The new side of child support enforcement

Tucked in among local vendors, community organizations and performing groups at Get Downtown! sat the table for an unusual and unexpected organization, the Division of Child Support Enforcement.

Get Downtown was held Friday, Sept. 8, and is an annual event that focuses on getting students from neighboring colleges into the downtown area, exploring local shops and restaurants. Since its creation, the event has grown to involve more than just college students as the whole local community often attends. It is because of the increased community involvement that DCSE decided to participate this year.

DCSE is making an effort to get more involved in community events as part of a statewide movement to rebrand the organization by eliminating their inherent bad reputation. Rather than focusing on their primary task, helping single parents to collect child support, the representatives at Get Downtown! were promoting their family support programs including mediation referrals and family engagement.

DCSE representative Suzanne Erickson was one of the individuals representing the organization at Get Downtown! She explained how their organization has shifted to focusing on the emotional support that a family needs in their everyday operations.

“When parents come in to discuss their account, we have started asking them about visitation and if there are any problems,” Erickson said. “We are trying to bring those families back together and offer mediation services to help parents work things out.”

Childhood Psychology Professor at Liberty University Marilyn Gadomski describes the feeling of abandonment as one of the biggest challenges that children from divorced homes have to overcome. This psychological barrier often comes as the result of a parent suddenly disappearing from their life or making promises that they then do not keep.

“Father’s will promise that they are going to come and get the children or pay attention and spend time with them and then not show up,” Gadomski said. “If fathers are consistent with what they say they are going to do and if they are consistent in doing what they say they are going to do then it relieves some of that fear and anxiety that children have. Also, having both parents active in the child’s life will eliminate this fear of abandonment.”

In order to combat the damage that abandonment causes children, local DCSE branches have been working to create programs that work with parents to teach them how to be a positive force in their child’s life. Here in the Lynchburg and Buena Vista area, the program is called Total Action for Progress (TAP) Fathers First. The group focuses on promoting healthy relationships, communication skills and parenting responsibilities in a classroom and group setting.

“Child support is more than financial,” said deputy commissioner of DCSE , Craig Burshem, in a press release issued last month. “Children need physical and emotional security. It’s important to DCSE that we engage local communities to promote awareness around programs and services that can help parents facilitate successful outcomes for themselves and their children.”

Dr. Gadomski praised DCSE’s changes saying that the promotion of parenting classes and mediation is a step in the right direction.

“The more that they can do with parenting training the better and individual training,” Dr. Gadomski said. “How the parents talk and relate to each other and how they, as hopefully a joint unit, relate to the children. But if they cannot agree how to parent together, then at least how they parent separately so that they are not accusing each other or making the children choose one over the other. So that individually and as a unit, they parent the children in a way that then the children do not have to try to overcome the conflict.”

In addition to parenting classes, there are online resources offered on DCES’s website including:

· Family engagement resources

· Co-parenting tips

· Communication guides

· Fatherhood parenting guides

· Visitation & mediation guides

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