Everyday Heroes: How CLEAR Helped a Family in Trouble
Judy Gaddis has been helping struggling families for nearly 20 years. She works as a liaison and trainer with the Department of Human Services’ Child Support section for Arapahoe County in Colorado. Part of her daily work involves reviewing applications for the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF provides financial support and other services to low-income families in difficult straits, including childcare, clothing, shelter, and counseling — “whatever the family needs to get whole again,” as Gaddis puts it. But after receiving a new case late one day, it weighed on her heart as she went home.
The day before, a woman came to the TANF offices looking to get financial assistance to help support her three young children. They were all living in her car during a particularly cold winter and Judy was distraught thinking of the small family stuck outside in freezing temperatures. So, she returned to the office at 5:00 am to try and get this family assistance.
Before Judy could approve the TANF referral for cash assistance, she had to determine whether the mother was receiving child support or any other assistance. The woman didn’t provide any information about the children’s father but said she had driven all the way from Georgia and her application said that she didn’t know anyone in Colorado. Judy wondered why she had traveled so far to a place where she was a total stranger.
Gaddis knew she had to move fast, but she didn’t have much to go on. She called the mother’s cell phone number to ask for more information, but it went directly to voicemail without ringing, suggesting that the phone had gone dead. So now what?
Using CLEAR to open doors
Thankfully, Gaddis had a solution that could help her get this struggling family what they needed. In her work with the state of Colorado, Gaddis has been using Thomson Reuters® CLEAR for about five years and knew that CLEAR could provide her with more than just information. It gives her a better opportunity to truly help people in need — even those who aren’t always ready to open up.
“A lot of times, people are afraid, they’re embarrassed, they’re ashamed,” Gaddis notes. “They don’t want to give you the whole story.”
With CLEAR, Gaddis can gain a better understanding of the situation before she reaches out. Gathering more information ahead of time allows her to approach a sensitive situation with empathy: “I know you’re hurting because of this situation, and I want to help.”
“That opens up the door, and [people] start talking to me,” Gaddis says. “If I lead with what I know, they tend to open up a little bit more.”
What many struggling people don’t know is that sharing the whole story helps people like Judy provide better service and allows them to participate in the solution, so to speak, rather than having it imposed upon them. These solutions can include warm clothing, day care, assistance finding work, and more. In the case of the Georgian family living in their freezing car, the most pressing need was to get them out of the cold and provide the financial assistance they needed.
Using CLEAR to quickly scour and analyze the vast amounts of information, Judy was able to do some high-speed sleuthing. After entering the woman’s name to find her address and known associates, Gaddis performed a court records search and found that there was, indeed, a child support order attached to the woman’s name in Georgia.
“I immediately contacted the Child Support office in Georgia and said, ‘Hey, I need to get these payments redirected to Mom, she’s living in her car,’” Judy shared. “And they said, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re an angel. Where did you come from?’”
Safe and sound
Judy Gaddis was happy to hear that this story had a happy ending. In just four days, the children were brought home to their father in Georgia and their mother was able to get the mental health assistance she desperately needed. Normally, investigations like this can take weeks.
“If it hadn’t been for CLEAR, I would have had to put that case on the nationwide system, conduct an interstate search, and hope I got a hit back from other child support agencies,” Gaddis says.
“CLEAR has really opened the door for me to help more people,” says Gaddis. “It feels good to help someone and provide solutions when you know they can do better. And when you help the family unit, you help the children.”
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