May 26, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Meanwhile the State of Ohio is trying to collect child support for a girl who’s been dead for 33 years. The child, Tanya Hogan, was beaten to death by her mother’s boyfriend when she was three years old, way back in 1981. But still, the Ohio Office of Child Support claims her father, James “Cowboy” Jennings, owes over $18,000 in support. Read about it here (WKRC, 5/22/14).
Of course he’s told them the child is dead, the state Office of Vital Records has her death certificate and there are newspaper articles about her killing from 1981. Presumably her killer, Robert Heard, did time in prison for his crime; maybe he’s still there. And of course, if the child’s mother is still alive, the Ohio Child Support Office could just ask her. But doing those things would require – what? – five minutes online and possibly even more on the telephone. So, as we often see in child support cases, the bureaucrats charged with enforcement just do what they do, i.e. dun the dad.
And sure enough, they’re withholding money from Jennings’ social security checks to support a child who’s been dead since the Reagan Administration.
Brian Gregg of Job & Family Services said, "We're hearing from someone that the child may have died at an early age. Unfortunately our records don't show that, our normal social security matches don't show that. We sent him notices over the years on this and they either went undelivered or unread or were ignored, one or the other."
So Local 12's Angela Ingram went to the Office of Vital Records finding the death certificate, which proves Tanya was the victim of a homicide. Jennings says he just wants it all straightened out.
"They should've examined this and said where's this baby at, that's all I'm interested in. I can't be held legal for 18,000 dollars, I can't do it," said Jennings.
Job and Family Services says for now the case is on hold and no more money will come from Jennings' checks. There is still a possibility Jennings could owe some money for the three years that Tanya lived if he was obligated to pay and didn't.
In 1981 a jury convicted Robert Heard of involuntary manslaughter for killing Tanya Hogan.
I started to say this is an example of your tax dollars at work, but of course no one’s done the slightest bit of work. If they had, they’d have figured out they were dunning a man for a child who was beaten to death years ago.
Does a soul in the state bureaucracy give a second thought to what this may be doing to Jennings? It’s not just the money of course, important as that may be. But here’s a guy whose daughter was brutally killed when she was just three. Apart from everything else, the emotional trauma to Jennings of dredging up those horrible memories must be a form of torture.
I’m going to guess that this non-existent debt isn’t actually child support, but rather reimbursement to the state for welfare benefits Tanya’s mother received at some point under either Aid to Families with Dependent Children or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. But regardless of how the bill originated, I’d be interested to know what the mother told authorities at the time she received the money. Did she tell them she had a child when in fact she didn’t?
Finally, it’s worth wondering how it was that the local child protective agency allowed Tanya to live in a situation that looks now like it was a danger to her. Did they know of the danger posed to her by Robert Heard? Did they investigate? Did they know she had a father who might have been an appropriate caregiver for her?
I’m sure we’ll never know, but let’s not forget that children are in the greatest danger in a family consisting of a single mother and her live-in boyfriend. That’s the picture painted by the data out of the Administration for Children and Families, but unfortunately it’s often ignored by those tasked with the protection of children. Indeed, as we know from the Urban Institute, even when children are known to be at risk in their mother’s homes, CPS caseworkers more often than not make no effort to contact the father as a possible placement for them. Is that what happened in Tanya Hogan’s case?
We’ll probably never know, but beneath the surface of everyday bureaucratic incompetence, lurks another story that may well be far more than a faulty claim for thousands of dollars no one seriously believes is owed.
Thanks to Don for the heads-up.
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