CHICAGO - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that in fiscal year 2006 the State of Illinois’ child support collections reached $1.14 billion, which 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. As a result of the continued improvements and turnaround of Illinois’ child support enforcement on behalf of Illinois parents, the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) has named Illinois as the 2006 Most Improved Program in the country.
“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,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “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.”
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 fact, in 2000, Illinois faced the serious threat of federal penalties for poor child support enforcement.
Over the past three years, Governor Blagojevich launched a number of innovative and aggressive programs to improve child support collections, including the Deadbeat Parents website and the New Hire Directory website. These changes have resulted in significant improvements for parents and children who rely on the system. For example, in 2006, the Governor’s New Hire outreach and website, which enables the state to use employers’ new hire information to find and collect from delinquent parents, collected $3.8 million monthly on average, up from $1.5 million monthly in 2004. In addition, more than 16,000 employers who previously did not report their new hires are now regularly reporting.
Under the Blagojevich administration, the Child Support Division also significantly strengthened existing collection tactics. Child support collections that resulted from passport seizures in Illinois airports grew dramatically from only $203,000 in 2002, to over $1 million in 2006. In addition, the Division of Child Support Enforcement successfully seized $10 million in assets in 2006, compared to $2.7 million in 2002.
Each year the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) recognizes outstanding achievements in child support enforcement and the 2006 award was given to the State of Illinois’ program for its increased collections and new programs. An Awards Committee comprised of NCSEA members in the public, private and international sectors make the award selections. The award will be presented at the NCSEA’s 55th Annual Training Conference & Expo in Dallas, Texas on August 1, 2006.
“NCSEA congratulates Illinois on its improved performance. The steady improvement Illinois has shown really demonstrates its commitment to children,” said Mary Anne Wellbank, President-elect of the NCSEA.
Two Illinois mothers, Debra Harris of Lynwood and Karen Degrasse of Chicago, joined the Governor today to talk about the help and support they have received through Illinois’ child support enforcement program.
Deborah Harris has two children, Keji Ogunfemi (13) and Lola Ogunfemi (13.). When the father of her children tried to return to his home country of Nigeria, he was stopped through the Child Support Division’s passport denial system until he paid the child support he owed. As a result, Harris recently received just under $25,000.
“The Department of Healthcare and Family Services continues to work with the Governor to implement new, innovative and aggressive measures to bring more child support dollars to Illinois’ hard working parents and their deserving children,” said Barry Maram, HFS Director.
Child support is the second largest income source for low-income families who qualify for the program. In 2002, more than 972,723 children in Illinois were owed child support payments totaling about $2.8 billion, with a collection rate of 24 percent. Today, the collection rate is 36 percent, with 680,763 children's support being enforced by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
The continued improvements in child support collections in Illinois are due to the critical programs Governor Blagojevich has implemented since taking office.
The Illinois/Iowa Joint Child Support Enforcement Office. In October 2005, Governor Blagojevich announced that 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, IL. This is the second interstate child support office in the country. Located close to the state line, the new facility has one full time employee from each state that work together to ensure improved interstate information sharing, faster collection of court-ordered child support and more efficient enforcement of child support laws. In the six first months of the collaboration, $234,351 was collected.
The Deadbeat Parents Website. In November 2003, Governor Blagojevich launched the Deadbeat Parents Website, www.ilchildsupport.com/deadbeats, that identified parents who owe more than $5,000 in child support payments, and has resulted in the collection of nearly $190,000 since program's launch. 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.
New Hire Initiative. 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. The Blagojevich administration made it easier for employers to comply with the New Hire Directory by establishing a website to get information and clarification about the law, and developed easy-to-understand marketing materials that assisted in the employer education process. HFS also provided onsite training at employer sites and association meetings.
These initiatives and resulting success earned the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) an $8.4 million federal bonus award for meeting federal child support indicators, the largest incentive ever received by Illinois under a performance based system.
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.