FORMER CRIMINALS AND CHILD SUPPORT: YOU CAN PAY IT, Part 1

You know he's been in prison twice but he's turned his life around...so why cant he get a job and give you the child support that you need to feed your babies?

Non-payment of child support is becoming big business in many states. Unfortunately, it is not becoming big business for the people who need it most - the children.

One of the primary reasons men - and women - are unable to meet their child support responsibilities is because they have a criminal record. They are in "the system". They're out of jail but they are "on paper".

More than half of the time, individuals who report a criminal record are not hired. If a record is discovered during a background check, job offers are often rescinded or the position is no longer available, for any number of creative reasons. Jobs, along with the other social opportunities non-criminals enjoy, are referred to as collateral consequences; rights that are no longer available or are restricted to the barest minimum. 

So what does a former criminal, an "ex-con", do when he or she can not find a job?

  • Create entrepreneurial gigs: many former prisoners have created niche businesses for themselves and are doing quite well. For example, I know somebody who distributed a free daily from 4-10am at a subway. He then formed a small company with his crew folding, counting and distributing the papers at multiple subway sites. 
  • Connect multiple jobs: usually, the lower the pay scale the higher the chance that someone with a spotty past may be hired. Its hard to do for long periods of time, but for the first 3 to 4 years after release, take 2 low-paying jobs to create 1 full-time position.
  • Chase jobs: keep asking for jobs from everybody you know. Put aside your discomfort, and ask at your church, at the barber shop, at the mall, at the car wash, everywhere. Go back. Keep going back. As a last resort, volunteer and be the baddest, hardest-working man or woman they've ever seen for a week or two, and then repeat your ask for a job. 
  • Cultivate relationships with caring people or organizations: churches, non-profit groups focused on re-entry, parole or probation officers, college support services will help you if you ask for help and demonstrate a sincere desire to work and support your family.

One such organization is Prison Fellowship, an organization that promotes prisoner transformation while still incarcerated, along with re-entry support and training. Watch a video of their conversation with a man who has been laid off, despite doing everything right, due to prior convictions.

Another national organization, Healing Communities, partners with churches to establish local Stations of Hope. There, returning individuals receive practical one-on-one support within a framework of restorative justice, family reintegration and family support.

Come back next week. Former Criminals and Child Support: You Can Pay It, Part 2 examines how positive co-parenting can improve formerly incarcerated parents chances of contributing to his/her family.