One versus about a thousand.
They are tough odds and yet Dane County Sheriff's Deputy Joe Rauch tries every day to stay positive in his efforts to collect unpaid child support from the 988 individuals who have outstanding court-issued warrants for being deadbeat parents. He's the only deputy assigned exclusively to this area.
"When sometimes the (warrant) numbers come out and say there's one deputy who actively does this job and there are so many warrants, I think people look at it and go, 'Wow,'" Rauch said. "I'm just trying to do the best I can. One person doing this, trying to get people into compliance and trying to make a difference."
Rauch deals with those who have not paid child support for months or in some cases, even years. The number of cases at the Dane County Child Support Agency is going up at a faster rate than at any other county in Wisconsin. There are currently more than 24,000 active cases in that office, representing at least one child who needed public assistance.
Brad Logsdon, who oversees the department, said the fact the county's population is spiking as well as the number of children born out of wedlock indicate his agency's workload will not go down any time soon.
"In some ways, you're a hamster on a treadmill," he said. "These are all children. It can be overwhelming when you think about it that way, so sometimes we talk about files and cases, but in the end, it's children and that's why we do what we do. If I was working collections for a private company, I'd sleep like a baby. Go in, do your time, do your best, but sometimes here, even your best doesn't cut it. It doesn't get the result you need for a family."
That's when Rauch comes in. There are two types of warrants issued by the courts for delinquent payers, the first is a subpoena compelling their attendance in court to address the matter and the second is an arrest warrant.For
"There is no good day to go to jail, I understand that," Rauch said. "I consider myself an advocate first of all for the children. I prefer the money to come in. That's my goal. I think people might think it's weird that I don't want to take someone to jail but I really don't want to take them to jail, I want them to comply with their orders of the court and pay their child support."
The 988 outstanding warrants can be deceiving as some deadbeats may have moved to other counties or out of state. Yet the fact there are several hundred families who have received what child support advocates call a "row of zeros," meaning someone who hasn't paid what they're legally obligated to pay for months and years. A recent case included 28-year-old Emmanuel M. Haslett, who was arrested after winning $10,000 at a Madison casino because he owed roughly $6,000 of back child support.
Rauch said his message to those he tracks down is one of responsibility.
"I understand times are tough, but this is an obligation. It's court-ordered," he said. "You have to take care of it. You have to do something about it. It's not going to go away. Just take care of it."