CLAY COUNTY — Clay County is recognizing Child Support Awareness Month with news it collected nearly $21.7 million in child support with an effectiveness ratio double that of Missouri’s and nearly triple that of the national average.
“This is a very remarkable accomplishment and speaks to the dedication and hard work of the child support enforcement division here,” Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel White said. Overall, Missouri collected $700 million in support in fiscal year 2020.
The Office of Child Support Enforcement recently released the Child Support Enforcement Preliminary Report for 2019, ranking Missouri’s program fifth in the nation in cost effectiveness based on an analysis of child support collected for every dollar spent on collection efforts. Missouri earned a ratio of 7.61. The national average is slightly over 5.0
“That means for every dollar expended in Missouri’s collection efforts, $7.61 are returned to children and families,” said White. “But, we’re doing better in Clay County." In the fiscal year that ended June 30, Clay County collected nearly $21.7 million in support, with an effectiveness ratio of 15.54.
Clay County also boasts a percentage of paying cases higher than any other county in the state again, this year at 66.6%.
“We’re trying to improve our performance with innovative approaches toward encouraging child support,” said White. One of those innovations is the Clay County Parenting Court Program, marking its third anniversary this year. The goal of Parenting Court is to increase the consistency of child support payments noncustodial parents make on their support cases. It does this by helping these parents overcoming barriers such as a lack of education or training, access to resources, substance abuse and a lack of a support system that may thwart their attempts to maintain employment, which impacts their ability to regularly pay child support.
Parenting Court program resources include coaching and life skills to put participants on a career path; a communication skills program to help enrollees better engage with their children and others; instruction on parenting skills; and mediation for enrollees to mediate their cases with the other parents in an effort to resolve underlying issues. There is also financial education provided by Citizens Bank and Trust to introduce budgeting information. The court also may provide referral for substance abuse or mental health services.
“What we are doing here is approaching child support enforcement with a carrot and a stick approach,” said White. “We work with noncustodial delinquent parents to encourage payment engaging them without traditional sanctions including license suspensions, liens and prosecutions that might frustrate collection efforts. We use the carrot, but we still have the stick.”
Those who have not actively dodged their support responsibilities can apply for Parenting Court .
“We believe our holistic approach has significant value, both for paying parents and for their children,” said Family Court Commissioner Sherrill Roberts, in whose court the Parenting Court Program is conducted. “Not only are we encouraging and supporting consistent payment of child support, we also encourage strengthening and reestablishing, if necessary, the relationships between paying parents and their children. The advantages to children and society that accompany children having two valued and engaged parents is incalculable.”
During the first five months of 2020, the court program achieved 98.4% for active paying cases. As a comparison, Missouri’s statewide average for Jan. 1 to May 31, 2020, was 48.9%. From December 2018 to today, the active paying cases for the county program is 93.9%. This July, 100% of the cases in the county parenting court program received payment.