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ACLU says alleged ‘‘deadbeat dads’’ jailed without due process

    EAGLEVILLE, Pa. (AP) - Ninety men serving time in a county prison for failing to pay child support were denied their due process rights, the American Civil Liberties Union contends.

    Thirty of the men were released from the Montgomery County Correctional Facility on Wednesday, officials said. The other 60 inmates were being interviewed by county officials and others, and they could be freed within days, said the county’s president judge, S. Gerald Corso.

    Pennsylvania ACLU staff lawyer Malia Brink said that county courts throughout the state often jail such men, often referred to as deadbeat dads, for civil contempt without adequate notice or enough time for them to get lawyers.

    Typically, the men meet with domestic relations officials, are declared in arrears, and are quickly brought before a judge. The judge usually finds them in contempt of a court order to pay and jails them for about six months.

    Corso has ordered a review of court procedures for all those incarcerated for failing to pay support. Among the changes already implemented: Contempt hearings will be scheduled two weeks after enforcement conferences, and defendants will be advised throughout the process of their right to an attorney.

    ‘‘The ACLU thinks everyone facing prison should have counsel,’’ Corso said. ‘‘We do not disagree with that.’’

    Amid similar criticism from ACLU attorneys last year in western Pennsylvania, Westmoreland County judges agreed to provide court-appointed attorneys in child support cases and Lawrence County judges freed 37 inmates jailed for nonsupport.

    ‘‘The ACLU hopes that the president judges of counties throughout Pennsylvania will respond to the ACLU’s request with the same dispatch and sense of justice that Montgomery County showed,’’ Brink said in a prepared statement. ‘‘But we’re realistic and realize that we may have to file suit against one or more counties who refuse the request.’’

    Of the 90 child-support inmates, those on work-release were freed after agreeing to have the money they owe deducted from their wages. A second group was told they could leave the prison if they got jobs and agreed to return next month for hearings.

    The third group, which Corso called ‘‘chronic offenders who have had three bench warrants issued against them in the last few years’’ for failure to appear, will go before judges to see how their cases should proceed.


Child Support Issues / Child support burdened by the new system
« on: Dec 07, 2003, 11:45:46 AM »
Child support burdened by the new system
Rush to meet deadline leads to mass confusion

By Adam Emerson
Lansing State Journal

A $459 million computer system meant to make life easier for families paying and receiving child support is so riddled with problems it could be years before it works effectively, child-support leaders say.

In some cases, parents who pay support are getting notices that they're not.

Money isn't reaching the families who need it.

And an already big bureaucracy inside county court offices has grown statewide, making answers hard to find, families say.

Even state leaders concede Michigan's Child Support Enforcement System was rushed to completion. But they were facing $147 million in federal fines that would have jumped by $60 million if they didn't get all 83 counties on the same system by Sept. 30.

It's that race that created a high-maintenance system with problems that will take months to fix, officials say.

"It's hard to see any discernible progress," said Jeff Albaugh, president of Michigan's Friend of the Court Association.

"Clients will see some improvements at mid- to late next year. But it'll take three to five years before we see huge, material, obvious results."

Marilyn Stephen, director of the state Office of Child Support, acknowledges the problems the state is scrambling to correct - and will spend millions more in the next three years to do so.

The system processes $30 million in child-support payments weekly, but in a number of cases it fails to process them correctly.

Every two weeks, Bruce Chandler of Munith pays toward his $4,000 child-support arrearage. The state processes the money and then, because of a computer glitch, sends it back to him. So the Ingham County Friend of the Court, seeing the money didn't reach its destination, warned him he was behind in his obligation.

Chandler said when he contacted his caseworker to complain, "She knew when I called that I was just the next one in line."

At a time when local officials are stepping up child-support enforcement, the new system is leading Chandler and thousands like him to ask questions. Here are some of the answers.

Why the need for a statewide enforcement system? What is happening in other states?

The 1996 federal welfare-reform law, noting that child support was processed in a splintered way by local governments, required each state to create a central office to process support by 1999. Nearly all of the states, facing multi-million-dollar penalties if they missed the deadline, rushed to finish their plans.

Most experienced problems like Michigan's. Thousands of checks were delayed in Nevada. North Carolina made $5 million in emergency payments to frustrated families. In Ohio, among the latest to make the switch, critics say the system has delayed checks, sent the wrong amounts or sent money to the wrong people.

Stephen, a former Jackson County prosecutor who joined the Office of Child Support last year, said Michigan was faced with an "impossible task."

"The nearest a state that I know has completed a system was in five years," Stephen said. "It was done in Michigan in 2 1/2 years."

Critics of the rushed implementation point out that the deadline had loomed since 1996.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees states' child-support enforcement, certified Michigan's system last month. It was one of the last states to comply. With that certification, Michigan will get back $35 million of the $68 million in fines it's already paid.

Now the state must show the federal government the system works effectively every year, or it could face penalties, such as a reduction in federal funding.

What is this system supposed to do? What are the problems?

The system is meant to streamline child-support payments and enforcement under a state umbrella. County Friends of the Court had been the traditional overseers of the operation.

With $7 billion in child-support owed in Michigan, the state promised the system would automate actions against parents who don't pay. It would be easier to issue bench warrants, seize taxes and yank licenses from deadbeats.

But what resulted when Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties switched to the system in June was frustration for many.

For instance, the system misread about 3,000 of 21,000 addresses in Ingham County, delaying checks and court notices. Elsewhere, tax returns seized from deadbeats were sent back to them.

Of the 800,000 child-support cases in the state, 250,000 clients call the state hot-line each week, Stephen said. Some just want to inquire about payments. But more than 15,000 clients call the Friends of the Court.

Counties can do little to help them, Friends of the Court say. After the computer conversion in Ing-ham, calls to caseworkers tripled at the same time their ability to resolve problems and release money ended.

"Every time there's a problem, I have to beg someone at the state to make a change," said Donald Reisig, Ingham County's Friend of the Court.

When will people start to see the system's benefits?

Stephen predicts that Friends of the Court and families will see more benefits in a year.

But Albaugh, the state's Friend of the Court Association president and Calhoun County Friend of the Court, isn't convinced.

He said while problems are fixed monthly, new ones continually surface.

Karen Murton, 40, of DeWitt Township only recently received two checks the state cashed on Oct. 14 and Oct. 22. Her ex-husband has been sending $250 checks to the Lansing disbursement unit every week. But they weren't reaching Murton and her two children, ages 9 and 7, who had been receiving support under the previous county system.

Murton finally got the checks - money she relies on monthly - after Clinton County Friend of Court pushed the state to act.

"People receiving support are having their telephones shut off, their electricity shut off," she said. "These are single parents - male and female. This has caused a lot of problems."

One of the worst problems, court workers say, involves those who are paying off an arrearage, as ordered by a judge.

After the state switch over, the computer didn't recognize the payment arrangements parents had made with county judges. It saw only arrearages. Some people were threatened with having their driver's licenses revoked or their debt reported to a credit bureau.

Stephen said it could be months before that problem is corrected.

When will the problems be fixed? And whose job is it to fix these problems?

Fixes have been made monthly for some problems - such as the garbled addresses. But after this week, no more will be made until May.

That's because the state has hired Bermuda-based Accenture to fix and maintain the system installed by another vendor.

Denver-based Policy Studies Inc., which state leaders say performed an "impossible task" in installing and launching the system by Sept. 30, lost the bid to maintain its own software.

Accenture has to learn the system before it can begin repairing and upgrading it. So only "emergency fixes" will be made before May, said James Fricke, the state's director of the system.

The move to Accenture is not a knock against Policy Studies Inc., Stephen said. The state wanted to go with a "better value" and Accenture will better perform long-term enhancements to the software, she said.

Controversy swirled in 2000 when the state canceled its bidding process on the statewide computer system and issued a no-bid, multimillion-dollar contract to Policy Studies. The firm was uniquely qualified to complete the task on a tight deadline, state leaders said.

Policy Studies proposed building a statewide system by adapting one used in Wayne County, and it had developed a precursor to the current system.

Policy Studies' contract with Michigan ends Dec. 31. This time, the state wanted "a level playing field" in bidding out the project, Stephen said.

How much will this cost taxpayers?

Accenture secured a three-year, $44 million contract for basic maintenance to the system. Enhancements to the system will cost the state an additional $7 million to $10 million each year for the next three years.

Local officials question hiring Accenture to maintain a system it didn't put in place.

"What you need on a system like this is stability," said Barbara Hamm, head of the family division of the Ing-ham County Prosecutor's Office, which establishes the initial child-support order. "It's got to be reliable. Right now, it isn't.

"It's affecting people.

"It shouldn't be this difficult."

Contact staff writer John Schneider for matters related to child-suppport enforcement.

He can be reached at 377-1175 or jschneid@lsj.com.


Parenting Issues / Talking to Your Children About Terrorism
« on: Jan 16, 2006, 08:43:41 AM »
Talking to Your Children About Terrorism
by dr. robin f. goodman

     Kids ask lots of tough questions, but questions about acts of terrorism or war are some of the hardest to answer. When the news media provides immediate and graphic details, parents wonder if they should protect their children from the grim reality, explore the topic or share their personal beliefs.

     Adults also must reconcile the dilemma of advocating nonviolence while explaining terrorism and why nations maintain armies and engage in war.
     Contrary to parents' fears, talking about violent acts will not increase a child's fear. Having children keep scared feelings to themselves is more damaging than discussion.

     As with other topics, consider the age and level of understanding of the child when entering into a discussion. Even children as young as 4 know about violent acts, but all children may not know how to talk about their concerns. It often is necessary for parents to initiate the dialogue themselves. Asking children what they have heard or think is a good way to start.

     Adults should look for opportunities as they arise, for example when watching the news together. You also can look for occasions to bring up the topic of when relevant related topics arise. For example, when people in a television show are arguing. Discussion about larger issues such as tolerance, difference and nonviolent problem solving also can be stimulated by news. Learning about a foreign culture or region also dispels myths and, more accurately, points out similarities and differences.

     Far off violent events can stimulate a discussion of non-violent problem solving for problems closer to home. For instance, helping children negotiate how to share toys or take turns in the baseball lineup demonstrates productive strategies for managing differences. Older children may understand the issues when related to a community arguing over a proposed shopping mall. Effective ways of working out these more personal situations can assist in explaining and examining the remote violent situations.

     Adults also should respect a child's wish not to talk about particular issues until ready. Attending to nonverbal reactions, such as facial expression or posture, play behavior, verbal tone or content of a child's expression offer important clues to a child's reactions and unspoken need to talk.

     Answering questions and addressing fears does not necessarily happen all at once in one sit down session or one history lesson plan. New issues may arise or become apparent over time and thus discussion about war should be done on an ongoing and as-needed basis.

The Depressed Child: Knowing the Signs is Crucial
by jim strawn

     Do you remember growing up in the 50s, 60s or 70s? Looking back it is hard to believe that we have that we had it so good as children.
     As children, we would ride in the back of a pickup truck on a warm summer day. We drank water from a garden hose and not from a bottle. Horrors.
     We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us on a cell phone. Unthinkable.
     We got cut and broke bones and broke teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
     They were accidents. Remember them. No one was to blame but us. We ate whatever we wanted but were never overweight, we were always outside playing. We shared one grape Nehi with four friends and no one ever died from this. Life was a bubble.
     Childhood and adolescence used to be a time of carefree adventure and fun-filled times. However, for thousands of children and teens, that is not always the case. Childhood and teenage depression is on the rise, according to the National Mental Health Association.
     As school violence and the threat of terrorism has erupted across the country, we are reminded of the many challenges facing our young people.
     They are dealing with violence, peer pressure, single parent homes, the threat of terror, and other issues that can create fear, disconnectedness, anxiety and despair.
     Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for West Virginians age five to nineteen.
     Not only adults become depressed. Children and teenagers may also have depression, which is a treatable illness. That is the good news. Treatment is available and treatment works. Depression is defined as an illness when the feeling of sadness persists and interferes with a child or adolescent's ability to function.
     About 5 percent of children and adolescents suffer from depression at any given point in time.
     Children under stress, who experience loss, or who have attentional, learning, conduct or anxiety disorders are at a higher risk for depression. Depression also tends to be hereditary.
     The behavior of depressed children and teenagers may differ from the behavior of depressed adults.
     Child and adolescent psychiatrists advise parents to be aware of signs of depression in the youngsters. If one or more of these signs of depression persist, parents should seek professional behavioral health treatment:
     · Frequent sadness.
     · Crying.
     · Hopelessness.
     · Decreased interest in favorite activities.
     · Low energy.
     · Boredom.
     · Poor communication.
     · Low self- esteem.
     · Guilt.
     · Anger.
     · Difficulty with relationships.
     · Poor concentration.
     · Change in eating or sleeping patterns.
     · Talk about running away from home.
     · Suicide ideation.
     A child who used to play often with friends may now spend most of the time alone and without interests. Things that were once fun now bring little joy to the depressed child. Children and teens who are depressed may say they want to be dead or may talk about killing themselves.
     Depressed children and teens are at increased risk for committing suicide. Depressed adolescents may abuse alcohol or other drugs as a way to feel better.
     Children and adolescents who cause trouble at home or at school may actually be depressed but not know it. Because the youngster may not always seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that troublesome behavior is a sign of depression.
     When asked directly, these children can sometimes state they are unhappy or sad.
     Early diagnosis and medical treatment are essential for depressed children. This is a real illness that requires professional help.
     Comprehensive treatment often includes both individual and family therapy. It may also include the use of antidepressant medication. For help, parents should ask their physician to refer them to a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who can diagnose the treat depression in children and teens.
     Remember, it is not a hopeless battle. And the problem will not go away if ignored. Get the help your child deserves and put that carefree adventure back in their lives.

General Issues / How Will You Die? The Death Psychic Knows....
« on: Feb 17, 2006, 09:03:51 AM »
How will you die? The Death Psychic knows and he'll tell you the exact manner of your untimely demise. Possibly gory, possibly embarrassing, but *always* fun:


Let your death be foretold........

General Issues / Five Questions you Should Never ask Your Children
« on: Jan 16, 2006, 08:40:00 AM »
The author of this article contacted us and asked us to remove it:

Please remove.
Thank you
Gina Roberts-Grey
8729 Marinus Drive
Baldwinsville, NY 13027

Five Questions you Should Never ask Your Children
by gina roberts-grey

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Nullam semper luctus pede. Nam lacinia, mi quis lacinia vulputate, velit leo porttitor nisi, eget porta metus sem vitae risus. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Vivamus nec tellus in nunc venenatis tristique. Donec vel quam. Donec eget justo in purus tempor nonummy. Fusce dignissim enim. Curabitur sit amet nisl nec justo sodales sodales. Ut lacinia adipiscing mauris. Pellentesque sit amet justo. Maecenas ante. Pellentesque id tortor non magna nonummy pretium. Duis sed velit. Sed sapien. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Aenean convallis. Mauris at ligula et arcu fermentum sodales. Ut facilisis, elit id ornare faucibus, metus ligula semper lectus, sed nonummy nisi mauris ac elit.

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Aliquam erat volutpat. Curabitur venenatis mauris in ligula. Phasellus lacinia vulputate mi. Fusce sed mauris. Etiam quis purus nec felis dignissim dictum. Cras viverra, magna at pharetra porta, magna tellus convallis tellus, vitae vestibulum pede justo et purus. Praesent suscipit interdum arcu. Sed leo. Mauris volutpat. Donec eget sem et orci placerat rutrum. Fusce eu eros in purus scelerisque molestie. Pellentesque aliquam ipsum ut enim. Maecenas ultrices nunc eget ligula. Donec erat risus, facilisis sed, iaculis eu, blandit sit amet, nisl. Sed ut nunc. Nunc vulputate elit a odio. Integer vulputate augue sed odio varius posuere. Mauris sollicitudin vulputate leo. Integer eu purus at lacus posuere ultrices. Ut imperdiet magna vitae ipsum.

General Issues / Totally Off Topic....
« on: Jul 28, 2005, 09:42:15 AM »
....but worth posting.

> From:  Ed Chenel (police officer in Australia)
>  Hi Yank, I thought you all would like to see the real figures from
> Down Under. It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia
> were forced by a new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be
> destroyed by our own government, a program costing Australia
> taxpayers more than $500 million dollars.     The first year results
> are now in: Australia-wide, homicides are up 6.2 percent ; Australia-
> wide, assaults are up 9.6 percent ; Australia-wide, armed robberies
> are up 44 percent (yes, 44 percent)! In the state of Victoria alone,
> homicides with firearms are now up 300 percent. (Note that while the
> law-abiding citizens turned them in, the criminals did not, and
> criminals still possess their guns!)    While figures over the
> previous 25 years showed a steady decrease in armed robbery with
> firearms, this has changed drastically upward in the past 12 months,
> since the criminals now are guaranteed that their prey is unarmed.
> There has also been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults of
> the elderly, while the resident is at home. Australian politicians
> are at a loss to explain how public safety has decreased, after such
> monumental effort and expense was expended in "successfully ridding
> Australian society of guns." You won't see this on the American
> evening news or hear your governor or members of the State Assembly
> disseminating this information.   The Australian experience speaks
> for itself. Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and
> property and, yes, gun-control laws affect only the law-abiding citizens.
>   Take note Americans, before it's too late

General Issues / OT But Still Important
« on: Jun 21, 2005, 07:52:14 AM »
Rumor has it that someone on the senate appropriations committee is going to try and sneak an amendment in to make the broadcast flag (DRM in digital television broadcasts) law this week.

 URGENT: Call your Senator RIGHT NOW or live with the goddamned Broadcast Flag forever!

    We've heard rumors that the Broadcast Flag that Cory, the EFF, and a coalition of pressure groups have fought so hard against (and beat in the courts) will be sneaked back via an amendment to the giant Senate Appropriations Bill in a sub-committee at 2PM EST on Tuesday 21st. This week is Hollywood's last chance to ram the flag past Congress, and they're working hard to get it under the radar.

    There's no time to write letters or start a media campaign: but folk in the states below have just enough time to warn their senators, who are all on the sub-committee. People of Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin - it's up to you!

    There's a sample script after the phone list. Remember: be cool, collected and polite. Most of these senators won't know a thing about the flag, until one of them makes it a throwaway amendment tomorrow. Make sure their ears twitch when they hear "broadcast flag" today.

    ALABAMA Senator Richard Shelby (202) 224-5744
    ALASKA Senator Ted Stevens (202) 224-3004
    HAWAII Senator Daniel Inouye (202) 224-3934
    IOWA Senator Tom Harkin (202) 224-3254
    KANSAS Senator Sam Brownback (202) 224-6521
    KENTUCKY Senator Mitch McConnell (202) 224-2541
    MARYLAND Senator Barbara Mikulski (202) 224-4654
    MISSOURI Senator Christopher Bond (202) 224-5721
    NEW HAMPSHIRE Senator Judd Gregg (202) 224-3324
    NEW MEXICO Senator Pete Domenici (202) 224-6621
    NORTH DAKOTA Senator Byron Dorgan (202) 224-2551
    TEXAS Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (202) 224-5922
    VERMONT Senator Patrick Leahy (202) 224-4242
    WASHINGTON Senator Patty Murray (202) 224-2621
    WISCONSIN Senator Herb Kohl (202) 224-5653

    "Hello, Senator _________'s office"

    "Hi, I'm a constituent. [Remember: Only say 'I'm a constituent' if you really are -- if you're calling the Senator from _your own state_] I'm registering my opposition to the broadcast flag amendment being introduced in the Senate Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations subcommittee mark-up on Tuesday, and in full committee on Thursday."

    (*** You can give your own reasons for opposing the flag here. Here's a sample: ***)

    "The Broadcast Flag cripples any device capable of receiving over-the-air digital broadcasts."

    "It give Hollywood movie studios a permanent veto over how members of the American public use our televisions."

    "It forces American innovators to beg the FCC for permission before adding new features to TV."

    "It will prevent fair use of copyrighted works: critical review, and use of material in distance learning"

    "This is an important issue which will affect all Americans, and should not be inserted in a large bill, at the last moment, with no debate."

    "Please oppose the broadcast flag amendment. My name and address are ___________________."

    "Thank you for your time."

    Good luck!

The EFF has an action alert where you can contact your senator on the committee, and tell them to stop the amendment. You can now fax and email appropriation committee members for free at the EFF's action center. Do it tonight, or live with the consequences of a Hollywood veto over your PC forever.


General Issues / OT - Stop the Broadcast Flag
« on: May 21, 2005, 08:12:32 AM »
Tell Congress to reject the Broadcast Flag

Earlier this month, we completely creamed the motion picture studios over the Broadcast Flag, an effort to criminalize open source and win a veto over the design of electronics and PCs. Now they're floating draft legal language on the Hill that would put the entire technology industry under their thumb, turning their friends at the FCC into device-czars with jurisdiction over any technology that could be used to facilitate "indiscriminate redistribution" of movies over the Internet (monitors, PVRs, analog-to-digital converters, hard drives, etc).

EFF has an action-alert you can use to tell your elected law-maker how you feel about this. Just enter your ZIP code and click submit, or better yet, rewrite our form letter to express your outrage in your own words.

A lawmaker who breaks America's televisions and PCs has no business expecting to be re-elected. In fact, such a Congresscritter would be lucky to get away with a mere tarring and feathering.

Send them a letter with this handy form:

The National ID card is a TERRIBLE idea, and I urge you to speak out and act against it while there is still time.

Subject: 48 hrs to D-Day on National ID card

D o w n s i z e r - D i s p a t c h


The Senate is expected to vote Monday on the
emergency appropriations bill containing the national
ID card provision.

Once this national ID card is in place it will be
almost impossible to get rid of it again. So now is
the time to act to oppose it.

Messages are flooding into the Senate. Add your voice
of opposition by clicking here:


I have an article about the "Read the Bills Act" on
page 15 of the current issue of LP News, and that
same op-ed is available at FreeMarketNews.com in
their Editorials & Market Analysis section. There's
also a new installment of Harry Browne's e-TV show,
"This Week in Liberty" posted on that site.


Two more people have joined the Submission Committee
for RTBA: Gregory A. Wolfe and David del Rio. To make
a contribution to join the Submission Committee click

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