When fathers woke up Wednesday morning and checked their phones, they received a Father’s Day greeting they did not want to see.
That message from York County Domestic Relations read as follows:
‘‘Looking for the ideal Father’s Day Gift? Make a child suport [sic] payment!!!!’’
The message included a link to make child support payments. The Domestic Relations Office says that it was sent out to more than 2,600 people, both male and female. However, it only mentions Father’s Day, and these dads say they did not need the reminder.
“They look at us as bank accounts or dollar signs,” Nathan Fleming said.
Fleming is a father of two, and he is the founder of the Daddy Project of York, an organization that helps fathers be an integral part of their kids life.
Domestic Relations says the messages were sent to parents whose payments are in arrears, but these dads dispute that and say they were flagged because of pending custody and spousal support litigation.
For fathers like Michael Franklin, whose child support payments are automatically deducted through his federal government job, the message was especially not appreciated.
“The sarcasm that goes along with this message, for somebody who my payments are being automatically made, this went out to me as well,” Franklin said. “The stigma of being a deadbeat father and not being a part of your children’s lives is devastating to me.”
The timing of the message also has the fathers upset.
“It can completely discourage you from looking forward to father’s day in general,” Fleming said. “And, to receive something like that is just another slap in the face.”
When asked about the message, the York County Domestic Relations Office had this to say:
“Under no circumstance was the message intended to offend any of the recipients. It was a good-faith attempt to remind individuals, both male and female, of the need to make their child-support payments.”
Here is the entire statement from York County Domestic Relations:
“The York County Domestic Relations Office is tasked with ensuring children are receiving court-ordered child support payments. To help achieve this goal, we believe it is important to use the latest technology, such as text messaging, to reach clients and deliver information regarding matters related to child support.
Just as regular parental contact with a child is important, so is financial support. It must be consistent and reliable to meet the financial needs of the children ordered to receive it. This support helps pay for critical needs such as food, clothing and shelter.
The Domestic Relations Office takes seriously its responsibility to enforce court-ordered support. Failing to pay support can leave a child without adequate resources to succeed. Through the first five months of this year, more than 16 percent of court-ordered child support had not been remitted to our office.
A text message was sent at approximately 7 a.m. on June 4, 2014 to male and female individuals who were in arrears of child support. The goal of this text message was to remind these individuals to meet their obligation and to link them with resources to make payments.
We’ve subsequently been alerted through the media that a few of the 2,627 text-message recipients have expressed concern regarding the message.
While we cannot comment on specific cases, we acknowledge there are various reasons why individuals may fall behind on payments, including through unexpected hardships or other circumstances.
Under no circumstance was the message intended to offend any of the recipients. It was a good-faith attempt to remind individuals, both male and female, of the need to make their child-support payments.
As such, we stand firmly behind the intent of the message and find it disheartening that attention thus far has centered on a few individuals’ criticism of the specific content of the text message instead of the broader problem facing our community. It is of course much easier to focus on the vocal few than the voiceless children struggling because an individual is failing to make timely child support payments.
Whether male or female, people ordered to pay child support must fulfill their obligations. We remain committed to working cooperatively with individuals to make that happen, and hope the attention this issue has drawn will help spread that message.”