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DSS observes National Child Support Awareness Month

August 30, 2010

National Child Support Awareness Month has been observed in August. The State of Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration's slogan this year is "Tender Shoots Grow Best with the Support of All Their Roots."

The slogan represents the importance of having both parties' involvement in their child's life. Every parent wants what is best for their child. This year, the State of Maryland wants the public to know the importance of establishing paternity of any child born out of wedlock.

Paternity establishment is the process of legally identifying a child's father. Establishing paternity will help protect the child's eligibility for benefits such as Social Security, retirement benefits, veterans benefits, health and life insurance, inheritance and child- support rights. Most importantly, establishing paternity might strengthen the bond between a father and a child.

There are several processes to establish paternity. The Affidavit of Parentage is a document that can be signed by the father at the hospital after the birth of the child. All hospitals within the State of Maryland offer this document. A court order can also be signed by the father after the child's birth, voluntarily acknowledging that he is the father of the child.

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The final method is genetic testing. A lab technician performs a bucal swab (a swab of the inside of the cheek) on all parties. All these processes are facilitated by local child support agencies. If one of the parties lives in another state, the local office can still assist with the establishment of paternity and/or support by an interstate process.

Also, to celebrate Child Support Awareness Month, the Washington County Department of Social Services is recognizing its employees for their service to the child-support program. One employee, Jill Meyers, was named Child Support Worker of the Year and will be honored during a statewide event celebrating excellence in child support.

The employees also participated in the annual community fair sponsored by the Hagerstown Housing Authority and Market on the Square where they were available to answer questions about the services offered by the local agency. The local child support agency is at the Washington County Department of Social Services, 122 N. Potomac St. in Hagerstown.

The Child Support Enforcement Office has approximately 6,000 cases and collected more than $14 million last year for the children of Washington County.

The office also partners with the Washington County Circuit Court and Clerk of the Court, Washington County Sheriff's Office and the State's Attorneys' Office. Other services provided by the Child Support Enforcement Office and its partners include the establishment of child support and medical support, enforcement of support orders and modifications of support orders.

If you have questions regarding any of these services, stop by the local office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or call the contact center at 1-800-332-6347.

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