By any definition, the Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement is overworked and understaffed. But a new audit of the agency reveals that several options to collect child support from deadbeat dads are not being utilized. Despite the workload, there is no excuse for this lazy policy that impacts hundreds of thousands of Missouri single parents.
Over $1 billion in uncollected child support payments were reported here in the past five years alone. The bad news is that the state believes these figures will get worse before they get better. As a result, thousands upon thousands of children will be unable to sustain a modest lifestyle simply because some dad out there refuses to make court-mandated payments.
There are cases where the money for these child support payments simply is not there. But in many cases, the deadbeat dads know how slow the system operates and they use that knowledge to withhold payments. It's the kids who suffer from this flaw in the system.
One aspect of this new audit is truly frustrating. It shows that in over 175,000 cases, the deadbeat dads could not be located and therefore, payments were not forthcoming. I find it unacceptable that this information does not make its way to the proper authorities. If the state wanted to find these dads bad enough, I assure you they would be located in the overwhelming majority of cases.
But these problems always return to the issue of being overworked and understaffed. And these are real problems. Yet given the tight shape of state government's budget, don't look for any relief soon. That is bad news to the thousands of single parents awaiting a monthly child support check that often does not arrive.
The state unfortunately must turn to the private sector and hire contractors who can find these dads and increase collections. Fly-by-night collection promises advertised on television are not the answer. The state needs to hire a reliable and proven contractors to increase the collection rate which runs as low as 20 percent.
With Christmas around the corner, far too many single parents will face an uneasy and bleak holiday season all because some deadbeat dad ignored the law. It's the responsibility of the state to make every effort possible to generate these payments. And it's time for the excuses to go away and for results to improve.