Cyndi Brown knows how to survive. She once escaped an abusive marriage by packing up her two daughters while her husband was at work and sneaking away before he got home. She raised her kids by herself, bouncing among low-paying jobs and sometimes not eating in order to feed the girls. She learned the hard way about deadbeat dads, single parenthood and child support. Which is why the 52-year-old Brown is so uniquely qualified to be the executive director of the Child Support Enforcement Agency in Butler County, just north of Cincinnati. Because she knows.
Brown’s job, it seems, is a bittersweet outcome to a life that appeared bent on either beating her down or preparing her for something greater. Unburdened by the struggles she was dealt or the abuses she endured—such as the high school guidance counselor who told her she wasn’t college material—Brown persevered. Using student loans and scholarships, she enrolled in Xavier’s center for adult and part-time students, earning her bachelor’s degree in 2000 and her master’s degree in criminal justice in 2002.
She parlayed her education into jobs at the Butler County sheriff’s office, the county’s Department of Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities, and then as child support czar. Since taking over, she’s brought about a new attitude and mission. Morale is up and so are collections—by $1 million in one year.
“Lack of payment of child support breeds child abuse, poverty, even murder,” she says. “It’s a crime to bring a child into the world and not provide what that child needs.”