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Fathers Honored for Child Support

By Brian S. McNiff

BOSTON-- “Every kid needs one thing in life, TLC -- tender loving care -- and I just try to provide that,” said Paul Taylor of Marlboro, one of the fathers honored yesterday at the Statehouse.

For the third year, the Department of Revenue held its Fatherhood Recognition Contest, which honors fathers who consistently pay their child support. It is the flip side of DOR's drive against deadbeat dads that has netted seven of their most-wanted deadbeats since March.

 Taylor's two boys, Daniel, 8, and Paul, 11, live in Worcester, but he said he gets to see them every weekend. After yesterday's ceremony in the Great Hall of the Statehouse, the three were going camping.

“It's great for the commonwealth to recognize me and the other nine, but we're not the only one's doing our duty by our children. They're only kids for so long,” he said.

 Jeff LaClair of Gardner said, “I was elated when I found out about it,” though he said he had not yet seen what Joshua, 10, and John, 12, of Baldwinville submitted.

Another father honored was David O'Donnell Jr., of Bellingham. His three children, David, 13, Amanda, 11, and Anna, 8, live in Douglas.

The DOR sent 5,000 letters earlier this year to parents who consistently pay their child support and invited their children to submit drawings, poems, letters or essays describing their father's impact on their lives.

The 10 winners received tickets to a Red Sox baseball game or a whale watch boat trip, a T-Shirt and a certificate. 

William Biando of Spencer, whose daughter Lindsaylee, 8, of Worcester, put his name in, said the certificate “is going right next to her picture above my desk.”

Though he and the others were honored from a pool of those who pay child support, Biando remarked, “Child support money is no big deal; being part of her life is.”

Some activists for divorced fathers said the DOR shouldn't hold itself out as a judge of fathers. And a women's group said it should be mothers who received the accolades because of all that they do.

 “The Department of Revenue's only concern is cash. Government bean counters have no business defining fatherhood,” said Mark A. Charalambous, of The Fatherhood Coalition, a divorced fathers advocacy group.

 “I think it's kind of insulting that a state organization that puts fathers in jail daily has any business at all in talking about responsible fatherhood,” said Charalambous, a Leominster divorced father of two.

Amy Pitter, deputy commissioner of the Division of Child Support Enforcement, which is overseen by DOR, defended the event.

“We have to have a carrot and a stick approach. On the one hand, we have to show that we can be tough when that's appropriate,” Pitter said. “And we also think it's important that we role-model fathers like the ones that are here today.” 

DOR has drawn the media spotlight for its efforts to hunt down deadbeat parents, including its creation of “Wanted” posters similar to the FBI's. 

Another group that said it did not favor the event was the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization of Women.

“It's really the mothers who should be getting awards for their everyday acts, and not only financially supporting their children but taking care of their everyday needs,” said President Cheryl Garrity.

 “While I'm not portraying all fathers as being bad -- there are fathers who do their share -- we need to recognize the mothers as well,” she said. $e

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