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August 1, 2006

Blagojevich administration kicks-off National Child Support Month; Receives 2006 Most Improved Program Award from National Child Support Enforcement Association for efforts on behalf of IL Families

CHICAGO – Joining states throughout the nation, the State of Illinois will recognize August as National Child Support Awareness Month. Earlier this month, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced the State of Illinois’ child support collection reached a record breaking high of $1.14 billion in 2006, which surpassed last year’s collections of $1 billion. Due to the administrations’ continuous, aggressive efforts to turn around Illinois child support enforcement, Illinois today was named the 2006 Most Improved Program in the country by the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA).

“Receiving this award signifies that the state is taking the right steps to improve its child support program so it can better serve Illinois families,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I am proud of the success we’ve had and we will continue to push for aggressive and innovative reforms that will help single parents gain the resources they need to provide their children the childhood they deserve.”

Today Barry Maram, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), will read a proclamation on behalf of the Governor in the atrium of the James R. Thompson Center at 11:30 am. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services will also host a resource fair from Tuesday, August 1 through Friday, August 4, from 9 am to 3 pm on the ground level of the Thompson Center at 100 W. Randolph in Chicago to raise awareness about the state’s programs and initiatives.

“This administration has worked tirelessly to revamp the child enforcement system,” said Director Maram. “Being recognized by the NCSEA will serve as a reminder of the success we’ve had and also serve as motivation to continue to push forward with our reforms.”

Each year the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) recognizes outstanding achievements in child support enforcement and the 2006 award is being awarded to the State of Illinois’ program for its increased collections and new programs. An Awards Committee comprised of NCSEA members in the public, private and international sectors make the award selections. The award will be presented today at the NCSEA’s 55th Annual Training Conference & Expo in Dallas, Texas, and accepted by Pam Compton, Illinois’ Child Support Enforcement Program administrator.

“NCSEA congratulates Illinois on its improved performance. The steady improvement Illinois has shown really demonstrates its commitment to children,” said Mary Anne Wellbank, President-elect of the NCSEA.

In the mid-1990s, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) 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 three 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 seen results.

In 2006, the Governor’s New Hire website on average collected $3.8 million monthly, compared to just $1.5 million monthly in 2004. In addition, more than 16,000 employers who previously did not report New Hires are now regularly reporting. 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 $10 million in assets in 2006, compared to $9.6 million in 2005, which is a 4.2 percent increase.

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 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 dollars as they are due and of collecting old dollars that were unpaid in past years.

Child support is the second largest income source for low-income families who qualify for the program. In 2003, more than 846,735 children in Illinois were owed child support payments totaling about $3 billion, with a collection rate of 28 percent. Today, the collection rate is 36 percent, with 680,763 children’s support being enforced by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

The continued improvements in child support collections in Illinois are due to Blagojevich’s continued leadership and the critical programs he implemented since taking office.

The Illinois/Iowa Joint Child Support Enforcement Office. In October 2005, Governor Blagojevich announced that Illinois joined forces with the state of Iowa to increase enforcement of child support laws through the opening of a new, jointly staffed child support enforcement office in Rock Island, IL. This is the second collaborative interstate child support office in the country. Located close to the state line, the new facility has one full time employee from each state who work together to ensure improved interstate information sharing, faster collection of court-ordered child support and more efficient enforcement of child support laws. In the first six months of the collaboration, more than $230,000 was collected.

The Deadbeat Parents Website. In November 2003, Governor Blagojevich launched the Deadbeat Parents Website that identified parents who owe more than $5,000 in child support payments, resulting in the collection of nearly $190,000 in back payments in the first two years of operation www.ilchildsupport.com/deadbeats.

New Hire Initiative. In Illinois, 80 percent of child support is collected through wage withholdings, a method facilitated by the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s New Hire Directory. The Blagojevich administration made it easier for employers to comply with the New Hire Directory by establishing a website to get information and clarification about the law, and developed easy-to-understand marketing materials that assisted in the employer education process. HFS also provided onsite training at employer sites and association meetings.

These initiatives and resulting success earned the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) an $8.4 million federal bonus award for meeting federal child support indicators, the largest incentive ever received by Illinois under a performance based system.


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