Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

Area child support collection rates high

By Sydney Albert
Child support collections in Mercer and Auglaize counties have long outpaced both national and state collections, meaning more money is reaching the children who need it, officials said.
Ohio recently joined a "select group" of states that collect at least 70% of current child support owed, which is well above the national average of 65.8%, according to an Ohio Department of Job and Family Services news release.
The ODJFS Office of Child Support collects and distributes nearly $2 billion annually to more than 1 million children in Ohio, the release stated. The child-support program is administered by county agencies which also locate noncustodial parents, establish legal paternity, establish child and medical support orders and enforce support orders.
John Brunner, administrator of the Auglaize County Child Support Enforcement Agency, said the state had collected 70.06% of its due support payments at the end of fiscal year 2019 for the first time in 20 years. The statewide collection average from fiscal year 2011 was 66.61%.
Yet according to figures provided by the child support enforcement agencies of Auglaize and Mercer counties, local agencies have exceeded the 70% milestone for years. Auglaize County collected 76.05% of its total support due at the end of fiscal year 2019, and has collected an average of 77.22% of total collections due between 2011 and 2019.
"Auglaize County's performance in all incentive categories far exceed the state averages each year," Brunner wrote in an email. "I attribute the success of the Auglaize County CSEA to the hard work of all of the Auglaize County CSEA employees and all JFS employees and management, as well as our collaborative partnerships with, and support of, the judges, the court staff, county commissioners, law enforcement, prosecutor's office and a myriad of other county partners and agencies working together to improve the lives of our customers and children in Auglaize County."
Angela Nickell, Mercer County CSEA administrator, wrote in an email the county collected 73.69% of its due support by the end of fiscal year 2019. According to figures provided by Nickell, the county has also collected an average of 73.87% of due collections between fiscal years 2011 and 2019.
"Many things impact a final collection percentage, from the manner in which the case is coded and counted to the make-up of a county population," Nickell wrote.
She used Holmes and Cuyahoga counties as examples for how demographics affect county percentages. Holmes County has a larger population than Mercer County, but has nearly half the case load, Nickell wrote in an email. The Holmes County demographic reveals 71% are married couples, 43% of households contain children and 7% of the households are single parent households, according to Nickell. She wrote the Holmes County CSEA consistently has collection rates in the mid- to high-70th percentile, similar to Mercer County.
By comparison, Cuyahoga County has a population 30 times larger than Mercer County, and Nickell wrote their agency's caseload is about 60 times larger than what Mercer County deals with. Only 42% of Cuyahoga County's population consists of married couples, 28% of households have children and 16% of the households are single parent households. Cuyahoga's agency tends to have collection rates consistently in the low- to mid-60 percentile, according to Nickell.
The average family make-up in each county, along with other factors like local economics and job availability and logistics all affect the ability to collect support.
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