Harford County Court Program Celebrates 20 Years of
Helping Parents Find Jobs, Pay Child Support
(Bel Air, MD — March 16, 2007) The Harford County Absent Parent Employment Program (APEP) began as a casual conversation between a judge and a state employment counselor 20 years ago. APEP has since been credited with helping more than 1,600 people find jobs to pay close to $3 million in child support.
The idea was formed in 1986, when Harford County Circuit Judge William O. Carr was talking casually with an administrator in the state’s job service program. Judge Carr mentioned that he wished there were jobs for the parents who appeared before him for being delinquent in child support payments; the administrator replied that he wished he had more applicants for the jobs his office was advertising. They decided to join forces to develop APEP that same year, and gained funding for the program through the Maryland Department of Human Resources two years later.
“It’s a positive, effective program because we focus on getting child support payments to the children,” said Judge Carr, who hears all child support cases in the county.
When Judge Carr orders parents into the program, their skills, abilities, and needs are assessed and with an APEP counselor’s help they have access to a variety of services. The parents are provided with job referrals, training in how to find and interview for jobs, resumé writing assistance, and basic computer workshops. If necessary, there are also referrals to vocational rehabilitation, family mediation, occupational training, educational services, and mental health services. On average, 80 percent of the program’s participants obtain employment; those who do not find employment must appear before Judge Carr.
APEP is located in the Bel Air Work Force Center and operates through the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation in conjunction with the Circuit Court, county Office of Child Support Enforcement, Department of Social Services, Sheriff’s Department, State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Parent Access Program. Agency representatives meet each month to discuss ways of making the child support process function more effectively. “We’ve gotten to know each other really well,” said Julie McFillin, the program supervisor who works along with counselor Al Conrad. “Interagency cooperation is key to the program’s success.” Additionally, McFillin says, developing client rapport is vital: “Clients come back to the program voluntarily all the time because they know we are here to help and listen to them.”
The Circuit Court for Baltimore County based its Family Employment Support Program on APEP. The Baltimore County program began in 2004 and has helped recoup nearly $250,000 in child support payments.
Employment programs for non-custodial parents are gaining interest nationwide. APEP was presented as a model at the National Child Support Enforcement Training Conference. Maryland now requires each county to have an employment program for non-custodial parents.
For more information, please contact the Court Information Office at (410) 260-1488.