MILWAUKEE — A program is helping fathers struggling with child support.
America Works of Wisconsin held a forum for men looking for help with child support. However, their help goes far beyond the money they owe.
"It's not sometimes a matter of a person not wanting to pay as it is the inability to pay sometimes," Shanyeill McCloud, Executive Director of Second Chance Staffing Services said. "We want to help change that narrative that everybody, just because you have a record, doesn't make you a criminal."
Nearly 50 men showed up for the forum at America Works of Wisconsin, which has several resources available for them. They have experts to walk the men through any questions they have regarding child support, job training, job openings or even expungement.
"A deadbeat dad is a title a lot of people get but they really do want to do the right thing," Carlyle Outten, Director of America Works of Wisconsin said. "The arrearages still accumulate [if they're in jail] and they can come out with this massive amount of debt. They have to pay this and they're obligated so they need help. If you're a $7.25 or $8 an hour person dealing with child support arrearages, you're sleeping on your mother's couch as long as that's available to you and you really don't have a life."
"It tends to add up rapidly fast and you can't keep up with it," Christopher Alexander said.
Alexander is a father of four. He doesn't have a job and has had past struggles in his life. Now, he's desperate to get back on his feet to take care of his kids.
"My main agenda is to be able to provide for my kids," Alexander said. "That's my main agenda. I'm to the point where I'm not too choosey about what I do."
The goal is, the fathers here can get back on their feet and cultivate quality relationships with their families to make a generational impact.
"If they didn't have the opportunity to engage in certain programs and come from a broken home or single-family home, they never got information to be able to affect the change in the next generation," Dr. Carl Wesley, President and CEO of Center of Self Sufficiency said.
There are currently about 124,000 child support cases in Milwaukee County which is most in the state. Last year, only 64 percent of the total child support owed in the county was collected.
But America Works of Wisconsin says it's less about the child support and more about supporting the child.
"The reputation that's out there or stigma out there is that our fathers don't want to be a part and that's not true," Gwendolyn Luckett with America Works of Wisconsin said. "But they have questions and are fearful."
"With men, we have an issue with pride," Alexander said. "It's about asking for help. Humbling ourselves and asking for help. This is a great start."
America Works of Wisconsin hopes to hold these forums once a month. For more information, you can visit America Works of Wisconsin's Facebook page.