CHICAGO - As part of his continued efforts to increase child support collections in Illinois, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that the state of Illinois will join 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, IL. 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.
“I am proud to announce this joint effort between two great Midwest states – Illinois and Iowa,” said Governor Blagojevich. “By sharing resources, child support enforcement staff in both states will have access to the information they need to more quickly ensure that our children’s futures are brighter and more secure.”
“I wish to extend my appreciation to representatives of the state of Illinois for their openness to exploring new approaches to serve children better,” said Iowa Governor Thomas Vilsack. “I am pleased that Iowa staff has the opportunity to share resources and work collaboratively with Illinois staff to secure support for children. By working together, we will be able to break down barriers to enforcing interstate cases and better serve our states’ children.”
Interstate child support cases make up about 12.3 percent of the entire Illinois child support caseload, but they represent about 22 percent of the debt. The differences in Illinois and Iowa laws and the delay in handing off cases make it more difficult to establish child support payments in interstate cases than in same-state cases. The two employees staffing the new office will have access to the other state’s computer system to enhance communication between both states and increase child support payments. The shared information will also improve each state’s ability to track parents who avoid their child support responsibilities by frequently moving from one state to another.
Iowa’s child support program is operated by its Department of Human Services (DHS), and Illinois’ child support program is operated through its Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS).
“This joint effort between our two states opens critical lines of communication and access to resources that will help increase child support collections,” said Barry S. Maram, Director of HFS. “Governor Blagojevich’s leadership has vastly improved child support enforcement in Illinois - both in and out of state.”
In addition to the new Illinois/Iowa joint office announced today, Governor Blagojevich has launched a number of innovative and aggressive programs to improve collection to help Illinois parents, including: a New Hire initiative website that allows employers to report new employees online more conveniently and quickly, a Deadbeat Parents Website that identifies parents who owe more than $5,000 in child support payments, which has resulted in the collection of over $172,000 in back payments, federal certification of the Key Information Delivery System (KIDS), the main computer for the child support process, and the Sheridan Rehabilitation Project that helps ex-offenders access jobs and training in order to meet their child support obligations.
“This Illinois and Iowa collaboration is yet another avenue Governor Blagojevich has chosen in order to improve Illinois’ child support collection efforts,” said Pam Compton, the Acting Administrator for Illinois’ Child Support Enforcement program under HFS.
In July, Governor Blagojevich announced a record breaking $1 billion in child support payments have been made this year. The funds will provide 386,000 Illinois parents with the money they need to care for their children. More than $100 million of the $1 billion collected went to parents whose child support was severely overdue. Collections on cases receiving enforcement services from HFS grew 8.5 percent, surpassing the national average of 3 percent growth.
Child support is the second largest income source for low-income families who 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.
All child support enforcement services are free and include the automatic location of employers, automatic service of income withholding notices, the submission of child support debt to credit reporting agencies and to the state and federal governments that can then intercept tax refunds, suspend or revoke professional and occupational licenses and deny passports. Information about applying is available on the HFS website, www.hfs.illinois.gov.