Just ahead of a City Council hearing on Philadelphia’s longtime practice of going after working-poor parents of incarcerated children for child support, the city Department of Human Services ended the practice, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “Our priority is to reunify families safely and quickly, and this decision is a great move forward toward that goal, as well as promoting family stability,” said DHS Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa. The agency sought permission from the state to end the practice four months ago, after advocates began raising awareness about its impact on families.
It became clear in the run-up to the hearing that the city need not wait any longer. Figueroa said the state had shared its prepared testimony with her, indicating that Philadelphia had the option to stop collections. The hearing on costs and fees in the juvenile-justice system proceeded anyway, as advocates sought to ensure that the practice would not resume. “It’s important that we’re not balancing our budget on the backs of children and families that come from neighborhoods in poverty,” said City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. Students at the Justice Lab at the Sheller Center at Temple University, with support from the nonprofit Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project, first documented how the practice was making it difficult for families to stay afloat.