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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 3, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich announces prestigious Lincoln Foundation award given to Illinois Division of Child Support two years in a row
Illinois Child Support Enforcement wins Silver Award in 2006; building on success after winning Bronze Award in 2005

CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that Illinois’ Division of Child Support Enforcement received the prestigious Lincoln Foundation Award for Performance Excellence for the second year in a row.   Illinois’ Division Child Support was one of six recipients of the Lincoln Foundation Silver Award this year, building on successes that led to a Bronze Award last year.  The State of Illinois’ child support collection reached a record breaking high of $1.14 billion in Fiscal Year 2006, surpassing record-breaking collections of $1 billion in 2005.  The Lincoln Foundation recognizes organizations that have shown continued progress, leadership, and excellence in their field.
 
“When we took office in 2003, Illinois’ child support program was in disarray.   Now, we are collecting more child support dollars for Illinois children than ever before,” said Governor Blagojevich.  “It is an honor to receive the Lincoln Foundation Award two years in a row, and I want to thank our Child Support Division for working hard to help make sure single parents in Illinois are getting the support they need to provide and care for their children.”
 
The Lincoln Foundation for Performance Excellence is a not-for-profit organization supported by both private and public funding that assists Illinois organizations in continuously improving their performance by encouraging, developing, and highlighting excellence in five sectors of the economy: industry, service, healthcare, education, and government.  Each year the Lincoln Board of Examiners reviews and assesses award applications in seven areas – leadership, strategic planning, costumer and market focus, information and analysis, human resource focus, process management, and results – and a panel of judges determines which applications deserve recognition. 
 
“The Illinois Division of Child Support Enforcement, DHFS, is a great example of an organization that has made the commitment to develop a continuous improvement management system and is well on the road to achieving role model excellence.  It is truly rewarding to see a government organization mature through the utilization of a proven excellence framework and The Lincoln Foundation is delighted to be a part of their success,” said Paul G. Kuchuris, Jr., President and CEO of The Lincoln Foundation for Performance Excellence.
 
In August, Illinois was named the 2006 Most Improved Program in the country by the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA).  NCSEA recognizes outstanding achievements in child support enforcement and the 2006 award was awarded to the State of Illinois’ program for its increased collections and new programs. 
 
“We know that when children get the child support they need, it gives them the childhood they deserve,” said Barry Maram, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.  “I want to thank the Lincoln Foundation for recognizing the dramatic improvements to the child support program under this administration.”
 
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 seen results.
 
The Governor’s New Hire initiative now averages $3.7 million monthly in new collections, compared to just $1.5 million monthly in 2004.  In addition, nearly 17,000 employers who previously did not report New Hires are now regularly reporting.  Over the last year, $40.5 million was collected through the New Hire initiative.  Child support collections that resulted from Passport seizures nearly doubled from $550,000 in 2005 to over $1 million in 2006.  In addition, the Division of Child Support Enforcement successfully seized over $10 million in assets in 2006, compared to $9.6 million in 2005.
 
Illinois has outpaced the national rate of collection improvement over the past four years.  In federal fiscal year 2001, Illinois collected approximately 38 percent of current child support due, while in 2005 it collected 53.3 percent. Nationally, about 57 percent of support was paid as it was due in 2001, while in 2005 about 60 percent was collected.  So, while the nation has realized a 3 percent gain in child support collected as it was due between federal fiscal years 2001 and 2005, Illinois had a dramatic 15 percent increase during that same time.
 
And the state is doing a far better job in slowing down the growth in past due child support (arrears) than the rest of the nation. In 2001, just over $88 billion dollars of child support arrears were owed across the nation.  In 2005, that number had risen to $106.5 billion, an increase of $18.4 billion dollars or 21 percent.  By comparison, Illinois' $2.6 billion in arrears rose to $2.8 billion, or 8 percent.  Illinois' arrears growth is significantly less than the nation's, indicating that we are doing a better job of both collecting support as it’s due and of collecting old support that was unpaid in past years.
 
The continued improvements in child support collections in Illinois are due to Blagojevich’s continued leadership and the critical programs he 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 collaborative interstate child support office in the country. Located close to the state line, the new facility has one full time employee from each state who 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 first ten months of the collaboration, more than $392,000 was collected. 
 
The Deadbeat Parents Website.  In November 2003, Governor Blagojevich launched the Deadbeat Parents Website that identified parents who owe more than $5,000 in child support payments, resulting in the collection of nearly $224,246 in back payments since it began.  www.ilchildsupport.com/deadbeats    
 
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. www.ilchildsupport-employer.com
 
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.
 
Child Support Enforcement services are available to any parent who needs assistance in establishing legal parentage, establishing child support or medical support, or enforcing support.  Some enforcement tools, like interception of income tax refunds, are available only to customers of the child support enforcement program.  To register for free child support enforcement services, parents must complete and sign an application.  Applications are available on line at http://www.ilchildsupport.com/ or by phone at 1-800-447-4278. 


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