Ohio county officials are trying a new, customer-friendly approach to get more parents to make child support payments.
The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2p8Xae7 ) reports the Franklin County Child Support Enforcement Agency is one of eight agencies around the U.S. participating in an experimental five-year federal program. The goal of the program is to help people pay child support on a regular basis.
Director Susan Brown said the agency is trying to change its reputation and shift from the punitive approach.
"We want the process (to be) not so intimidating and overwhelming," she said.
As part of the new program, paperwork has been simplified and workers help parents resolve child-support issues. Parents now receive business-reply envelopes, and the agency sends thank-you notes to encourage parents to continue making payments. Parents are not told they are in the program.
Project case manager Katherine Stiles said she noticed clients have provided more complete and accurate information since the new forms were used.
"More information means better-informed decisions," Stiles said.
The new program comes as the Franklin County agency experienced a declining caseload. The agency saw 100,000 cases in 2009. Today, it handles 68,000 cases. Last year, it collected $165 million from customers.
Brown said the threat of jail or losing a driver's license did not work for the one-third of the cases in which the paying parent is poor.
"At the end of the day, we're really saving kids," Brown said. "We want kids to have the resources to thrive."
The first phase of the program ends April 30.
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com