Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 18, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Child Support


  • August is National Child Support Month. Veronica Ragland of the Arizona Department of Economic Security will talk about the department's latest efforts to improve the collection of child support.
Guests:
  • Veronica Ragland - Arizona Department of Economic Security
Category: Government   |   Keywords: child support, national child support month,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
August is National Child Support Month. It also has been declared Child Support Awareness Month in Arizona by the governor. In fiscal year 2008, the state collected $689 million in child support payments through enforcement efforts using a variety of tools. Here to talk more about that is Veronica Ragland. She's in charge of the child support unit for the Arizona Department of Economic Security. Thanks for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Veronica Ragland:
Thanks very much for having me.

Ted Simons:
The child support collected by DES, upwards of several million dollars or so. How much goes uncollected?

Veronica Ragland:
Approximately, 50% of -- on the dollar is what we're currently collecting. So we collect 50 cents on the dollar of obligation.

Ted Simons:
The idea of making that a little bit better, different ways, what's being used, the ideas out there?

Veronica Ragland:
There are a lot of creative things. In the last six years we've increased collections about 7.5 cents on the dollar and doing a lot of things to optimize the use of enforcement tools. Reprogramming our system to ensure it's throwing the cases we need into the enforcement remedies and in addition, we're coming up with creative solutions such as seizing bank accounts and even retirement accounts. For example, recently, we started seizing retirement accounts and within three months, had $150,000 collected from retirement accounts.

Ted Simons:
Wow, and not only retirement, you're talking everything from paychecks to lottery winnings.

Veronica Ragland:
That's correct, to inmate banking accounts.

Ted Simons:
Talk to us about that. There's a situation in southern Arizona.

Veronica Ragland:
Certainly will. Recently from the relationships we have with law enforcement, we learned several inmates were receiving a class action settlement so we immediately issued what are called limited income withholding orders and the lead class action recipient had a child support obligation of $36,000, which we seized and paid to the state and the family.

Ted Simons:
My goodness. There are other options, of going after taxes too.

Veronica Ragland:
That's correct. In anticipation of the changing economy, we thought we should take a closer look at our enforcement areas. We noticed there were several cases not being subjected to our enforcement tools that should have been subjected. And as a result, in the last year, we increased collection of federal taxes by 22%.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned the changing economy. There are lots of folks who want to do the right thing. Take care of their kids. They can't. They've lost their jobs or have a job that doesn't pay as much. What kind of mitigation process goes on?

Veronica Ragland:
We welcome, especially in today's economy, the applications for modification of child support orders. We want to make sure there's a realistic order that matches the person's ability to pay. By receiving modifications, we are able to work with the income that the person is currently receiving.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned the fact that -- before I ask that one, the economy in general, are you seeing more folks just not meeting these obligations because they can't, due to the economy, or are other factors at play? Seems like it's becoming an increasing problem.

Veronica Ragland:
I think more because of the economy and with that, we're seeing a shift. For example, when people are employed, we typically get our collections from income withholding orders. As people lose their job, they may receive unemployment insurance and we're able to seize part of that. In addition, by doing tweaking with our programming, we're able to collect more dollars from -- remedies that had not been optimized previously.

Ted Simons:
I know that you guys work with law enforcement around the state. Talk to us about that relationship.

Veronica Ragland:
We're happy about the support we get with law enforcement agencies. For example, it was a law enforcement agency that helped to lead to the collections that we received from the class action lawsuit. And we're hearing more about additional class actions that are occurring across the state from tips from law enforcement agencies and we're happy about their support.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned the story regarding the prisoners in southern -- are there other stories?

Veronica Ragland:
We have wonderful stories. One of the creative ways we've also been using to battle the economy as well as to show compassion, is we have a settlement project. And it looks at cases with certain criteria, and we contact non-custodial parents and ask them to submit an offer on their child support obligation. This program has been met very well and we've been able to collect over a quarter of a million dollars simply -- of stale child support obligation.

Ted Simons:
Are people -- do you think people are aware that this thing exists?

Veronica Ragland:
I think people are becoming more aware. We just started that program, again, in the last six months in order to respond to what we see happening in the economy and we're -- we're developing the project further and we're hoping to expand it. Not only to child support obligations where the children have emancipated but also where there's a huge arrears balance but ongoing current child support.

Ted Simons:
Is there a typical case you're involved with? Basically cut across all socioeconomic lines or seeing more -- with the economy the way it is, among those who have lost their jobs and those sorts of things?

Veronica Ragland:
There's no such thing as a typical child support case. It's very complex and individual as any family and we're pleased we've been able to increase our collections by three percentage points and 6.5% average each year for the last six years so we've not seen a typical case.

Ted Simons:
If someone is watching and they're in a situation where they want do the right thing but things aren't working out so well and perhaps they've maybe missed a payment or two or three and worried about repercussions there, it behooves them to get this fixed, how do they go about it?

Veronica Ragland:
The first thing I want them to know is that every child deserves the love and support of their family. And we work very -- we work with all parents. We work with the custodial as well as the non-custodial parent. We urge either or both parties, if they want to partner and come to the office together to request a modification and -- the settlement project. We're working with people. Given the current economic times, we find it's keeping the parents working together as partners.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned getting the responsible parent to be responsible. But it comes back to the kids. Talk about the societal aspect of making sure these obligations are met.

Veronica Ragland:
As the governor mentioned in a statement recently, that being a parent is a sacred responsibility. To love and to nurture and provide for your children. And it certainly is for the -- for the parent to be accountable, and the -- help to gain the child's trust and will help the child understand love as long as the parent is providing for his or her child.

Ted Simons:
Not only that, but also keeps folks away from assistance and these other things that we're all paying for and having a hard time finding money for.

Veronica Ragland:
Yes, not paying child support certainly puts the family at risk for not being able to meet its basic needs and in addition -- its needs. And cash assistance or food stamps and we attempt to work and partner with both parents, to ensure the child support continues to flow so that the basic needs -- we're looking at a time now as back to school. They have shoes and, you know, whatever is their basic sustenance.

Ted Simons:
Appreciate you being here.

Veronica Ragland:
Thank you very much.

What's on?
  About KAET Contact Support Legal Follow Us  
  About Eight
Mission/Impact
History
Site Map
Pressroom
Contact Us
Sign up for e-news
Pledge to Eight
Donate Monthly
Volunteer
Other ways to support
FCC Public Files
Privacy Policy
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Google+
Pinterest
 

Need help accessing? Contact disabilityaccess@asu.edu

Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University    Copyright Arizona Board of Regents