Those Who Are Last Shall Be First

March 6, 2009 at 8:01 pm Leave a comment

By Josh Hoff
            The State of Illinois bears an uncanny resemblance to the uncle who for years looked like he just got out of bed when he attended the annual family reunion. The, one year, somehow, he gets motivated to pull himself together and charms the entire family much to everybody’s delight. This stems from the fact that the State of Illinois has done an about-face for child support collections in 2006.

            In the mid-1990s, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) Child Support Division’s performance fell steeply, causing hardship for thousands of Illinois parents.  In 2000, Illinois faced the threat of federal penalties for poor child support enforcement.  Recently, however, Governor Blagojevich announced Illinois’ 2006 child support collections reached $1.14 billion, the most collected in any single year ever.         
  
           
As a result the National Child Support Enforcement Association selected Illinois for the 2006 Most Improved Program Award.  What does all of this mean when the state has scored consistently low in this department in the past?

           
“It shows that the Governor is aggressively collecting child support,” says fathers’rights attorney Jeffery Leving.  “It is going to be more difficult for non-custodial parents.  They will have a harder time avoiding paying child support.”

           
The amount of child support collected in 2006 is over 11 percent higher than last year’s $1 billion in record-breaking collections, and more than 50 percent higher than the $729 million collected in fiscal year 2001.

           
“Every year, as the cost of raising children and providing a loving and secure home continues to go up, more and more parents are struggling to meet those needs alone,” Governor Blagojevich announced in a news release.  “Before I became Governor, the child support system in our state was the worst in the nation.  But this program has turned around and is now breaking its own records and receiving national recognition for its improvements.  More Illinois parents than ever are getting the payments they are owed so their children can have the childhood they deserve.”

           
While the trend of increased child support collections is beneficial for children and families in general, it could also have a positive impact on fathers in their relations with their children.  “There is a correlation between contact with children and payment of support,” explains Leving.

           
The increase in child support collection is attributable in large part to the implementation of several new programs, including: the Illinois/Iowa Joint Child Support Enforcement Office; the Deadbeat Parents Website; and the New Hire Initiative.

           
The Illinois/Iowa Joint Child Support Enforcement Office is a collaborative effort that ensures improved interstate information sharing, faster collection of court-ordered child support, and more efficient enforcement of child support laws.  According to the Governor’s office this collaboration has resulted in the collection of $234,351.  Further, the Deadbeat Parents Website has been an effective tool for the state of Illinois, in that it identifies parents who owe more than $5,000 in child support payments, and has resulted in the collection of nearly $190,000 since the program’s launch in November 2003.  In Illinois, 80 percent of child support is collected through wage withholdings, a method facilitated by the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s New Hire Directory.

           
Though these initiatives have led to increases in child support collection, they also have a flipside – that is, further alienation between some parents and children.  Most deadbeat dads, for instance, have no income or low income.  In fact, 66 percent of those behind in child support are at poverty level income.

           
“You can’t get child support from people who are indigent, sick, ill, or incarcerated,” warns Leving.  “It could alienate fathers from their children further.”

           
The question then becomes: What is the state of Illinois doing for parents, particularly fathers, who want to meet their child support obligations but are unable to do so?  Fathers’ rights guru Leving has some ideas for what the state might do to improve the lot of these parents.

           
“Fathers that are unemployed, find employment for them, empower them,” he suggests.  “Job training could be valuable.  They could use money allocated to chase down deadbeat dads to educate the jobless.”

            The state of Illinois bears an uncanny resemblance to the uncle who for years looked like he just got out of bed when he attended the annual family reunion.  Then, one year, somehow, he gets motivated to pull himself together and charms the entire family much to everybody’s delight.  This stems from the fact that the state of Illinois has done an about-face for child support collections in 2006. 

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Entry filed under: Child Support, Child-Support System. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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