A Prince George's task force studying the county's child support procedures charged in a report to the County Council yesterday that the four agencies regulating child support in the county are "slow, uncommunicative, confusing, and . . . hostile" and need to be coordinated by a single office.
The 20-month-old task force said in a harshly worded, 25-page report that the county also needs to computerize the entire prosecution and collection process.
"Whether through benign neglect or abject indifference," federal, state and county governments have not developed an inexpensive or efficient system for collecting money to support children who, in some cases, are "financially desperate children," said council member Jo Ann T. Bell, who headed the study group.
The state's attorney's office, the County Department of Social Services, the Circuit Court Support Collection Unit, and the Circuit Court masters offices all play related roles in the child support process.
The task force was created in July 1983. A year later, Prince George's sheriff's deputies conducted the first of two nighttime raids to arrest hundreds of persons who had failed to make child support payments or to show up for court hearings.
Sgt. Terence Justin of the sheriff's department's child support enforcement unit said that support raids have led in recent months to an average monthly increase in collections of $70,000. More than $1 million was collected in child support during February, Justin said.
State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall said after yesterday's presentation of the task force report that he supports consolidation of certain agencies but feels that completely merging several offices cannot be done legally.
County Attorney Tom Smith said that he has recommended hiring an administrator to oversee child support functions in the courts, state's attorney's and sheriffs department.
On the flip side of the child support issue, officials from the National Council for Children's Rights told council members yesterday afternoon that a new task force is now needed to address the problems faced by noncustodial parents who attempt to visit their children.
"There is no reason why the administrative process couldn't be broadened to include other frequent problems arising with children, such as visitation," said David L. Levy, the group's president.
William Day, a District firefighter who said that he has not seen his 4-year-old son since August, complained that child support procedures protect only the parent with custody, usually the mother.
"It's discriminatory," Day said. "Ninety percent of child support cases are on behalf of the mother. You're representing the mother and not the father."