MCKEE: Friend of the court provides assistance in getting back in the workforce

Published 8:57 am Friday, February 7, 2020

April McKee is the deputy Friend of the Court enforcement caseworker.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the estimated cost of raising a child from birth to 17 years of age is $233,610 — that’s nearly $14,000 a year! Now imagine the financial stressor of adding a child to your family while being unemployed or underemployed?

The maximum amount of Michigan unemployment is $362 per week for a maximum of 20 weeks. Now subtract 30 percent of that income for housing (rent or a mortgage), 15 percent for groceries, 32 percent for miscellaneous expenses (such as clothing, services, repairs, entertainment, etc.), and the list of expenses goes on (according to the ACCRA Cost of Living Index-Council for Community and Economic Research).

Enforcement caseworkers for the Friend of the Court are put in the unique position of reviewing cases with support payers looking at payment history, reviewing current circumstances and gathering information to possibly make a recommendation to the Friend of the Court referee on the payer’s ability to pay. However, what if there is something a caseworker can do to be proactive in situations where someone is unemployed or has troubles finding employment or does not have access to internet to search for available jobs?

You’ve probably heard the age old saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” I was determined that there had to be something else that I could provide people in their employment search. Something that could eliminate the revolving door scenario, where I see the same people every six weeks or so and find out their circumstances have not changed from our last meeting.

With that determination, I developed a local jobs list: an easy to view document that contains a list of local available employment options that I update on a monthly basis. The list provides all the information that is needed for applying for an open position; position title, company name, address, phone number and email address (if available), rate of pay (if available), bonuses (if applicable), benefits (if applicable), and how to apply (whether in office, online or through a particular website, etc.) The employment options are sectioned off within the document and vary from positions in the industry of: restaurant/food service, retail, office/clerical, general labor, custodial/janitorial and automotive. I make sure to keep the list limited to local options only — trying to keep about a 25-mile radius in mind, meaning the furthest positions are in South Bend in Indiana, and Three Rivers, Decatur and Benton Harbor in Michigan.

That jobs list has now turned into a jobs board within the Law and Courts Building. There is a bulletin board located just outside of the Friend of the Court referee hearing room with copies of the jobs list and advertisements for what local establishments are hiring that I keep updated. And the process keeps evolving. I have been able to work with a local employer who has been hiring referrals that I have sent to them. I hope to add more connections like this with employers in the future.

Copies of the job list can be mailed, emailed or picked up in the FOC office. Another Friend of the Court employee actually keeps a few copies on hand with her and passes them out outside the office setting whenever she hears someone is struggling looking for work. The list is available to the public and has been a useful resource to assist ones in getting back in the workforce, payers to remain in compliance with their support orders, and support to be provided for the child(ren) of their case; it’s a win-win.

If you have questions about the FOC that you think would be helpful to address in future columns, please send them to the FOC email address: