Local News

Audit Finds Problems with New Child Support Collection System

Posted April 24, 2000

— A recent audit of the state's new child support collection system outlines several problems and offers solutions to make sure single parents get the money they deserve on time.

With thecentralized collection system, individual counties no longer forward child support checks. The checks now all go to one central office in Raleigh.

The96-page auditsays the percentage of people impacted has been small. Many single parents waiting for checks insist the change in procedure is a complete failure.

At one point, 40,000 families had not been getting their child support checks on time. Vickie Brod is one of them.

"Why should I have to do this? Why should I have to fight my ex-husband for child support and fight the system that 's supposed to be in place to help me?" she asks.

"The actual number of mistakes made, according to our review, has been small," saysState AuditorRalph Campbell.

Despite the calls and complaints, the state says the problem is not out of hand.

During one five-month stretch, the state handled more than two million child support transactions. There were problems with only two percent of them.

"Please, please don't take this statement to mean that we are downplaying the seriousness of the mistakes that were made. We are not. But we need to look at the performance as a whole," says Campbell.

Tell that to Vickie Brod. She spent weeks waiting for her ex-husband's checks to arrive. They were lost in the shuffle of the new system.

The state auditor is recommending some changes to the system:

  • Rather than two state agencies handling child support payments, he says only one of them should.
  • Campbell suggests the state pursue direct deposits as a means of securing child support funds.

    The audit is based on responses from county clerk of court offices which used to handle child support checks. Some of their responses are overwhelming.

  • 91 percent of local offices say the centralized child support had a negative impact on their offices.
  • 98 percent say they were never questioned about their case loads to help the state get an estimate on what the centralized system was dealing with.
  • 98 percent said they had no input on the design of the new system.

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