RALEIGH — All 100 counties in North Carolina now have some extra help to track down deadbeat parents. A computer system is running all the child support enforcement cases, and state leaders say the system can catch up with absent parents who are on the run.
North Carolina has spent five years and tens of millions of dollars on a new computer system to get more child support payments to the people who need them. Wednesday night, WRAL's Len Besthoff spoke with someone who said she's already realizing the benefits.
"You're trying to help this child through the trauma of a divorce in the first place, and now she's going without some very basic fundamentals that she needs," said Pam Thibodeau, mother and child support recipient.
Thibodeau said her 12-year-old daughter Mary has had a hard time ever since her father stopped helping with her living expenses. But now there's more hope for children like Mary, since North Carolina's Department of Child Support Enforcement installed a new, computerized Automated Collection and Tracking System. In its first month it helped collect $26 million, a 13% increase over a year ago.
"We're very optimistic that this system is going to produce significantly more child support than we've had in the past, and we believe even with the large cost of the system, which was $64 million, that within three years we will have collected enough child support to have paid for that system," said Mike Adams, director, N.C. Child Support Enforcement.
Agents like Charlene Neighbors, who is helping Thibodeau, said one of the system's best features is that it constantly checks a variety of databases to help track down a deadbeat parent.
The system did help track down Thibodeau's husband. Even though he's apparently on the run again, the process of getting Mary's child support is underway.
Thibodeau has a good shot at getting payments from her husband is because he has a government pension, and money can be withheld from it. However, about 40% of the child support payments ordered by the courts in North Carolina doesn't get paid.
Reporter: Len Besthoff Photographer: Greg Clark