Last year, local child support enforcement officials provided services for more than 45,000 children, and collected more than $46 million in child support payments. Last year, child support enforcement was managed by the State of North Carolina. Now, it’s a Mecklenburg County government department in its first month of operation.
August is National Child Support Awareness Month and an opportune time for Joan Kennedy, director of the County’s new Child Support Enforcement Department (CSE), and County Manager Harry L. Jones Sr., to share their visions and goals for the new agency.
“Our goal is to exceed last year’s collections figure and to strengthen the bonds that tie families together,” said Kennedy. “As the largest county in the state, and the county with the largest child support caseload, our overarching goal is to provide the best service to our customers – not only by collecting child support that is owed, but by building relationships with our custodial and non-custodial parents that promote the interests and well-being of our children and families.”
Jones adds that in this first year of the County’s operation of the local child support program, “We want our child support program to be an instrument for creating essential building blocks for our children. Regular and reliable financial support is the foundation upon which these blocks must rest.”
The average current support payment in Mecklenburg County is $355.35 monthly. This amount does not include any arrears that may be owed and would be added to the monthly current support.
“All the research demonstrates that for children to succeed in life, it takes emotional, financial, and medical support,” said Kennedy. “But even when families splinter, both parents can go on contributing to that success. And when child support plays a part, a parent continues to build relationships that endure.”
Evidence also suggests that kids who receive support from both parents get better grades in school, have fewer behavioral problems, and tend to become more productive citizens. Child support helps families remain self-sufficient, relying less on public assistance in the form of cash payments, food stamps, and Medicaid.
Nearly 94 percent of non-custodial parents (NCP) are male. Locating non-custodial parents can present quite a challenge for CSE officials. In 56 percent of their cases, the NCP parent lives in North Carolina; in 15 percent of the cases, the NCP lives in another state; and for 28 percent of the cases, CSE does not have a valid address to establish an order for support or enforce an existing order.
But, most Mecklenburg County parents are doing their job, said Kennedy. “During Child Support Awareness Month, we recognize all parents who are deeply committed to the success of their children,” she said. “In this month, and every month thereafter, let’s make a difference in the lives of our children.”
The CSE department, located in Charlotte at 5800 Executive Drive, Suite 200, will have 98 full-time staffers and a budget of $7,001, 831.