2005 saw significant jump in child support collections

CHICAGO—Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced that child support collections resulting from state-gathered employment records have increased by nearly 57 percent in the last year as a result of his New Hire Initiative, and child support collections overall have grown by just more than 10 percent.

Over the past two years, Blagojevich has launched a series of new child support initiatives that have resulted in record-breaking collections that will help provide 386,000 Illinois parents with the money they need to care for their children.

“Raising a child takes love, patience, understanding—and money,” Blagojevich said. “Every year, it gets more expensive to provide for a child, and every year, even more parents are raising their children alone. After years of problems and unacceptable results in the state’s child support collection efforts, we have taken major steps during the past two and a half years to turn the system around, and our efforts are paying off. We are continuing to find new, innovative ways to enforce child support law and, as a result, more children are getting the financial support they deserve.”

The Governor’s New Hire Initiative makes it easier for employers to comply with the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s New Hire Directory by establishing a toll-free hotline, easy-to-understand marketing materials and onsite training at employer sites and association meetings that assisted in the employer education process. New Hire collections have increased by nearly 57 percent compared with 2004. In 2004, New Hire collections reached just more than $16.1 million, and in 2005 New Hire collections jumped to more than $25 million. In 2004, monthly New Hire average collections were $1.5 million and in 2005 the monthly average rose to $2.3 million.

Child support collections from the state overall have grown by just more than 10 percent to more than $1.011 billion compared with 2004 collections that totaled $918.8 million. Collections in 2005 surpassed the national average by 3 percent, and more than $100 million of the $1 billion collected went to parents whose child support was severely overdue.

“Child support enforcement in Illinois has been completely transformed under this administration,” said Barry Maram, director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (formerly known as Public Aid). “As a result, the families we serve are receiving the payments their children deserve regularly, and delinquent parents are being held accountable.”

In the mid-1990s, the Illinois Department of Public Aid’s Child Support Enforcement Division’s performance fell steeply, causing hardship for thousands of Illinois parents. In fact, in 2000, Illinois faced the serious threat of federal penalties for poor child support enforcement. Since Blagojevich was elected in 2002, his administration has worked to turn Illinois’ record around to help struggling single parents meet their families’ needs.

Child support is the second-largest income source for low-income families that qualify for the program. In 2003, more than 846,735 children in Illinois were owed child support payments totaling about $3 billion, with a collection rate of 28 percent. Today, the collection rate is 32 percent, with 741,787 children’s support being enforced by HFS.

To help more working parents provide for their children, Blagojevich launched a number of additional new programs that led to this year’s record-breaking collections, including the following:

The Illinois/Iowa Joint Child Support Enforcement Office—In October 2005, Blagojevich announced Illinois joined forces with the state of Iowa to increase enforcement of child support laws through the opening of a new, jointly-staffed child support enforcement office in Rock Island, Ill. This is the second interstate child support office in the country. Located close to the state line, the new facility will have one full-time employee from each state that will work together to ensure improved interstate information sharing, faster collection of court-ordered child support and more efficient enforcement of child support laws.

The Deadbeat Parents Web site—In November 2003, Blagojevich launched the Deadbeat Parents Web site, which identified parents who owe more than $5,000 in child support payments, resulting in the collection of nearly $180,000 in back payments in the first two years of operation. The Web site can be found at www.ilchildsupport.com/deadbeats. In addition, the department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) received federal certification of the Key Information Delivery System (KIDS), the main computer for the child support process.

The Sheridan Rehabilitation Project—The Sheridan Rehabilitation Project within the Illinois Department of Corrections helps ex-offenders access jobs and training programs so they can meet their child support obligations. According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, roughly one-quarter of U.S. inmates have open child support cases. Incarcerated noncustodial parents owe in the range of $225 to $313 per month in child support. On average, parents owe more than $10,000 in arrears when they get to prison, and leave prison owing $23,000 or more.

In addition, the governor signed the following five pieces of Child Support legislation last summer:

Simplified Child Support Interest Calculations—Senate Bill 452, starting Jan. 1, 2006, will help Illinois families receiving child support get their share of interest payments before the state receives any interest payments as a result of a new law simplifying the calculation and distribution of interest from unpaid child support. Prior to this new law, it was unclear how interest should be distributed to families receiving child support in Illinois. The simplifications will result in more money going to Illinois families receiving child support. Additionally, the process is simpler and easier for both parents to understand.

Making the child support process more efficient—House Bill 785 makes child support collection more efficient by updating the process to reflect current practices. The law is effective Jan. 1, 2006.

Adding interest to unpaid alimony—Senate Bill 95, an initiative of the Illinois State Bar Association, provides that any new or existing order, including any unallocated maintenance obligation (alimony), shall accrue simple interest at the rate of 9 percent per annum, just as child support obligations. This law is effective Jan. 1, 2006.

Improving ability to legally serve notices on non-custodial parents—Senate Bill 955 improves the Department’s ability to legally serve notices on non-custodial parents. This law went into effect in July.

Making payments easier through currency exchanges—House Bill 783 allows a non-custodial parent to give certain information to a currency exchange so their child support payments can be made there, giving the non-custodial parent more access to places where they can make payments. This law went into effect in July.

These initiatives and resulting success earned the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) an $8 million federal bonus award for meeting federal child support indicators, the largest incentive ever received by Illinois under a performance-based system.

From the Jan. 11-17, 2006, issue

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