Translate page with Google

Story Publication logo March 5, 2020

How Maryland’s Child Support System Fails Families: Explore Findings From the Sun’s Investigation

Cecil Burton, 54, is still paying down $60,000 in child support debt, much of which is owed to the state for welfare his children – now adults – received when they were young. Although he could not keep up with his child support orders, his kids say he was an involved dad who guided and nurtured them. During a family gathering in September, Burton visited with his grandchildren Kevin Ellis, 8, and Katelyn Ellis, 6, and his great-niece Saniyah Johnson, 6.  Image by Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun. United…

A Baltimore Sun investigation into Maryland’s child support system and the heavy price it exacts on...

author #1 image author #2 image
Multiple Authors
Illustration by David Senior / The Baltimore Sun.
Illustration by David Senior / The Baltimore Sun.

The real cost of child support

Maligned for generations as deadbeat dads, Maryland’s poorest fathers often get caught in a cycle of crushing debt by a relentless child support enforcement system that purports to serve children, but ultimately can fail them. In Baltimore, most of these men are African American.

An investigation by The Baltimore Sun has found short-sighted policies hurt families and their communities. Over 20% of the $1 billion in child support debt owed in Maryland — much of it uncollectible — is concentrated in 10 struggling Baltimore communities, and thousands of dads, moms and kids are paying the price.

This project was reported and written by Yvonne Wenger and supported by the Pulitzer Center. Data analysis by Christine Zhang. Design and development by Adam Marton. Illustrations by David Senior. Videos by Lloyd Fox.

Map: Concentration of child support debt in Baltimore

For the full interactive slideshow, visit The Baltimore Sun website.


teal halftone illustration of two children, one holding up a teddy bear


Children and Youth

Children and Youth
teal halftone illustration of a raised fist


Racial Justice

Racial Justice


two cows


U.S. Local News Reporting

U.S. Local News Reporting

Support our work

Your support ensures great journalism and education on underreported and systemic global issues