'Turn it Around' program helps moms pay overdue child support - WDRB 41 Louisville News

'Turn it Around' program helps moms pay overdue child support

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The term "deadbeat" is usually associated with dads who don't take care of their children. But sometimes, moms are the ones missing in action.

WDRB News has discovered a program that helps turn both men and women from inmates into income earners.

The "Turn It Around" program is used as an alternative to being locked up at Metro Corrections. That's because no one pays child support from behind bars.

The majority of the cases are men, but there are also women in the program.

"Good evening, ladies, good evening, good evening, good evening...welcome to TIA," said Michael Foree, as he opened class for the TIA program.

The meeting was held inside a makeshift classroom inside the Hall of Justice.

Foree is the facilitator and explained to the women in the class, "There are no victims in this room...the only victims are babies."

The students are all women who owe thousands of dollars in back child support.

"It's a lot," said Erin Cull, who is one of the women who owes back child support.

Virginia Newton is another noncustodial mother. She said, "It's around $5,000 or $6,000 right now."

Of her child support, Cull said, "Probably $8,000 or $9,000."

Erin Cull, Virginia Newton and all of the other women lost custody of their children and were eventually arrested for nonsupport.

Newton said, "I had lost my job and wasn't able to make child support."

"I was actually selling drugs and I went to prison...so all of that time and stuff...I owe back child support," said Cull.

But instead of serving time behind bars at Metro Corrections, the women were allowed to enter the county attorney's Turn it Around or TIA program.

"Y'all know you have to list rent, child support," said Foree, during class.

County Attorney Mike O'Connell's office took over the program in 2009, initially targeting men. The program added women in 2011, and is considered a success.

O'Connell said, "We've been able to determine that we've collected about $3.8 million in child support that otherwise, perhaps, would not have been collected."

"He was on the run for nonsupport and they caught up with him," said Marie Stotko, custodial parent.

Stotko is one of many parents who have benefited from the TIA program. Her ex-boyfriend owed thousands in back child support but she's now getting weekly payments again.

Stotko explained, "I was excited and I was getting money. It's good...but I just worry...I hope it's going to continue in the end."

The majority of the people in the program are men, but O'Connell says there is a growing number of women who have been prosecuted for nonsupport.

"The percentage of women that are non-custodial parents that are required to contribute has increased steadily over the last 5, 6, 7 years."

Foree explained that one of the excuses he hears from women in the program is, "They took my children from me." He says that while most men blame the child's mother for their misfortune, women usually point the finger in a different direction.

"It is the system's fault, with females," said Foree.

It is his job to get them back on track to paying child support and custody of their children, if that's the goal. He also says there's a lot of shame involved with women in the program.

"Because of the fact that society looks upon them, if nothing else...how could a mother lose custody of her child?" said Foree.

We saw that first-hand with the two women we interviewed.

"It has been a long time," said Erin Cull, speaking of the last time she had custody of her children. "I want to be a mom more than anything in this world."

"My ultimate goal is to get all my children back," said Newton.

The TIA program also works with local companies to help men and women in the program find jobs. The goal is to keep them out of jail and current with their child support payments.

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