Parents often face the difficult task of raising a child or children alone. It can be a matter of choice, or it can be because the other parent has walked away from his or her responsibility for providing support, financial or otherwise.

If the failure to provide support is financial and ongoing, these parents are often referred to as a "deadbeat dad" or a "deadbeat mom."

There are many different ways a man and a woman can decide how to provide care for the children they have together, and social service agencies will say many come to amicable agreements. While their names may never show up on a warrant, their payments will be made through a state agency rather than through a check in the mail.

The ones who do not reach agreement, or have an agreement they do not follow, will eventually fall under the regulations of the state child support services.

There is even federal legislation that overrides state's statutes of limitations or judicial decisions to hold past-due parents responsible to meet their financial obligations to their children.

A parent who falls on temporary hard times, and maintains contact with the state agency handling their child support payments, may be granted a reprieve.

But "hard times" is often-used phrase - a convenient excuse - and parents who owe excessive amounts of back child support will often run circles around the law to avoid paying.

There are stories in the news about deadbeat parents who owe thousands and hundreds of thousands in unpaid support, found living in beautiful homes, driving expensive cars, enjoying life to the fullest.

There are also deadbeat parents who can't hold down a job, who bunk with friends and family when they can, who live with alcohol and drug abuse problems, mental illness or health issues.

The solution is not an easy one. You can't simply lock up every deadbeat parent for not paying - it isn't practical and it won't pay the back debt. A deadbeat parent with a felony conviction will have an even more-difficult time finding a job to make current and back payments.

In our area, the problem may not be rampant, but it is pervasive. A child growing up without the financial support of a parent also misses out on the emotional support.

The parent at home often has to work and find someone to help care for a child or children. Many have a safety net of friends and family to help - but for those who do not, their children struggle with self-esteem and societal issues. Schools can help and so can some non-profit agencies.

This week, readers will look inside the county and state agencies that help the parents and children struggling with financial and emotional problems.

They will hear the voices of those who face the struggles, those who try to help and those who work to bring deadbeats parents into compliance.

In the end, it is the voices of the children that really matter.