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New Computer System Helps N.C. Counties Track Down Deadbeat Parents

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RALEIGH — All 100 counties in North Carolina now have some extra help to track downdeadbeat parents. A computer system is running all the child supportenforcement cases, and state leaders say the system can catch up withabsent parents who are on the run.

North Carolina has spent five years and tens of millions of dollars on anew computer system to get more child support payments to the people whoneed 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 thefirst place, and now she's going without some very basic fundamentals thatshe 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 morehope for children like Mary, since North Carolina's Department of ChildSupport Enforcement installed a new, computerized Automated Collectionand Tracking System. In its first month it helped collect $26 million, a13% increase over a year ago.

"We're very optimistic that this system is going to produce significantlymore child support than we've had in the past, and we believe even withthe large cost of the system, which was $64 million, that within threeyears we will have collected enough child support to have paid for thatsystem," said Mike Adams, director, N.C. Child Support Enforcement.

Agents like Charlene Neighbors, who is helping Thibodeau, said one of thesystem's best features is that it constantly checks a variety of databasesto help track down a deadbeat parent.

The system did help track down Thibodeau's husband. Even though he'sapparently on the run again, the process of getting Mary's child supportis underway.

Thibodeau has a good shot at getting payments from her husband is becausehe has a government pension, and money can be withheld from it. However,about 40% of the child support payments ordered by the courts in NorthCarolina doesn't get paid.

Reporter: Len BesthoffPhotographer: Greg Clark

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