The Carroll County Sheriff's Office hopes to turn a loss of about $32,000 in federal money for child support enforcement into a $200,000 gain, and deadbeat parents will be the losers.
Maryland sheriff's departments are compensated by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement for serving child support summonses and court-ordered arrest warrants under which deadbeat parents are apprehended.
The federal government had been paying $30 for each child support summons and $245 for each arrest warrant.
Now, however, the federal agency says it has been misinterpreting Maryland law and, as of July 1, will pay $30 for both summonses and warrants served.
For Carroll, that will mean a net loss of $215 for each arrest warrant served, or about $32,250, in fiscal 1999, when Sheriff John H. Brown's deputies expect to serve 150 child support warrants.
However, the same federal agency is offering assistance to sheriffs who form a child support enforcement unit, using two or three full-time deputies exclusively to serve child support summons and warrants.
If the federal grant is approved, Brown's office would receive about $200,000, the cost of salary, benefits and equipment for three entry-level deputies, a clerk, computers and other administrative equipment.
Maj. John W. Stultz, who heads sheriff's services under Brown, said he will complete the application for the grant before the sheriff presents it to the County Commissioners, possibly Thursday, for their approval.
Child support collections in fiscal 1997 -- the latest figures available -- exceeded $6 million, but about one-third of parents under court order to pay were not meeting their obligations, county enforcement officials said.
In the same period, statewide, more than $317 million owed in child support was collected, including $95 million owed from previous years.
In Carroll, the rate of payments collected -- 67 percent -- placed the county fourth among 24 state jurisdictions in fiscal 1997, said Jamie Wehler, supervisor of the county's bureau of support, a division of the social services department.
The estimated arrears for Carroll child support payments was more than $8 million, said James F. Brewer, chief of the child support division for the county state's attorney's office.
"We have been getting really great results from the sheriff's office on the pay-for-service basis," said Brewer. "We have to feel that we will be getting even better results with three full-service deputies [on the job]."
Pub Date: 5/11/98