Net Unique: Marion County sees excessive success with little one assist, driver’s license initiative
A program that allows custodial parents to reintroduce their driver’s licenses in Indianapolis for agreeing to pay child maintenance arrears has helped hundreds recover their driver’s licenses in exchange for paying their maintenance obligations. (Shutterstock.com photo)
Just one year after launching a new program to provide caregivers with additional child support and more freedom for non-caring parents, the Marion County Attorney’s Office is seeing promising results in its good faith initiative.
The Good Faith Initiative, unveiled to the public in December 2019, aims to remove barriers for unsupported parents who are willing to meet their financial support obligations for children. The initiative offers parents the opportunity to restore their driver’s license when they commit to making affordable payment for their child support chores and updating their employment information.
Looking back on the numbers recorded last year, Marion County Attorney Ryan Mears said he believes the Good Faith Initiative has been incredibly successful since it was first launched.
In order to participate in the program, parents must agree to make affordable payment for child support, update their employment information if necessary, and commit to paying the agreed amount. The prosecutor must be notified once the amount is paid, and once the terms are completed, their license will be restored.
There are four steps that non-caring parents can participate in:
Step 1: Complete the Good Faith Initiative form at www.indy.gov/goodfaith
Step 2: Arrange and make affordable payments based on solvency
Step 3: Update employment information if available
Step 4: Have your driver’s license restored
“We say, ‘What can you pay based on your current circumstances and we will reinstate your driver’s license? ‘And that seems like a happy medium where we can help parents make sure they can keep working, but also make sure they can participate in their children’s lives, ”said Mears.
The program grew out of discussions Mears had with community members about how his office could help with their battle against license and livelihood issues.
After never offering the opportunity, Mears said he wasn’t sure what the reaction to the initiative or its success would be.
“We made agreements with 244 people, and 230 of those people actually reintroduced their license and made payments for their maintenance obligations,” Mears said of the December 2019 event and a later event in August 2020. “The vast majority of people did the agreement made by us has been adhered to. “
In addition, Mears said his office could achieve its ultimate goal: reinstating licenses, but also getting parents to repay debt.
“And the vast majority of those who signed up had never paid a cent for their maintenance obligation. So we got people who didn’t really pay anything into the system and got good contact information for them. “
Meet the need
What was originally intended as a temporary opportunity has now become an annual event. Before making it official, however, Mears said his office needs to make sure the program is working and needed by the community.
After parents struggled with unemployment caused by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Mears’ office decided to bring the program back in August to address the aggravated economic situation instead of waiting until December. The need for a second chance is now even greater, he noted.
“The hard part of such a program is seeing how many people are in need. Unfortunately, we meet a lot of people who often have more than one job and work very hard to just end up being broke, ”said Mears. “They have no margin of error and live from paycheck to paycheck, they have no financial flexibility, and there has to be something when you have an unexpected economic situation.
“We saw more driving licenses suspended,” he said. “That was a message … that we need to be more proactive.”
Mike McGuire, assistant prosecutor and assistant manager of the child support division, said he had also seen COVID-19 struggles for parents in custody and in custody.
“Whether you are able to get unemployed, how much that will be to pay rent, then you raise the problem of schooling that parents have to stay at home for virtual learning,” said McGuire.
“This may be the first time our custodial parents realize that we can help them if they don’t have a lawyer to do it for them,” added McGuire. “We try to ensure that if you contact us in good faith, you are informed of all the services that are available to you.”
Make connections, move forward
While Mears says the program has seen far more gains than losses, he said one area of improvement would be the office’s ability to reconnect with any parent who tries.
“We invest in trying to get it to work and sometimes we are unable to get in touch with people or get in touch with people when they reach us,” he said. “We are eager to help and there have been too many occasions when we have not been able to reconnect with someone.”
The Good Faith Initiative was restarted on December 1st. Going forward, Mears said his office plans to host the event two to three times a year. This season, the format will be virtual due to COVID-19 concerns. As a result, the process will look a little different, McGuire said.
“However you reach our office, we will usually reach you by phone. If we cannot reach them by phone, we will send a letter explaining the terms and ask them to contact us for the information, ”said McGuire.
So far, McGuire said prosecutors had phone calls to most of the parents and proceeded from there. Another way to connect is to have parents send the office family lawyer email address to [email protected].