Published 12:00 am Monday, July 16, 2007

Making parents pay
When parents don’t make child support payments, incarceration is one frequent result. But the Rowan County Department of Social Services is looking at a better idea with a “house arrest” program that would use electronic monitoring devices as a way to monitor nonpayers while giving them another chance to fulfill their financial obligations to their children.
The program, which has been successfully implemented in several other counties, has two advantages over throwing nonpayers in jail. It creates a way for parents in arrears to work and earn money, which they can’t do while in prison. It also promises to be less costly to operate and monitor. On average, the monitoring program costs $8-$12 per day, versus up to $50 per day to house and feed an inmate.
Nonpayment of child support is an epidemic problem around the country. In North Carolina alone, it’s estimated that more than 300,000 families struggle to make ends meet because of nonpayment, with roughly a third of assessed parents failing to make their regular payments. The proposed electronic monitoring program could be a cost-effective way to ensure that more parents pay child support, which means better living conditions and healthier lifestyles for more of Rowan County’s children. The program has worked elsewhere, and there’s no reason to think it can’t be equally effective here.