The Clay County Child Support Division is sixth among Indiana's 92 counties for making improvements in child support collections on behalf of children.
"Occasionally, we receive feedback from the state telling us how we are doing," Clay County Prosecutor Lee Reberger told The Brazil Times. "This year, the numbers really popped out."
According to the Indiana Department of Child Services, local collections of child support payments were 14.46 percent higher for the period of January through June 2009. The period of collections for January-June 2009 were also 8.54 percent higher than the prior year.
The overall goal of the office is to represent children's best interest in support matters, which includes:
* Establishing paternity,
* Collecting funds to reimburse the state's cost (or the taxpayers' expense) for providing benefits like TANF or Medicaid insurance for families in need, and
* Establishing and taking necessary steps to ensure child support payments.
"In a perfect world, all obligations to children would be met," Reberger said. "The fact is that's not always true."
With the economic downturn causing many individuals to have fewer resources to pay debts, Reberger said Clay County's numbers are impressive compared to other counties that aren't doing as well.
Among Clay County's neighbors, Greene (--0.72), Sullivan (--3.43) Parke (--1.52), Vermillion (--3.01) and Vigo (--2.16) counties have seen decreases in July 2008-June 2009 collection percentages, while Putnam (+10.26) and Owen (+4.50) counties experienced increases.
This increase in collections is good for Clay, Putnam and Owen counties because the state reimburses a portion of the operating costs for each of the local Title IV-D offices back to the respective county in support of its child support office, the clerk's office and the respective county's general fund.
Reberger explained the more successful an office is, the less of a burden it creates on taxpayers.
Deputy Prosecutor Mark Greenwell, with more than 19 years of experience working as a prosecutor and in other child support offices, recently started working in the child support office at the Clay County Courthouse.
He praised the work of IV-D Administrator Amy Martin, Coordinator Dennis Eskew and Case Managers Debi Brown and Allison Butts.
"I firmly believe these collections are a priority here in Clay County," Greenwell said. "The success of this office is because of the dedicated employees who understand the tools available to do the job and use them well to track down these cases to a positive resolution."
Greenwell confirmed the office is currently handling more than 3,500 open support cases affecting, conservatively, more than an estimated 5,000 children in Clay County. Officials believe having non-custodial parents do their part in taking care of their children instead of taxpayers is crucial for many reasons, but the most important is the future well being of children.
Chief Deputy Kim Jackson said, "The single biggest predictor of childhood poverty is the failure of non-custodial parents to support their children financially."
What are child support services?
The Clay County Child Support Division, the local branch of the federally funded Title IV-D Office, will help anyone with a child support order, whether originating in Clay County or from any court throughout the United States, enforce the terms of that order in Clay County or throughout the U.S. A one-time minimum fee of $25 is collected to enforce cases for people not claiming benefits from the State of Indiana.
Parents using state programs -- such as TANF or Medicaid -- are processed without the fee as a way to alleviate the need for state support for the children.
The child support division has also created an informational pamphlet to help prepare parents through the child support collection process.
"A Guide to Prepare You for Your Child Support Hearing" has information regarding courthouse hours and address, contact information for the local child support division and helpful information like what to wear or bring to court and what to expect the day of court proceedings.
The pamphlets are available at the Brazil Public Library, Brazil Housing Authority, Clay County YMCA, LEAPP Center, Division of Family and Children, WIC Office and the child support office at the Clay County Courthouse.
For more information about child support issues, contact the Clay County Child Support Division at 448-9039.