WHITE PLAINS, NY --County Executive Robert P. Astorino has declared August to be Child Support Awareness Month in Westchester County, calling on all noncustodial parents to fulfill their financial obligations to their children. Astorino also congratulated the county’s Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) on collecting more than $75 million in child support in 2014 – more than any previous year.
“There is nothing more important than making sure we care for and protect our children,” Astorino said. “The money collected through child support makes it possible for children to live better lives, and often it is the only thing that prevents them from living in poverty. I want to make it absolutely clear that all parents have an obligation to support their children, and Westchester County is working very successfully to make sure that happens.”
The OCSE, a division of the Department of Social Services, handles roughly 21,000 cases annually. Duties range from establishing paternity and issuing support orders to collecting payments and ensuring that more children receive the financial support to which they are entitled.
As of June 30, 2015, the OCSE has collected more than $39 million in child support payments.
Astorino presented a proclamation to members of the OCSE team on August 13 and was joined by a diverse group of community partners representing Family Services of Westchester, the White Plains Youth Bureau, the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau, and others.
“Working in partnership with County Executive Astorino, it is of paramount importance that we continue to do all we can to strengthen and support families throughout Westchester,” said Susan B. Wayne, president and chief executive officer of Family Services of Westchester, a nonprofit organization. “By recognizing Child Support Awareness Month, we join with Mr. Astorino in our commitment to making sure parents fulfil their roles as providers for their children.”
The declaration is the latest in an ongoing series of initiatives Astorino has aimed at strengthening the important role of the family, and fathers in particular.
Announced during his State of the County Address in April, Astorino’s fatherhood initiative targets the full spectrum of fathers, from those who are present in the home to those who are not. Outreach ranges from recreational and educational events to social media campaigns focused around the hashtag #DadBeThere.
A centerpiece of the initiative is the Fatherhood Demonstration Project. The goal is to get fathers – particularly noncustodial parents (NCPs) – involved in their child’s life, and if these NCPs owe child support, then they will be directed toward programs that address the obstacles that prevent them from paying. For instance, programs will address job readiness and training, employment searches, and relationship building.
“Many times there are barriers that prevent people from paying their child support, such as lack of employment, substance abuse or mental health issues,” Astorino said. “Our goal is to help break down these barriers and make families stronger. It’s important that we demystify the child support process and encourage dads to be there for their children all year long, no excuses.”
Looking ahead, Astorino encourages fathers and community partners to save the following dates:
· September 22, 2015 – Dads Take Your Child to School Day (http://www.dadstakeyourchildtoschoolday.com)
· April 5, 2016 – 2nd Annual Fathering Conference at the County Center
To learn more about Astorino’s Fatherhood Initiative, please contact Joseph D. Kenner, DSS Deputy Commissioner, at [email protected] or (914) 995-3287. Join the conversation and help promote the important role of the father on social media using the hashtag #DadBeThere.