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Awareness month highlights child support initiatives, achievements

August 09, 2013

Katie Bauer

PDF version of news release

The Minnesota Department of Human Services is celebrating the achievements of Minnesota's child support program and the families it serves during August, National Child Support Month.

For nearly 270,000 children, Minnesota's child support program promotes their well-being and their families’ self-sufficiency. Every month, the program collects approximately $52.4 million and disburses it to families, mostly by direct deposit into custodial parents’ saving, checking or stored value accounts, in each of the 87 counties across the state.

“For many, those payments mean the difference between uncertainty and safe, stable households,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.

Innovation and creativity are bringing new solutions to long-term and ever-changing issues.
In the past year, the department implemented or started work on these changes in child support:

For parents:

  • Faster access to case information online. Soon parents will be able to create and reset their passwords online and get them instantly rather than wait for passwords to arrive via U.S. mail.
  • Secure email messaging to county child support officers and caseworkers. Soon parents will be able to email workers in addition to calling or meeting with them in person.
  • Secure online reporting and updating for certain demographic information, such as names and addresses. Expected to launch in early 2014, parents will be able to use this feature day or night.

For employers:

  • Faster access to pay the income withheld from their employees online. Instant passwords allow employers to register and use Minnesota Child Support Online, and submit payments immediately without waiting for passwords in the U.S. mail.
  • More convenient payment options. Employers will soon have a choice to pay the income they withhold from employees by entering information for each employee individually as they do now or by uploading one file.

Child support is money parents pay for the care, support and education for their child. It may include a monthly court-ordered amount for basic support, child care support and medical support. County and state child support offices provide services for more than 398,000 custodial and noncustodial parents. Although all families who receive public assistance are required to cooperate with the child support office, most of the cases in Minnesota’s program involve children who do not receive public assistance. Parents are applying for services and choosing to have the agency help them manage their cases.

“By providing a mechanism for the transfer of financial support from one parent to another, we help parents put their focus on their children,” Jesson said. “We automate many of the actions necessary to achieve regular payments, which helps reduce stress and takes the need for financial support discussions out of parents’ interactions during parenting time and child exchanges.”

For every $1 spent on Minnesota's child support program in federal fiscal year 2012, $3.49 was collected in support of Minnesota children.

Last year $427 million, or about 71 percent of the child support collected, was routinely withheld by employers from parents’ paychecks. In addition, employers are one of the program’s biggest allies because they report hiring information, which aids in locating parents and enforcing orders.

“As tighter budgets and fewer resources challenge our programs and service delivery, we are working smarter,” Jesson said. “We continually assess our systems and services to determine how we can better meet the needs of the people we serve.”

These efforts and others already underway, such as modernizing the statewide computer system, will create greater efficiency, provide better customer service and help staff be as effective as possible, she added.

“By allowing participants and partners more options to keep information current, the program works better and our families benefit,” Jesson said.

More information about Minnesota's child support program can be found on the Minnesota Department of Human Services website.

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