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CNN Today

Myers: Car Booting the 'Latest Innovation' by States to Crack Down on Deadbeat Parents

Aired January 4, 2000 - 1:23 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Beginning this month, deadbeat parents in Virginia face an ugly surprise. Their cars may be booted and labeled if they owe back child support. It may sound harsh, but a lot of states will be watching and taking notes.

Joining us now from Denver is Teresa Myers. She's a child support enforcement expert with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Thanks for being with us, Teresa.

TERESA MYERS, NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES: Thank you.

ALLEN: What's up with the booting of cars? Is it shaming parents into paying up? Is the problem that bad?

MYERS: I think it is that bad, and I think that a lot of legislators and state agency administers are searching for innovative ways to target the parents who are able but, for whatever reason, unwilling to meet their child support obligations, and the boots are the latest innovation.

ALLEN: What exactly happens to someone's car, and where could it happen? Anywhere?

MYERS: Well, right now, Virginia's been the pioneer state in this area, and they did a pilot program in November of 1997 in Fairfax County where they booted 15 individuals' cars. And now they're launching it statewide. So anywhere in Virginia. And we know of three other localities that are running similar car boot programs, one in New Jersey and two counties in Michigan.

ALLEN: So someone comes out to their driveway in the morning and finds that they can't drive their car, and there's an ugly sticker on there letting their neighbors know that they owe a lot of child support?

MYERS: Yes, exactly. And the boots are pink or blue in Virginia, depending on the gender of the child awaiting the child support. And I'm told that there is a large neon sticker placed over the windshield indicating that the car is being confiscated for failure to pay child support. ALLEN: There must be a lot of children out there that aren't getting their money. Can you give us an idea of the money that, say, a typical state tries to collect?

MYERS: Well, it ranges -- the state case loads range dramatically, as you might imagine, based on state population. But, for instance, a recent study in California found that more children received -- were obligated to the child support program either through private attorneys or through the state agency than any other public program except the public schools. So you're looking at an awful lot of children that are involved in the child support program nationally.

ALLEN: And you expect this is something that folks around the country might be seeing soon?

MYERS: Yes, I do think it is likely to spread. I think it would have spread even further by now if it weren't for the fact that most child support programs are really taxed-out right now with their funding situations. They're having a lot of trouble even meeting the basic needs of the program. So I think that, in a few years when some of these other federal mandates have been met and the states have a little bit of money, perhaps, to play with to innovate a little bit, we'll see some more boots around the country.

ALLEN: Are people giving -- given a warning before this happens to their car? Do they know it might be coming?

MYERS: Oh, yes. People are given several opportunities both in the state of Virginia and in other states to work with the state on the child support obligation. This booting program was launched in Virginia as part of what was called the Kid's First Campaign in which notices went out to parents offering them a two-week amnesty period during which they can negotiate a work-payment program, something like that, in which they could pay off their debt gradually, over a long period of time. And at the end of those two weeks, if they didn't comply, then they would be subjected to more severe sanctions, including boots.

ALLEN: Well, interesting sounding program. Teresa Myers, thank you for joining us today.

MYERS: Thank you.

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