Deadbeat parents catch break during Child Support Warrant Amnesty Day in Canton

CANTON, Ohio - D'Andre Williams was only a kid when he started having children. At the age of 15, he became a father for the first time. He's now 24 and his six children from five different mothers.

The Canton man fully realizes he made poor life choices.

"I love all of my kids. Don't get me wrong. If I could have my kids in a different situation, maybe years down the road in life, it would probably have been better," Williams said.

On Wednesday, Williams was one of several non-custodial parents who showed for Child Support Warrant Amnesty Day at Life Ministries in Canton. Stark County Job and Family Services teamed up with local agencies for the event, designed to give deadbeat parents a one-time opportunity to clear a warrant without fear of being arrested.

In Williams' case, a warrant was issued for his arrest one year ago. During his visit to the amnesty program, he learned he owed his children $19,000.

Asked if he wanted to support his kids, Williams said, "I wouldn't be here if I didn't."

Williams said his driver's license was taken away for non-payment of child support, which created a barrier to employment.

"You can get a job and then they ask for your driver's license. Child support puts a hold on your driver's license, you can't get the job," he said.

During the event, Williams met with a case manager and discovered he could get his license reinstated if he provides a letter from an employer that plans to hire him.

A magistrate also cleared his warrant and scheduled a hearing in November to discuss his case.

Rob Pierson, the deputy director of SCJFS child support enforcement, said about 300 warrants for failure to child support were issued in Stark County. All of the suspects were sent letters informing them of amnesty opportunity.

"It's a fresh start and it's a way to reengage them back into the system, and for us to be able to talk with the family court about their child support responsibility," Pierson said.

Pierson also indicated that Stark County is owed about $125 million in back child support and collects between $63 and $65 million per year.  This year, 51 people showed up, 30 warrants were canceled and 21 driver's licenses were reinstated, Pierson said.

One hundred and twenty individuals attended the same event the in 2011 and 2012, representing more than $1.25 million in arrearages.More than 60 of those people cleared a total of 81 warrants.

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