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Maryland auditors criticize child support collections in Baltimore

The Office of Legislative Audits says the Maryland Department of Human Resources is showing improvement in the way it handles child support collections, but has only made "minimal progress" regarding problems with the company contracted to conduct collections within Baltimore. The report came as a follow-up to a 2011 review that harshly criticized the state DHR for failing to do enough to collect delinquent child support payments.

According to auditors, the Baltimore's child support collections contractor has failed a number of goals aimed at helping it find and collect payments from non-custodial parents with owed back payments. They claim that the DHR has only corrected 10 percent of the contractor's compliance issues. Between Oct.1 and March 31, the Office of Legislative Audits found that about 63 percent of Baltimore's 1,100 child support cases reviewed during that time did not comply with Maryland's contract guidelines. The office has ordered the DHR to continue filing regular reports detailing the steps it is taking to improve the issue.

Officials with the DHR argue that they have successfully addressed all of the issues listed in the 2011 report. A representative with the state agency explained that the DHR is currently renegotiating its contract in order to further improve collections in Baltimore, which have seen a "dramatic improvement" of 4.4 percent. He added that Maryland collected $25.1 million more in child support in 2011 than 2010, setting a record high of $544.4 million for the year. Collections in Baltimore accounted for about $3.6 million of this increase.

The DHR representative credited a number of measures for the collections improvements. He explained that the agency encouraged companies across the state to report new employees, allowing the state to better track when non-custodial parents fail to make payments despite having jobs. Additionally, the DHR has "worked with other state agencies to suspend drivers and professional licenses and intercept tax refunds or lottery winnings."

Source: Baltimore Sun, "State auditors call for better oversight of city child support," Yvonne Wenger, Nov. 14, 2012

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