Child support beneficiaries who have been subjected to over a year of painstaking delays in the disbursement of funds paid to the courts are hopeful that the current process, which has resulted in hardship for many parents, will be fixed once and for all.
Last year, beneficiaries of child support were advised that the system of direct deposits to beneficiary bank accounts instituted several years earlier had been stopped, and that checks for the same were to be collected at the Magistrate’s Court.
A memo posted at the Nassau Street Magistrate’s Court dated June 8, 2018 gave notice of the new procedure.
Late last month, a distressed mother contacted Perspective seeking help, saying, “I’m asking for assistance on behalf of the parents who receive payments at the court. Ma’am, it takes up to two months to receive a check for money that is paid to the courts.
“Week after week we would continue to go there to be insulted by the fact that there is nothing ready. We have children to take care of. Please, ma’am, we need help. I am unemployed at this time. I know no one in politics and I’m just a humble person trying to take care of my kids. Please help us,” she stressed.
Another mother, Ms. Andrews, who told of the frustrations endured by having to make repeated trips to the court, said, “Months and months back to back only to hear them say it’s not ready. It’s bad because the funds that are supposed to assist with the child or children, we can’t even get it and it’s almost as if it’s defeating the purpose of putting a person in court.”
We contacted Attorney General Carl Bethel, who advised that the initial card program under the previous administration, which was associated with a broader facility by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), was canceled after “faults” were found in the program.
“We are working on a program to restore wire transfer payments to Bank of Bahamas (BOB) debit cards owned by the beneficiary mothers,” he said. “I will call in the Supreme Court registrar to explain continued delays, as based on our last meeting this matter ought to have been well on the way to resolution.”
Bethel explained that a review by the IDB and the Ministry of Finance early in the new administration’s term was conducted and “it was found that due to poor project implementation, there was evidence of fraud in too many cases”.
“When the IDB program went, so did the digital child support payments,” he added.
After two weeks of following up with the attorney general, Bethel indicated last Tuesday via email that he had not yet met with the registrar, noting that “registrars are very busy people”, but he pointed out that instructions to reinstate the wire transfer system were given last year.
“I gave instructions nearly a year ago to use BOB debit cards,” he indicated. “We met with the registrar and the management of BOB at my office. All systems seemed to be a go. I have told you all that I know.”
Our follow-up took a promising turn two hours after our email correspondence with the attorney general when one of the affected mothers, Shatina Humes, a divorcee, contacted Perspective to say an announcement at the court had been made that the wire transfer system would be re-instituted the following week (this week).
It is an announcement that mothers like Humes are anxious to see fulfilled.
“Every time I enter that courtroom and see those young men and women my heart goes out to them,” she said in an email sent to Perspective that detailed her life’s struggles as a now single mother of three sons, as well as her calls for reform to the civil court system.
“No one sees the circumstances that [are] rooted into these children,” Humes stressed. “I grew up in a single home, my mother was a victim of domestic abuse and I made so many mistakes.
“Now at the age of 34, I have decided to finally further my education and go after my dream to become a carpenter and create tiny homes for single parents in an effort to teach single parents the value of a stable home for our children.”