont County officials were honored recently for their work to bring child support payments back to the children who need them.
Domestic relations court Judge Michael Voris was honored as judge of the year and Sheriff Tim Rodenberg was honored as child support partner of the year by the Ohio Child Support Enforcement Directors Association for their work in combating deadbeat parents.
“Quite frankly, I didn’t deserve the award,” said Sheriff Rodenberg. “They nominated me as the head of the agency, which is fairly standard, but the real credit goes to the deputies that organized and implemented the operation and made it so successful. As a sheriff, I support it. We partner with the child support enforcement agency, and I encourage my deputies to do their best. That’s where my role ends. If it wasn’t for the deputies’ work and diligence, it wouldn’t have been a successful operation. They did an excellent job and the credit belongs to them.”
The sheriff’s department earned their award by taking part in a child support roundup this summer that targeted deadbeat parents for an entire month. The deputies were able through a grant to work overtime hours in search of deadbeat parents who had accumulated large arrearages in child support payments.
In all, over $33,000 was collected from the roundup that netted 127 parents. The amount collected will go towards 33 children, and the largest amount collected was just over $7,000 for one child. Last year, the roundup ended with 89 arrests and over $22,000 collected. Sheriff Rodenberg said that the roundup was important, and called the recognition of that effort a feather in the cap of his department.
"The long range hope is, if this gets enough attention, the people out there who pay child support will pay on their own rather than have us pick them up and disrupt their lives to pay," said Sheriff Rodenberg. "They'll have to pay eventually, because these cases just won't go away. It winds up in criminal court."
Judge Voris was honored for his work in another aspect of the pursuit of deadbeat parents. His participation was in the creation of an alternative sentencing program that is aimed at reforming parents instead of putting them in jail.
"This was for doing a collaborative effort," said Judge Voris. "There are four or five agencies involved: the court, child support, Beech Acres, the University of Cincinnati and the business workforce who try to get some of these delinquent obligors employment."
The first and only run of this program to date happened during the summer and involved about 10 parents. Data collected from that is being used to refine the program, which will make a second attempt in February. The goal is to catch parents who are just starting to get behind and help them keep up on their payments.
"This is an alternative to jail," said Judge Voris. "It's six weeks of classes where they hear different aspects of why they should pay their child support. We try to get them to focus in on why the kids need the money. We gear it towards obligors who are just beginning to get into arrears, not the major cases."
Judge Voris has also been involved in other programs, such as early work in a coping with divorce program for kids and a KIDDS (kids in difficult or divorced situations) program.
"We had enough positive results to do a second term, which starts in February," said Judge Voris. "The fathers who came back into court to get their jail sentence purged because they completed the program, one was real impressed and said he had a really bad attitude. He said it opened his eyes, he really focused in on it. That's what we hope to achieve, a more responsible parent. So many times, they get wrapped up in disliking their ex, and forget about the children."