TOPEKA – In an effort to increase child support collections by tens of millions for Kansas children, the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) today began accepting proposals to privatize its system of collecting child support across the state.
“Child support payments can make an enormous difference in the financial well-being of a child, especially if that child is living in a household on the brink of poverty,” said DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore. “While we examine the root causes of childhood poverty and long-term solutions, we’re also working on steps that can be taken immediately to address this issue. One such step is in the area of child support.”
In Kansas, DCF’s Child Support Services division collects more than $200 million each year from non-custodial parents to support their children. The department projects that the state could increase these collections by about $52 million over the initial three years of the contracts under a privatized system.
“This means more money in the pockets of custodial parents who are trying each day to provide food, clothing and shelter for the 139,162 Kansas children with child support orders from the courts,” Secretary Gilmore said.
In 2000, the Urban Institute reported that child-support payments can lift many children out of poverty. However, collecting this support can be challenging. The Urban Institute report found that only 29 percent of children living in poverty with one parent receive support from the other parent.
To make this wholesale change, DCF is moving to a privatized system of child support services across Kansas’ 31 judicial districts. On Friday, a request for proposal (RFP) was posted on the Kansas Department of Administration’s website soliciting bids to provide this collection service. Providers may bid on one, several or all of the districts. The contracts are scheduled to be awarded in June and will go into effect in September.
“As the IRS and other state governments have found, collection is a function that can be carried out more efficiently and more cost-effectively by private companies that specialize in this kind of work,” Secretary Gilmore said.
“Individuals who make their child support payments responsibly and on time will notice little – if any – change. On the other hand, those who do not provide court-ordered support to their children can expect a more aggressive approach to collections,” the Secretary added.
Efforts to collect child support in Kansas have lagged for years. Currently, the state’s fragmented child support collection program currently ranks 42nd in the country.
“That is simply not good enough for the state, for the agency, or for the children we serve,” Secretary Gilmore said. “We need more than incremental change. We need an entirely new approach.”