Engler: October is Child Support Month in Michigan

Contact: John Truscott (517) 335-6397

Governor John Engler declared October as Child Support Month in Michigan, a time to take stock of the essential elements of parenting — love, time, commitment and responsibility.

"Child support is about personal responsibility — putting children first and supporting families," said Engler. "It is about the emotional and financial support parents provide for their children."

Engler said Michigan helps collect more than $1 billion annually in outstanding child support through the Family Independence Agency, but more needs to be done.

"Personal responsibility is important to the well-being of children and families," he said. "A major commitment is parents establishing paternity — establishing a legal relationship between a father and his child — regardless of whether or not parents are married."

The Family Independence Agency Office of Child Support works to establish paternity when a child is born out of wedlock. In 1999, Michigan had over 44,000 births to unwed parents.

Paternity establishment is crucial to long-term emotional and financial stability for a child, said Family Independence Agency Director Douglas E. Howard.

"The easiest way to ensure a child grows up in poverty is for the child to be born to a single parent household," he said. "The second easiest way for a child to grow up in poverty is when the noncustodial parent fails to provide legally-mandated financial support.

"Paying court-ordered support often makes the difference for children. When parents shirk their responsibility to financially support their children, the state often becomes a provider of last resort through public assistance."

Howard said the FIA's child support program works to improve financial security of children. But the agency works on many different fronts to encourage parental involvement. Other FIA partnerships include:

A fatherhood partnership between the Detroit Lions and the FIA Office of Child Support started in 1995. The campaign features Lions players Robert Porcher, Luther Elliss and their children in print and outdoor advertising and public service announcements to encourage fathers—whether married, divorced or single — to become involved in their children's lives.

An effort to educate health care providers to increase paternity establishment rates for unwed parents and provide parental education. The initiative is a collaboration between the FIA Office of Child Support, Michigan Department of Community Health, Wayne State University School of Medicine, the Michigan section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Wayne County Friend of the Court.

Michigan's revised school curriculum, "What Kind of Parent Will You Be? Think About It," was recently forwarded to Michigan schools. It is designed to increase the students' awareness of the emotional and financial responsibilities that come with being a parent.

"Michigan continues to look for ways to help parents meet their responsibilities," said Engler. "It is important to the taxpayers of this state that every parent fulfills his or her parental responsibilities, for when they fail, the responsibility often falls to state government. Responsible parenthood means healthy children."

For more information, visit the FIA website www.mfia.state.mi.us and click on "Child Support"