By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona's governor wants to turn up the heat on hundreds of deadbeat dads and their female counterparts with a social media campaign that publicizes the names of the worst offenders.
Using the Twitter hashtag #deadbeat, Republican Governor Doug Ducey has rolled out the controversial initiative targeting individuals owing a combined $20 million in child support since 2011.
The state has identified 421 parents – 387 dads and 34 moms – for public scrutiny via Twitter and a new page on the governor's website for the first time on Thursday.
"If you don't want your embarrassing, unlawful, and irresponsible behavior going viral: Man up and pay up," Ducey said in his State of the State address on Monday.
The state followed up by posting the names, photographs and amounts owed by so-called child support evaders on a state agency Twitter account. The webpage asks the public for tips.
Critics question whether the effort to crack down on non-payers will actually translate into additional dollars for their children. Some cautioned that the campaign could leave a long-lasting digital footprint for offenders, who may not have jobs or money to pay.
"The one thing we know is that shaming doesn't work," said Kathryn Edin, a sociology and public health professor at Johns Hopkins University. "There's no evidence that any public finger wagging does any good at all."
Arizona has required the names and photos of those wanted for child support payments to be posted on Department of Economic Security (DES) website since 1999.
A governor's spokesman said the state is going after less than one percent of the $1.7 billion owed for child support in Arizona.
Only those who owe more than $5,000 and have not made a payment in six months will be targeted by the initiative. They also must have an outstanding arrest warrant and have no known location.
"The issue is about awareness and accountability," said DES spokeswoman Tasya Peterson, in an emailed statement.
(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Cynthia Osterman)