BELLEFONTE — Several parents in Centre County truly owe their children a debt.
Forty-one people are wanted for not paying court-ordered child support as of Friday, according to the latest list of outstanding bench warrants for nonpayment compiled by the county Domestic Relations Office. Some scofflaws are on the list twice or even three times for separate cases.
The amounts range from about $100 to more than $63,000. All told, the missing monthly payments add up to more than $335,000 not helping children during National Child Support
Enforcement Awareness Month.
To get on the list, people skipped a contempt of court hearing for failure to pay, or are not complying with an ongoing contempt order.
They represent a fraction of Domestic Relations child support cases, but Director Ann Marie Oldani wants to see the list down to zero.
Her office only schedules people for contempt hearings at which it must be shown defendants, who can argue their cases, are willfully not paying support as a last resort, Oldani said.
It also urges people in arrears to work with staff members and avoid the warrant list.
Our goal is to get money for kids, not put people in jail, Oldani said.
Those caught may serve up to six months in prison. They also may face fines, though Oldani isnt in favor of the financial penalty.
Using fines in a child support matter doesnt seem practical, she said. We want the defendants paying their support, not fines.
Tracking them down can take time.
Local last-known addresses often turn out to be dead ends.
Even if they appear current, when a caseworker and sometimes an accompanying law enforcement officer show up and the target isnt home, theres not much they can do except return another time.
We dont break down doors, Oldani said.
Case in point: John A. Shawley, 40, of Bellefonte, is on the warrants list twice, for $18,665.97 in one case and $15,932.66 for another. But at his last-known address at 407 Willowbank St. on Friday, a woman who identified herself as his cousin said he no longer lived there, and that she didnt know his location.
Oldani said anonymous tips sometimes lead to delinquent parents. Law enforcement officers can access the bench warrants, and sometimes routine traffic stops or minor arrests deliver scofflaws to Oldanis office.
Collaborating with the Department of Labor and Industry and plugging into national and state databases of new hires can lead to money coming from paychecks through wage attachment.
Caseworkers can comb social media sites for revealing postings, such as ones about jobs paid in cash under the table.
The Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, corrections and welfare departments and other agencies provide alerts.
Other tools for securing payments include liens on property, denial of passport applications and frozen bank accounts.
But in Centre County at least, none of it is necessary for the vast majority of parents ordered to provide support.
Oldani said 88 percent of her offices cases pay in full, on time, each month a collection rate tops among her peers statewide. The federal standard, she said, is 80 percent.
She also has seen the county warrants list shrink over the years an encouraging sign to her.
The majority of people want to do right by their children, they absolutely do, she said. Were here to help them do it by the system.
Chris Rosenblum can be reached at 231-4620. Follow him on Twitter@CRosenblumNews.