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For Immediate Release:
October 7, 2009

For Information, Contact:
Suzanne Esterman, 609-292-3703

TRENTON – Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez announced that the Division of Family Development’s Assistant Director of Child Support, Alisha Griffin, provided expert testimony at the request of Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland) yesterday before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and other forms of Family Maintenance. Her remarks urged participation of the United States in the Convention agreement.
 
 
The Hague Conventions, commenced in 1899 were opportunities for international discussion and subsequent treaties on matters affecting war crimes and international law. The most previous Hague Convention on Family Maintenance issues was held in 1996 to address a broad range of civil measures concerning children, including child support orders. The contract became effective in 2002 but the United States did not play a part. Work on this newest Convention started in 2003 and Griffin has been a delegate during the last five years of sessions and meetings.

The Convention determines which country’s laws are to be applied, and it provides for the recognition and enforcement of measures taken in one contracting country in all others that participate. The cooperative tenets of the agreement provide an outline, or framework, for the exchange of information among contributing nations. The more participating regions, the better potential to protect children from injustices associated with family breakdowns.

“Child support is a critical family service program, one that research has shown lifts families out of poverty, said Commissioner Velez.  “Today, both nationally and in New Jersey, we collect 65 percent of child support due.  Unfortunately, 35 percent of the families we serve do not yet get what they deserve and need.  This has a negative ripple affect on the social service network locally, statewide and on a national scale.”

Griffin’s testimony focused on the positive steps the child support community is taking to make child support a reliable source of income for all families.  In her comments, she stressed that the Hague Convention contains procedures for processing international child support cases that are uniform, simple, efficient, accessible, and inexpensive.

“The major benefit to the United States in joining this Convention will be obtaining reciprocity from other contracting countries,” said Griffin. “Ratification of the Convention by the United States will mean that more children residing in our country will receive financial support from their parents residing in countries that are also signatories.”

Griffin concluded her remarks stating, “There is nothing more critical to the benefit of children than the health, safety and stability of the family.  That has certainly been demonstrated by the current economic downturn facing this nation.  We need to do everything possible to ensure children grow up in safe stable homes and are afforded the best chances possible to grow healthy and strong.  Child support is a critical component and ensuring that parents provide the best they can for their children, particularly during tough economic times.”

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