Collecting what’s owed

It was good to hear last week that collection of child support payments in Ohio is better than in the past — up to nearly 70% of what is owed.

But 70% is, well, nothing to brag about in Belmont County. There, the county Child Support Enforcement Agency has a 79.59% collection rate.

Still — and understand, we mean this as no criticism to the dedicated, hard-working local people involved in the work — even Belmont County’s rate means one in five children who deserve support from parents outside the home are not receiving it.

State officials revealed their success in boosting the collection rate above the national average, which is 65.8%. They noted the higher rate for Ohio was due to a statewide initiative by the Office of Child Support, which is part of the Department of Job and Family Services.

Like their counterparts in other counties, local child support enforcement personnel are engaged in a tough battle. More than a million Buckeye State children are supposed to be receiving help through child support payments by absent parents. But the backlog of those payments totals about $4.5 billion.

One chore for child support enforcement agencies is finding those who are not making court-ordered payments. Obviously, some work hard to avoid being located.

Then there comes the task of wringing money out of people who don’t want to pay and sometimes have limited resources. It is no coincidence that collection rates trend downward as those who owe child support have lower incomes.

What can be done to collect more from parents — usually fathers — who simply don’t want to support their children? Enforcing consequences for failure to pay is important. In announcing Belmont County’s high rate of collections earlier this year, county DJFS Director Vince Gianangeli credited his staff — and prosecutors and judges.

So, good for all involved locally. Again, however, that still leaves many children without the support they should be receiving. State legislators should consider whether there is anything they can do to help boost the child support collection rate.


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