CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that Illinois’ Division of Child Support Enforcement is one of the nation’s leaders in child support collected through the federal Passport Denial program. In 2006, Illinois was one of only six states to collect over $1 million through passport denial, netting $1.14 million for Illinois children. In addition, passport denial collections in Illinois jumped by 43% in 2006, surpassing the national increase of 33%. The State of
Illinois’ child support collection reached a record breaking high of $1.1 billion in Fiscal Year 2006.
“We know that when children get the support they need, they have the best chance at a bright future,” said Governor Blagojevich. “The passport denial program allows us to hold-up deadbeat parents’ ability to travel until they’ve agreed to a plan that fulfills their financial obligation to their children. It’s one more way we can make sure Illinois’ children get the support they deserve.”
The Passport Denial Program, which is part of the Federal Offset Program, is designed to help states enforce delinquent child support obligations. Under the program, non-custodial parents certified by a state as having arrearages exceeding $2,500 are submitted by the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) to the Department of State (DoS), which denies them U.S. passports upon application or the use of a passport service. Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ Department of Child Support Enforcement staff then work with the debtor to make arrangements to pay the child support debt in order for the passport hold to be released. In most cases, full payment of the debt is required. Illinois is one of only seven states to collect over $3 million in child support dues through the Passport Denial Program since its inception in 1998.
The Passport Denial Program has been effective for parents across Illinois, including Ms. Peggy Carlson of Quincy. The non-custodial parent of her child resided in Germany and needed his passport to continue to live overseas and be able to visit the United States. He paid the entire case balance of $46,097.06 for the release of his passport.
“I never expected to receive the past due child support because the father lived in Germany,” said Peggy Carlson. “Without the State's help, I never would have gotten it. Thank you very much!”
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 given to the State of Illinois’ program for its increased collections and new programs. In November, Illinois’ Division of Child Support Enforcement received the prestigious Lincoln Foundation Award for Performance Excellence for the second year in a row. The Division was one of six recipients of the Lincoln Foundation Silver Award in 2006, building on successes that led to a Bronze Award in 2005.
“We have aggressively pursued every avenue to ensure that Illinois’ children get the child support they need,” said Barry Maram, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. “Under Governor Blagojevich’s leadership, Illinois’ child support program has made a dramatic turnaround, and we are proud to be among the states leading the nation in child support collections through the Passport Denial program.”
In the mid-1990s, the 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 four 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 helped produce 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.
These initiatives and resulting success earned the Division of Child Support Enforcement an $8.6 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.