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Chris Mootz, the director of Denver's Human Services legal section, sat in on Kristen's hearing. Her bill "is not nearly the number it could be...it's very low," he notes. The $50 monthly payment schedule is the same amount they might charge someone in prison, he says.

For Kristen, though, this bill feels like a prison sentence, punishment before she can move on with life. If she were not in arrears, she would still have her driver's license that was suspended because of outstanding child-support bills, might still have the job she lost when she could no longer get to it. She understands the care her children have gotten, appreciates the care her children have gotten. But if the Department of Human Services had taken care of her, there would be no foster-care fees.

She feels strongly about this, so strongly that even if she had the money she would not pay the bill, and she does not want other people — the people who've flooded Westword with offers to help Kristen since she told her story in "Spreading Her Wings" — to pay it, either.

On the top of the bill from the Family Support Registry is this slogan: "Because Kids Matter Most."

It's enough to make you cry.

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