Idaho issue goes national

New York Times interviews local former reporter

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Taryn Thompson, of Rathdrum, visits during her daughter’s soccer game as her ex-husband Ryan Brodwater, right, and current husband Phil sit on either side of her Thursday in Hayden. Thompson has grabbed the attention of the New York Times after a Facebook post about a recent decision by the Idaho legislature to table a child support bill.

RATHDRUM - Taryn Thompson admits that she generally keeps her voice low and seldom shares her political opinions.

But when Idaho legislators decided to table a child support bill that would align it with the federal child support enforcement system, she spoke up on behalf of Idaho's kids - a "mama bear" action that caught the attention of the New York Times.

"Truthfully, I didn't think anyone would really care what I had to say," said Thompson, a former longtime local news reporter and mother of two.

"Traditionally, I have not been very vocal in politics just because for so many years I was working as a reporter. I tried so hard to remain neutral and I kept all my political views to myself. Even the people in my family didn't know what my political views were."

Thompson shared on Facebook early Wednesday morning some of her experiences being raised in a single-parent home and the role child support - or lack thereof - played in her life as well as her brother's. Thompson, of Rathdrum, said she is not worried that the tabling of SB 1067 will affect her personally because she has a positive relationship with Ryan Brodwater of Spokane, her ex-husband and father of her children. However, she knows firsthand what it is like to grow up in a household where one parent is nonexistent and she is concerned for single parents and kids who are in similar situations.

"For parents who receive child support, knowing that the state has the ability to enforce the payments and that there's some sort of teeth behind the law is important," Thompson said Thursday. "Now what do those moms and dads do? That's the question. To me, it just makes sense to keep a system in place that allows families to provide for themselves through child support. I'm concerned about where those families turn now."

Thompson's Facebook post generated numerous responses, even from Sen. Mary Souza, and was noted by other news organizations. She said Rep. Luke Malek gave a reporter her name, and when the phone rang Wednesday evening, she had no idea it would be New York Times Seattle Bureau Chief Kirk Johnson calling. She said it felt odd being on the other end of an interview, but she wanted to be sure she said the right things and spoke from her heart.

"I was also concerned about the impression that people are going to have about our state as a result of this," she said. "I'm really proud of our state and I love living here, and I couldn't imagine living anywhere else. It's just sad to me that a lot of the attention that Idaho receives is because of things like this. Because of the actions and the votes of a really small group of people. There's a vocal group of people whose interests I don't think represent what's right and what's needed in Idaho."

Thompson said she doesn't know when the article will run or if hers is a piece of a larger story, but a local New York Times photographer came to capture a moment of her and Brodwater with their kids for an accompanying illustration.

"The reporter was referred to me because I have the experience of being a mom who collects child support and also having been a child in a family that relied on child support or didn't receive child support," she said. "I have a unique perspective, I guess, and that's why the New York Times called."

While she finds it bittersweet to garner negative national attention for Idaho, Thompson said it is necessary to put pressure on the governor to take action and call a special session to set things straight. She said she feels fortunate to be able to speak on the issue, but she's not a "one-person army, there are a lot of people who have concerns."

Stepping from neutrality is new to Thompson after practicing years of objectivity, but she feels passionately about the child support program in Idaho and that legislators should be held accountable.

"I think I'm like a mama bear; I think it's something about that maternal instinct," she said. "I don't care if it's my kids or someone else's kids. If someone's messing with them or endangering them or putting them in a situation they don't need to be in or taking something from them - which is really what's happening here, the legislators are taking something from the kids of Idaho - and these kids don't have a voice, so you know what? I'm going to let the mama bear out."

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