SPRINGFIELD - The top U.S. Child Support official in the nation visited Illinois today to deliver the official federal seal of approval for the computer database maintained by the Department of Public Aid (IDPA)’s Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE).
Dr. Sherri Heller, Commissioner of the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), presented the certification for the KIDS (Key Information Delivery System) system and said it paves the way to greater automation and efficiency in Illinois’ child support enforcement process.
Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich pointed to the certification as an affirmation that Illinois’ child support system is moving in the right direction as it strives to upgrade its performance and harness high technology to the task of delivering vital financial support to children and struggling parents.
“Helping children and families is one of the priorities for my administration,” the Governor said. “This certification by the federal government sends a clear signal that we have put ourselves in position to deliver on our obligation.”
“This is a program that - bottom line results - is on the move and it shows in the data I see in Washington,” Commissioner Heller said during a ceremony at IDPA headquarters in Springfield. "I commend the child support professionals here in Illinois on this achievement. Effective automation is a key element of a child support enforcement program which is successful in collecting child support and provides good customer service. This certification demonstrates that Illinois is committed and working hard to provide both to children and families."
The KIDS database is the high tech engine which drives every facet of the child support enforcement process. The database keeps track of all relevant information for 730,000 child support cases in Illinois, from the amount owed in each case to scheduling and court docket details.
Illinois is the 28th state in the nation to achieve federal certification for its child support data base. Heller said that a number of states face severe financial penalties, through the withholding of millions of dollars in TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) block grant funds, for their failure to meet the federal certification requirements.
“It’s really important to remember that this is not just a bureaucratic achievement we are talking about, but an important milestone in our efforts to strengthen the Division of Child Support Enforcement,” said Director of Public Aid Barry S. Maram. “The KIDS system is the database that contains all the vital information that we need to function as a child support agency. It is a tool that makes it easier for all of us to do our jobs – that is helping children and struggling single parents -- more effectively and more efficiently.”
“It’s taken a lot of hard work from a lot of people to get to this point,” said Lonnie Nasatir, Administrator of the Division of Child Support. “The future of Child Support Enforcement is all about automation. And what this certification means is that we can move forward with our plans to automate enforcement actions with a high degree of confidence in the accuracy of our data.”
Gov. Blagojevich has made strengthening of the Child Support Enforcement system one of the priorities for his administration.
The Department estimates it will take in a record $922 million in total child support payments in the current fiscal year ending June 30, and projects $989 million in payments for fiscal year 2005.
The agency’s core functions include establishing paternity and child support income withholding orders and enforcing those orders. DCSE uses a number of tools to recover unpaid child support, including: intercepting state and federal tax refunds; suspending Illinois professional licenses; placing liens on real and personal property; collaborating with the Illinois Department of Revenue and private collection agencies; collaborating with the U.S. State Department to block passport renewals for those who owe more than $5,000 in past due child support; and reporting the debt to credit reporting agencies.
In addition, IDPA launched a Deadbeat parents Web site in November that features photos of parents who owe more than $5,000 in past due child support and have made no voluntary payments in 90 days. These cases are only publicized if the custodial parent grants authorization.
The federal government first outlined demanding child support system requirements fifteen years ago in the Family Support Act of 1988. The Welfare Reform Act, in 1996, then added more requirements for the already complex task.
Dr. Heller is a national leader on child support and social welfare issues. In October 2001, she was appointed Commissioner of the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. In this position she is responsible for the overall development of policies and priorities guiding the nation’s child support program. In FY 2002, the system provided services to 16 million families and collected $20.1 billion in child support payments.
Prior to her appointment as OCSE Commissioner, Dr. Heller was the Deputy Secretary for Income Maintenance with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. She led welfare reform efforts in Pennsylvania and was responsible for a wide range of public assistance programs, including Food Stamps, Medical Assistance eligibility, Cash Assistance, Employment and Training Programs, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and Child Support Enforcement.