One computer system, 25 years (hopefully)
During the 25 years that South Carolina’s Department of Social Services has been working on a computer system to aid child support enforcement, countless children have done without support they were due.
During that 25 years, every other state in the U.S. managed to get a comparable system up and running.
And during that 25-year period, the state has accrued $104 million in federal penalties for failing to implement such a system.
It will likely be responsible for $66 million of that total because the companies that failed to create the system as promised paid for a chunk of the penalties. The penalties could mount if the system is delayed again.
Beyond taxpayers’ justified frustration over South Carolina’s failure in this situation, state employees have labored under a convoluted system that involves 46 different counties instead of a single central entity.
In 1988, Congress passed a law requiring states to implement an automated child-support enforcement system allowing states to interact with each other in their searches for scofflaws behind on child support.
DSS has contracted with three companies, Hewlett Packard holding the current contract. According to Greenville/Online, Frank Chechile, HP vice president of state and local government, said the company is testing the system now.
Perhaps Lillian Koller, whom Gov. Nikki Haley appointed to head DSS in South Carolina, will complete what previous directors have not been able to accomplish. She did, after all, make procedural changes within the department that more than doubled the number of South Carolinians who went from welfare to work.
Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Walhalla, who chairs the Senate Finance subcommittee that is overseeing the process, says producing the computer system has been “one fiasco after another.”
He insists, however, that the state is doing a good job collecting child support.
But we think Katie Morgan, a former DSS chief of staff who now oversees the project, is reasonable in predicting that DSS will be more efficient and even more successful when the system is completed. And it is, of course, the law.
Ms. Morgan says it will be easier to get information to help locate parents, and it will enable the state to intercept the tax refunds and lottery winnings of deadbeat parents for child support.
Those improvements can’t come soon enough.
Twenty-five years is a long time to wait for deadbeat parents to pay their legal share of child support.