Review finds state's child support collection efforts improved

The state will release an additional $100,000 in funding for the state Department of Human Resources after a legislative audit review found the agency had sufficiently improved its efforts to collect child support on behalf of thousands of Maryland children.

Improved collection tactics helped bring in a record $549 million in court-ordered child support payments last year, the agency announced Tuesday. The actions follow a September 2011 review by the Department of Legislative Audits that found the agency was not working aggressively enough to collect child support.

Since then, the agency has increased collections by 16 percent per case, or $353 more for each family. Maryland now ranks among the top 10 states for the percentage of past due child support payments collected, up from 26th in the nation.

"In Maryland, we're doing everything we can to protect and care for our most vulnerable," Governor Martin O'Malley said "Child support plays a vital part in ensuring the well-being of Maryland's children and the stability of many single parent households."

Thomas J. Barnickel III, legislative auditor, said in a letter released Tuesday that a review of documents, limited tests and analysis has shown the agency corrected the problems outlined in the 2011 audit. The agency is working with other state officials to suspend occupational licenses for parents that don't pay support payments, among other actions.

Human Resources Secretary Ted Dallas said the agency also is trying to take a smarter approach to collecting child support, including linking parents to job opportunities, training and education.

"Our success comes from recognizing the distinction between a dead-beat parent and one who is just dead-broke," Dallas said in a statement. "While we will never hesitate to use every tool in the box to collect child support from those who can afford to pay but don't, our approach must also work with those who would contribute but simply cannot afford to pay."

Through its Non-custodial Parent Employment Program, the agency has enrolled 17,551 parents in job training and job readiness programs since June 2007. Those parents have collectively made $97 million in payments, according to the agency.

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