The mercury is rising and children are still out of school as summer winds down for some.
Traditionally, this is a time for families to get together and relax before the start of a new school year. Take time to connect with your kids and create positive memories.
When parents are involved in their lives, children have a better chance at growing up healthy, happy and well adjusted. Most parents instinctively understand this and do what is needed to provide the foundation for success.
Simple activities such as sharing a meal or going to the park together provide ideal opportunities for family bonding. Take advantage of the long summer days and have a picnic or barbecue to form lasting memories.
Employees of the Office of the Attorney General who are charged with ensuring Texas children receive the financial support they need from parents see the need for fathers and mothers to be involved in their kids' lives. This starts with regular child support payments. Children depend on child support to provide basic needs like food, shelter, health care and clothing.
Research shows that children who receive regular child support reap intangible benefits as well, such as making better grades in school, being more likely to finish high school and attend college, and even having fewer behavior problems at school. Without a doubt, paying child support is one critical way parents can demonstrate their love for their children.
But, money is only part of the equation. Too often, children would benefit from more, not less, involvement from the parent who pays child support.
That is why the Attorney General's Office encourages strong family formation, responsible parenthood and parental involvement through initiatives including:
- The Access and Visitation program, which promotes non-custodial parents' access to and visitation with their children, when appropriate, through a variety of shared parenting projects.
Awarding grant funding to local organizations is one way the Office of the Attorney General can help children whose parents are engaged in custody or visitation disputes, since federal funding to run the child support program cannot be used to handle these issues.
The services provided under this grant include co-parenting education, alternative dispute resolution, development of parenting plans, supervised visitation and visitation enforcement.
- The Access and Visitation Hotline is the only service of its kind in the nation that provides parents with free phone access to attorneys who offer legal information and assistance related to child custody and visitation issues, as well as paternity and child support information.
Hotline attorneys do not represent parents. Rather, they provide tools and guidance, and answer parents' questions. The statewide toll-free number, (866) 292-4636, is answered in English and Spanish, Monday - Friday from 1 to 7 p.m. The hotline has a corresponding Web site, www.txaccess.org, where parents can download sample materials and tools for assistance with child access issues.
- Parenting and Paternity Awareness is an innovative educational curriculum designed for secondary school students and young adults that deals with the "rights, responsibilities and realities of parenting."
Key themes in the curriculum focus on the importance of father involvement, the value of paternity establishment, the legal realties of child support, the financial and emotional challenges of single parenting, the benefits of both parents being involved in a child's life, healthy relationship skills and relationship violence prevention.
Thankfully, most parents faithfully carry out their responsibilities to their children, doing such things as paying court-ordered child support each month.
All children deserve the security that comes from knowing their parents care enough to make regular child support payments.
Please help make this summer memorable for your kids by paying your child support and being there for them.
Greg Abbott is the Attorney General for the state of Texas. Readers may contact him via email at email@example.com.