KNOXVILLE—A University of Tennessee, Knoxville, program that delivers child support services to inmates and helps newly released offenders find work and other important community assistance, has been recognized by the federal government.
The Tennessee Partnership for Ongoing Parental Support was featured as an example of successful practice in the November issue of Child Support Report, a publication of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child Support Enforcement.
The UT College of Social Work’s Office of Research and Public Service manages the program. It serves men at the Morgan County Correctional Complex and has been in existence three years.
“This is a population that’s forgotten,” said Monica Roush, who, along with Martha Deaton, coordinates the program. “They commit a crime and our society wants to see them punished. We, as a culture, don’t think about the impact of them returning to our communities and what this means for their children. Add to that the barrier of the parent owing a huge debt in child support, and that sometimes keeps them from reuniting in the family unit.”
The initiative addresses inmates’ child support issues, from giving them a status update on what they owe to facilitating DNA testing, Roush said.
Some inmates do start paying child support even while in prison.
It also offers parenting education classes where participants can learn about their rights and pick up skills for effective parenting. Inmates voluntarily sign up.
“We have several men who seek us out and are eager to do something for their kids,” Roush said.
Once inmates are released from prison, the program connects them to the appropriate services to ensure successful re-entry into their communities.
To date, the program coordinators have taught thirty-one child support and parenting education classes to 601inmates and administered child support services to 366 inmates.
To read the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ publication, visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cse/pubs/2011/csr/csr1111.pdf.
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