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New services highlighted by agency for child support

Computers let clients track cases online

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Michael Colbert, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services chief, addresses the news conference. Behind him are Commissioners Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak, and agency director Deb Ortiz-Flores.

the blade/dave zapotosky
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Fardon Williams used to fear the Lucas County Child Support Enforcement Agency.

"I was a father that had a bad time coming down here," said the 24-year-old father of five.

But Mr. Williams now professes a new attitude.

The agency has helped him obtain legal representation for court appearances, aided his job search, and even has gone so far as to help him get a haircut before a job interview.

"They actually do a lot for us," he said Monday morning, speaking at a news conference to highlight services available at the agency and the agency's more collaborative approach to child support, as opposed to past years.

Michael Colbert, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, attended Monday to view the agency's new self-service computers and discuss services offered.

"The things we're doing involved not only collection, but putting the family with the child in some way," Mr. Colbert said.

Ohio collects about $2 billion annually in support for about one million children, he said.

Lucas County's child-support agency has installed self-service portals in its lobby so clients can look up information and manage their child-support cases online. The computers were on display during an open house Monday.

"We know not everyone has Internet access, or printers and copiers," said Deb Ortiz-Flores, head of the county's Child Support Enforcement and Job and Family Services agencies. "People need to be aware of their support orders and what is owed."

The county's Child Support Enforcement Agency collects more than $84 million annually for 55,000 children. August is Child Support Awareness Month in Lucas County and statewide.

Each Friday this month, child-support case managers are available in the lobby at 701 Adams St. from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. to assist anyone with child-support orders who has questions about case review, arrears forgiveness, or driver's license suspension.

"During the month of August, we are trying to highlight the services we have available all the time," said Ms. Ortiz-Flores.

About half of people who ask for case reviews never complete the process, Ms. Ortiz-Flores said, remarking that the volume of required paperwork can be intimidating or confusing to some.

The agency also is alerting parents to recent changes in state law and helping those whose driver's licenses have been suspended for nonpayment of support obtain reinstatement.

Last month, the Lucas County agency suspended 108 licenses and approved 70 for reinstatement. About 9,800 people in Lucas County now have suspended licenses for unpaid child support.

"We know that the absence of fathers has been costly to our community," said the Rev. Donald Perryman, pastor of Center of Hope Church. "When a father spends quality time with his children and brings economic resources to a household, there are better outcomes."

Contact Kate Giammarise at: kgiammarise@theblade.com or 419-788-0612.

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