In February, law enforcement officials finally caught Joseph Stroup, America’s most-wanted deadbeat dad. Stroup owes nearly $560,000 in unpaid child support and has been on the run for the last 20 years. Stroup’s capture moves Christopher Carroll, a former business executive who owes more than $250,000 in unpaid support, to the top of the most-wanted list. And while not all delinquent child support cases are this high profile, they do share one thing in common: they’re robbing children of the support they need and deserve.
Without that support in place, millions of single-parent families are forced into lives of poverty, dependency, and despair. Nearly half of families who receive no child support or have no child support awards are dependent on Medicaid, food stamps, public housing, or other welfare benefits. They are nearly 60 percent more likely to receive food stamps as families who receive the full amount of owed child support. When child support goes unpaid, most of these families will remain trapped in dependency for years to come: fewer than one in ten will leave the program within a year, while three in five will languish in dependency for more than eight years.