SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) today announced it has surpassed the $100 million dollar mark in collecting past due child support through a partnership with the Secretary of State Jesse White’s Office.
Under the program, launched in 2008, the Secretary of State’s Office uses an administrative procedure to suspend the driver’s license of delinquent parents who owe more than $2,500 in back payments and are not making an effort to get caught up on their child support obligation.
The program surpassed $100 million in collections in March, which also recorded the single highest month of collections in the program’s history, with $7.4 million collected. The program has collected $54.7 million in the current fiscal year, already surpassing the total for FY09 of $43.4 million.
“The driver’s license suspension program is a great example of state government agencies working together to enforce the law and help struggling parents get the child support payments they are due,” said HFS Director Julie Hamos. “Many families depend on child support payments to make ends meet.”
“It is important to ensure the safety and improve the lives of children and families statewide,” said Secretary White. “We work to make sure drivers on the road act responsibly, and that responsibility extends to providing the necessary support for their children. Driving is not a right, it is a privilege.”
The drivers’ license suspension program is one of the most successful tools in the arsenal of HFS’ Division of Child Support Enforcement. Under the program, HFS mails warning letters to parents who have an Illinois driver’s license and are failing to meet their child support obligation. If the delinquent parents owes more than $2,500 and makes no effort to contact the agency and begin making payments, the agency forwards the name to the Secretary of State’s Office. If no attempt is made to make payments, their driver’s license will be suspended in 60 days time.
At least 20 other states use administrative suspension of driver’s licenses as an enforcement tool. The authority to suspend driver’s licenses for non-payment of child support debt is particularly effective when parents who owe child support work for cash in order to avoid paying child support through wage withholding.
HFS understands that parents who owe child support may face difficulties in today’s economic environment. Driver’s licenses are not suspended when the parent is making regular payments or is receiving unemployment. Parents who contact HFS after receiving a notice have the opportunity to talk with professional staff about their current circumstances. The goal of the driver’s license suspension program is not to withhold driving privileges, but to engage parents in support of their children.
Since 2001, HFS’ focus on improving the child support program has resulted in significant gains for Illinois families. Collections surpassed $1 billion in 2005, and each year since 2005 has resulted in even higher collections. HFS expects 2010 to be the 6th consecutive year of collections greater than $1 billion.
For more information about HFS’ Child Support Enforcement Division, please visit http://www.ilchildsupport.com