August is National Child Support Month. Below is a column I penned for our agency newsletter, Update. Update is available at our agency website, or by clicking here:
On the eve of National Child Support Month, I received good news from our Child Support Division: we are on a record pace for case establishment.
In fact, we are up in almost all of our Child Support numbers. We are doing a better job of tracking down absent parents, establishing paternity and orders, collecting on each case and even collecting on delinquent amounts.
We are currently at 73.42 percent on establishing case orders, which is on pace to surpass last year’s record of 72.64 percent. We have mostly achieved this through setting up a special unit that works to locate absent parents or close cases that are no longer valid. More good news: we are up nearly 3 percentage points (81%) on paternity establishment.
To give you a reference point, we establish paternity in nearly 1,500 cases each year, and we establish more than 2,000 new child support orders annually. Each case represents at least one child.
What does it really mean? It means the children of Hamilton County are better off because of the efforts of our agency. Child support puts food on the table, pays electric bills and buys school clothes. Child support can be the difference between a custodial parent keeping or losing their home at a time when foreclosures are rampant. When children have the financial support they need for life’s necessities, they have a better chance at a successful life.
We strengthen families.
These improved numbers are just some of the good news coming out of the Child Support Division. In addition:
- We have convened a workgroup to develop early intervention strategies that will lead to more consistent child support payments, preventing the accumulation of delinquent accounts in large amounts.
- We have established a formal relationship with The Ridge Project Fatherhood Program, which provides life coaching, case management and other tools to fathers in an attempt to gain consistent child support payments.
- We have received a grant from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to work with the county’s Court of Domestic Relations on creating a secure site for supervised visitations or a secure drop-off site to facilitate visitations. This will help eliminate any roadblock to a parent visiting their child, which will encourage consistent child support payments.
Child Support is the largest program in the state – outside of schools – in terms of touching Ohio’s children. Here in Hamilton County, we handle about 90,000 child support cases each year. There’s one mom and dad, and at least one child, per case, so we are dealing with more than 300,000 people through our Child Support Division. That is more than one in three in our county.
We do not take sides. We are on the child’s side. Our goal is to ensure they receive the support they need. We use a variety of tools to collect support, including our Most Wanted posters, freezing and seizing funds from bank accounts, intercepting tax refunds, suspending driver’s licenses, suspending professional licenses and confiscating passports.
Our solid – even record-setting in some areas – performance in child support is especially noteworthy during this tough economy. We aren’t collecting at levels seen before the 2008 recession, but we are operating more efficiently with the cases where collections are possible.
It all comes back to each case representing at least one child. If we make progress on a case, we make progress for a child.
We are strengthening families, one by one.