COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A Franklin County judge says she wants to see less families get pulled apart because of child support and more families working together to support their child.
Juvenile Court Judge Terri Jamison launched the Compass Program in 2014. It puts parents that are struggling to pay child support or connect with their children in front of job training and help them get employment opportunities. The goal of this program is to create healthy family relationships.
On Thursday, the Compass Program held a job and services fair to help parents access employment opportunities and get the benefits they need.
One of the fathers who participated is Lewis Ruffin. He says he’s hoping to become an active parent in all 22 of his childrens lives.
“I’m trying to just stay out here and live my life and get a better life for together for my kids,” said Ruffin. “I was back and forth to court so much it was so hectic.”
Judge Jamison says the Compass Program is a last chance for many of the people that come in her courtroom to avoid a felony indictment for non-support.
“The one thing I noticed, I was seeing the same individuals coming back with the same problem. They were being held in contempt for not making child support payments,” said Judge Jamison.
She says some are now making their child support payments regularly.
“We’ve had about 40% of the individuals that have come through the program to become gainfully employed,” Jamison said.
Services and employers from COTA, Franklin County Jobs and Family Services and Jewish and Family Services came out to connect people with career opportunities.
“Even though there is a 4% unemployment rate, there are lots of work opportunities and what we try to share with people is to take advantage of it, let’s get in a training program,” said Fred Points, with Jewish Family Services.
Other like Thell Robinson III, founder of the Halt Violence program, work with young men and fathers to give them the tools to stay out of the criminal system.
“I respect the program because there is no need have a person in jail when they can be employed and still provide for their child as well as being a good father,” said Robinson.
“All of the statistics that both parents are necessary in a child’s life. This is all about the best interest of the children because your family matters,” said Judge Jamison.
The Compass Program hopes to have career and job trainings like this one at least four times a year.