The Department of Human Resources plans to establish a five-member law enforcement unit in an attempt to crack down on absentee parents who fail to make court-ordered child support payments.
The plan is expected to bring in $1.6 million in delinquent payments from parents involved in 2,000 cases that are in areas. The new unit will not be able, however, to make a dent in another 22,000 cases that have not been processed by DHR and are costing the city $16 million annually said DHR official Eugene Brown.
Brown, director of DHR's Paternity and Child Support Enforcement Office, said the collection attempts will be limited because his office does not have funds to hire the additional staff members needed to enforce the support laws.
Under federal guidelines, Brown said, his office is required to look for the absent parents of families receiving Aid for Dependent Children (AFDC). The Superior Court sets the amounts absent parents are required to contribute toward the AFDC payments to their families. The families, however, receive the full payments to which they are entitled under the law, even if absent parents are not located.
Brown said support payments have not been established for the 22,000 cases because his office has been unable to process them for presentation to the court, but the families are receiving city aid.
He said he has 38 staff members but needs 109 to run his unit. DHR requested funds for the additional staff members but they were not approved.
The staff shortages and their contribution to the size of the case backlog was confirmed by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in a federal audit conducted in August, Brown added.
The new five-member unit, he said, is the department's attempt to provide help to the understaffed office out of DHR's own resources. Funds for the five employes will come from the DHR budget, and the federal government will reimburse the city for 75 percent of the cost.
The court has set payments in 3,000 cases and 2,000 of these are in arears, costing the city $1.6 million annually, Brown said. The new unit will try to enforce collection by locating the absent parents, issuing court summonses and working with the Corporation Counsel to have delinquent payments deducted from parents' pay.
Searches will be made throughout the United States, he said, and AFDC families may be penalized for failing to cooperated with the office, unless they have a good cause for not cooperating.
Brown said the city now receives about $200,000 quarterly in support payments from parents complying with court orders in the other 1,000 cases.
The plan to establish the new unit was announced at a DHR press conference last week.
Other announcements included the proposed relocation of the Anacostia Southeast Service Center and the estblishment of a DHR citizens advisory committee.
Hearings to discuss moving the Anacostia Center now at Minnesota Avenue and Good Hope Road to 16th and Butler streets SE will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, 1602 Morris Rd. SE.
The center has been in its present location 11 years said Truitt Briggs, director of the facility. Within that time, Briggs said, the office has outgrown its space. ADFC cases alone, he said, have increased from 700 cases a month to more than 3,700 cases monthly.
The DHR Advisory Committee is a 35-member board of consumers and Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) representatives that will act as go-between for DHR and the community. The board was selected by DHR director Albert P. Russo to serve three years terms.