Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Supporting Brooklyn Parents

Today we celebrated the 4th graduating class at the Kings County Parent Support Program, an initiative in Family Court that seeks to give non-custodial parents the services and structure they need to make child support payments and become effective parents to their children.

As is the case with so many of the projects that we help to implement, the Parent Support Program is the product of vibrant partnership involving multiple agencies, all of which were well-represented at the graduation today, including the New York City Family Court and the City of New York's Human Resources Administration.

There were two highlights from the graduation from my perspective.  The first was the keynote speech by Vicki Turetsky who is the commissioner of the Office of Child Support Enforcement at the US Department of Health and Human Services.  As Support Magistrate Nicholas Palos said in his remarks, Turetsky helped to inspire the development of the Parent Support Program three years ago, so it was great to have her participate in the celebration.

The other highlight was hearing directly from the 24 men who were graduating today.  More remarkable than any single thing that anyone said was the atmosphere in the courtroom.  Going to court can be a stressful experience and child support cases are often highly contentious.  Yet here was a courtroom full of smiling, proud fathers who interacted easily with support magistrate Palos and the rest of the court team.  All of them had worked hard to reduce their arrears and contribute to the well-being of their kids.  We haven't performed a formal evaluation of the program, but I'd be surprised if it didn't provide more evidence of the importance of procedural justice and treating litigants with dignity and respect.