CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a new law that would give the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) Division of Child Support, the ability to use more aggressive enforcement tools to collect child support payments from deadbeat parents. On behalf of the Governor, Illinois Healthcare and Family Services Director Barry Maram joined more than a dozen Illinois families, legislators and child advocates at the Marcy Newberry Day Care Center to herald Senate Bill 1035 which will adds administrative suspension of Illinois driving privileges and allows municipalities to immobilize vehicles for certain child support debtors to the list of enforcement actions available. The legislation also add severance pay to the as the definition of income for wage withholding purposes and authorizes parents and their legal representatives to review case records.
“We see more and more single parents struggling to provide their children with the basic needs. This often happens when a parent is not fulfilling their financial duties by providing their fair share,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Through laws such as this, we are cracking down and holding parents’ responsible and accountable for their children. More avenues to collect child support payments means more Illinois children can have the childhood they deserve.”
SB 1035 was sponsored by Senator Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) and Representative Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago).
HFS and the office of Secretary of State Jesse White will work together to use the administrative suspension of Illinois driving privileges to collect money for families. Administrative suspension of driver’s licenses is used in more than 20 states, and is a highly successful enforcement tool. States report average collections exceeding $10 million annually from the enforcement strategy. Some of the states successfully using this enforcement tool are: Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Washington.
Administrative suspension is widely viewed as an effective method of collecting support from noncustodial parents who are not engaged in traditional employment (self-employed, cash workers, and contractors for example). States already using this method report that the ability to administratively suspend driver’s licenses results in noncustodial parents paying their support. HFS will enter into payment agreements with noncustodial parents who come forward to avoid the suspension.
Illinois already successfully uses some administrative processes for asset seizure to collect child support debt. Last year, Illinois collected more than $13.5 million through passport denial.
“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. “We are proud to join other states in improving the nation's child support collections through the administrative suspension programs and are excited for what this will bring to Illinois families.”
Some states have been successful in using “Denver boots” to immobilize the vehicles of child support debtors. The State of Virginia has collected more than $400,000 using this tool over the last 4 years. SB1035 authorizes the Illinois child support program to work with municipalities who utilize booting.
In 2006, the Illinois child support program was named the National Child Support Enforcement Association's Most Improved Program. Also in 2006, the program was awarded the Lincoln Foundation for Performance Excellence Silver Award. In September 2007, the program received the Commissioner’s Award of Excellence in Performance from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.
Over the past four years, Gov. Blagojevich launched a number of other innovative and aggressive programs to improve child support collections, including the Deadbeat Parents website and New Hire Directory. These changes have resulted in significant improvements for parents and children who rely on the system. For example, the Governor's New Hire Directory more than doubled collections from newly hired non-custodial parents, from $1.5 million per month to an average of $3.8 million per month.
Under the Blagojevich administration, the child support program also significantly strengthened existing collection tactics. Child support collections that resulted from passport denials for debts owed to Illinois families grew from only $203,000 in 2002 to over $1.4 million in state fiscal year 2007. In addition, the Division of Child Support Enforcement successfully seized more than $13.5 million in assets, compared to $2.7 million in 2002. Since the inception of the administrative lien program, HFS has collected more than $50 million in past due support through liens and seizures. Collections now average more than $1 million per month. More than 60% of the state fiscal year 2007 collections of $13.5 million were the result of seizure of bank accounts held by child support debtors.
The continued improvements in child support collections in Illinois are due to the critical programs Governor Blagojevich has implemented since taking office.
The Deadbeat Parents Website: In November 2003, Governor Blagojevich launched the Deadbeat Parents Website, www.ilchildsupport.com/deadbeats
, that identifies parents who owe more than $5,000 in child support payments and whose families wish for their debt to be made public. More than $345,000 has been collected from the most egregious child support evaders through the Deadbeat Parent website.
Collaboration with Clerks of Circuit Court: This year, HFS launched a new collaboration with Illinois Clerks of Circuit Court to help parents sign up for child support enforcement services as soon as a new order is issued by the Courts. Early enforcement efforts will help new child support cases get on track and stay on track, making regular collection of support for families a reality. Clerks of Court will provide custodial parents with information about the child support program and applications for the enforcement services.
Project Clean Slate: In January 2007, HFS implemented Project Clean Slate to assist low-income fathers in reducing debt owed to the State while encouraging them to make their current support payments to their family. Non-custodial parents who owe child support to the State may be eligible to have the debt erased by making regular payments of support owed to families. To be eligible, non-custodial parents must prove they were unemployed or otherwise unable to make payments in the past. To learn more or to request an application, non-custodial parents should call 312-793-8222.
These initiatives and resulting success earned the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) an $8.6 million federal bonus for meeting federal child support indicators.
Illinois improved the percentage of establishment of legal parentage by 4% in federal fiscal year 2006, while also increasing cases with support orders from 60% to 67% for the same federal fiscal year. Collections for cases receiving full child support enforcement services increased by more than $63 million. Between 2002 and 2006, the cost effectiveness ratio improved 46.5%, from $2.62 to $3.84.
All child support enforcement services are free and include the automatic location of employers, automatic service on 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
SB 1035 becomes effective immediately.