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Michigan’s innovative “Give your child the dadvantage” campaign that urges families to establish paternity at birth won a national award last month.
The National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) recognized the dadvantage campaign with its Program Awareness Award at its 2018 Leadership Symposium in Pittsburgh, which coincides with Child Support Awareness Month as proclaimed by Gov. Rick Snyder. The award recognizes the effectiveness of media relations and public outreach in providing child support information to the public.
“Give your child the dadvantage is very successful in raising awareness about the importance of paternity establishment and educating unmarried parents in advance of their child’s birth, resulting in more effective parent engagement,” NCSEA Executive Director Ann Marie Ruskin said in a letter to the Office of Child Support within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
The Office of Child Support kicked off its “Give your child the dadvantage” campaign in 2017. The office oversees the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity program, which provides information and training to birthing hospital staff about the benefits of establishing legal fatherhood for children born to unmarried parents.
“Establishing paternity – or legal fatherhood – is good for children and good for their families,” said Erin Frisch, director of MDHHS’s Office of Child Support. “When paternity is established at birth, a child can develop a better sense of identity and have his or her needs better met due to additional financial and emotional support.”
Children who have a legal father also have a right to their parents’ benefits, such as health insurance and Social Security, and can stay healthier through knowledge about the family’s complete medical history.
The paternity process at the hospital upon birth of a baby is simple. To establish paternity, both parents should have photo identification and read and sign the affidavit the hospital gives them when the child is born. It’s free, and hospital staff can answer any questions the parents may have.
NCSEA serves as the voice of the child support community. It serves child support professionals, agencies and strategic partners worldwide through professional development, communications, public awareness and advocacy to enhance the financial, medical and emotional support that parents provide to their children.
In Michigan, nearly 1 million children benefit from the state’s child support program. MDHHS’s child support program provides parents of all income levels with assistance in obtaining financial support and medical insurance coverage for their children. The program helps by locating parents, establishing paternity, establishing child support orders and collecting and distributing child support payments.
Child support information for parents, employers, hospitals and schools can be michigan.gov/childsupport. More information about the campaign and the paternity establishment process can be found at michigan.gov/dadvantage.