Interstate Child Support:

Better Information Needed on Absent Parents for Case Pursuit

HRD-90-41: Published: May 24, 1990. Publicly Released: Jun 26, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed state child support agencies' processes to obtain and verify critical information needed to pursue interstate cases.

GAO found that: (1) initiating agencies and caseworkers often did not pursue interstate cases because information about the absent parent was missing; (2) initiating agencies could reduce processing time and increase collections by using enforcement options to avoid or minimize other states' involvement; (3) 67 percent of the cases caseworkers in 10 states received lacked the absent parent's correct address, and up to 78 percent lacked correct employment information; (4) caseworkers experienced delays averaging 6 months in processing cases referred by other states with missing or inaccurate information; (5) initiating caseworkers did not use available services to obtain absent-parent information because their response was too slow; (6) the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) had not established state response time frames on cases that had not been referred for enforcement action; (7) due to the lack of addresses, Maryland did not pursue 20 percent and Connecticut did not pursue 37 percent of their interstate cases; and (8) when initiating agencies referred cases with inaccurate information to other states, the receiving states generally wasted resources, encountered delays, and were unlikely to collect support.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continues to believe that existing policy issuances and rules make clear that checking other states' parent locator services is an "option" available to states. HHS plans no further action.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct OCSE to require that initiating child support agencies exhaust all reasonable efforts, including, as appropriate, checking other states' parent locator services, to obtain address and employment information on out-of-state absent parents for use in deciding how best to pursue interstate cases.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: HHS does not believe that verification of addresses with the U.S. Post Office should be "required" and does not plan to take any action on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct OCSE to require initiating agencies to verify out-of-state absent parents' addresses with the post office before sending cases with questionable information to other states for action.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: HHS does not concur and therefore does not plan to take any action on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct OCSE to require, by modifying existing performance standards, that responding state parent locator services quickly, preferably within 1 week, provide information from motor-vehicle, employment, and other readily accessible sources when responding to other states' information requests on cases that have not been referred for action.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS Policy Interpretation Question (PIQ) release 90-05 clearly indicates that direct requests of other states' parent locator services is an option.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct OCSE to clarify that initiating child support agencies may request absent parent information directly from other states' parent locator services without sending the requests through the responding states' central registries.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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