An innovative Paternity Project has allowed Athens County officials to cut the paternity caseload by 20% with help from investigators who work for $250 a month.
Public assistance recipients helped solve most of the cases, some of which had been pending for 15 years. They did so as part of a program sponsored by the county Department of Human Services.
“There’s a lot of reluctance to use people in this type of program,” says Bob Gallagher, county Child Support Enforcement Agency director. “It’s different if they’re hired to pick up trash.”
Many welfare recipients work for the government to pay off Aid to Dependent Children grants. But this county in the Appalachian foothills is the only one in Ohio that gives them jobs as investigative aides, Gallagher says, adding, “It’s a lot cheaper than using a full-time investigator. They’re very good workers.”
$250 a Month The agency pays four workers $250 monthly as investigative and clerical aides. A full-time investigator would cost at least $1,300 a month, he says. Since June, two of the aides have been hired for full-time jobs with the local human services agency.
The specialized paternity unit was made possible by a $32,479 grant from the state and $69,000 in federal aid, said Curt Barnes, who notes that public assistance workers do everything from researching birth certificates to interviewing men named in paternity suits.