Md. gets better at child support collection, but still need improvement, auditors find

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By MarylandReporter.com

The state of Maryland is getting a lot better at collecting child support payments, auditors say, but is still collecting less than a third of $1.8 billion owed by non-custodial parents to take care of their children.

The good news, according to an audit of Child Support Enforcement Administration in the Department of Human Resources released Monday, is that the agency has corrected all 11 of the problems legislative auditors found four years ago and the amount of child support payments in arrears has been substantially reduced.

“Nevertheless, our audit identified opportunities for CSEA to improve its oversight of the child support enforcement operations,” chief auditor Thomas Barnickel told legislators in a letter. The agency “did not ensure that local child support offices initiated follow-up action when employers failed to remit wage withholding payments.”

The audit also found that the agency and local offices did not make effective use of the other tools to enforce child support, such as suspending driver’s licenses and occupational licenses.

The team from the Office of Legislative Audits found only six major problems areas this time, although the agency had also been the subject of a special audit requested by legislators in 2012.

The audit released Monday covered the three and half years from October 2010 to May 2014, all under the O’Malley administration. (Story continues below this graphic from Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.)

Child support graphic graphic large

Many problems in local offices

Many of the problems found by the auditors are actually the failings of the county offices of child support in the departments of social services, jointly funded by the state and local governments. Some of the functions are even outsourced to contractors, who auditors say are often not adequately monitored by the local agencies.

In the response to the audit findings provided by Human Resources Secretary Sam Malhotra, a Hogan appointee, the administration largely agreed with most of the findings and documented corrective action it has already taken.

Overall, last year state taxpayers spent over $45 million, including federal subsidies, on the Child Support Enforcement Administration, which collected $559 million from its open workload of 214,000 cases, a sum up 9% from 2010. But that still left $1.33 billion uncollected, an amount down 13% from 2010.

Major findings

Among the major findings by the auditors, as Barnickel pointed out, local agencies often did not follow up with employers who were sent notices that they were to garnish the wages of their employees. Taking child support out of paychecks is the principal way the state collects money from non-custodial parents who are not voluntarily sending the support they’ve been ordered by a court to pay.

Auditors found that local offices often disregarded repeated reminders from child support headquarters to contact the employers directly.

Auditors matched up “obligors”– people obliged to pay support — with wage earners from the records of the state labor department, and found there were at least 4,000 with unpaid balances of $500 or more in child support totaling $48.5 million.

The child support agency said that since the auditors left, it has “enhanced the language of the employer delinquency notices, and now sends three successive notices to an employer who appears to have not complied.”

In collaboration with the University of Maryland College Park, the agency also developed a case management tool, or dashboard, to better keep track of the status of cases and employers.

The audit also found that the agency was not suspending driver’s licenses and occupational licenses when payments are 60 to 90 days in arrears, as the law allows. But there was often improper coding by the agency that removed obligors from the suspension process.

The auditors also recommended that the agency better monitor its contractors, and get better documentation that the work was being performed.

  • Bates

    But yet for 12 YEARS IN A ROW the house chair Kathleen dumais has blocked a shared parenting bill in the state of Maryland that would encourage fathers and help fathers get equal access to their children. We have all stood nationwide at ever single capital in ALL 50 states as one group on the same day and that’s not including the dozens of OTHER groups of men all asking for our CHILDREN. This state is only interested in money and not the well-being of children while thousands of other fathers in this state are asking to be with our children.

    Stop stealing children from fathers or mothers for money. If a parent wants to be in their childrens lives it shouldn’t cost the thousands of dollars to ask for that or protect that.

  • Bates

    Also out of all the laws to collect child support. Where is the supporting laws to assist those parents who ARE TRYING to ask for more time with their children? No those parents are told they have to hire an attorney and fight in court but the child support department at no additional charge will help the custodial parent who is receiving financial assistance to ask for more money. The child support department will not assist non-custodial parent in acquiring more time with their children while the other parent is being handed a Financial upper hand? Yes that is correct there is no legal law stated in any state that child support is not ever to be used for litigating custody. So while the non-custodial parent is receiving no financial assistance and no help whatsoever the custodial parent can use the child support that is being collected from the non-custodial parent to represent themselves in court. How does that sound fair?