The Franklin County Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) has recently started a pilot program that helps non-custodial parents who have repeatedly been in court for failure to pay child support access resources which may give them better tools to provide for their children. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the program, called Compass, connects the parent with community resources that provide services such as food, clothing and housing assistance, as well as job training and placement. Judge Terri Jamison of the Franklin County Domestic Relations and Juvenile Courts implemented the program in her courtroom last week on a trial basis, evaluating whether to create a specialized child support docket.
The program is designed to divert offenders from potential sentences involving jail time in an effort to provide life skills and resources for parents to support their children. Susan Brown, the Franklin County CSEA's executive director, reports that sending people to jail does not truly help the agency achieve its goal of obtaining financial assistance for children, but that it is often the only tool the agency has to enforce compliance with child support orders. The Compass program is unique in that it attempts to break the cycle of non-payment through proactive means by providing skills and resources to the non-custodial parent. Brown reports that under Ohio law the CSEA is not permitted to use state and federal funds to help these parents find employment. The Compass program is possible, however, because Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services is providing $300,000 in funds set aside to help low-income county residents.