ATLANTA - Despite the sluggish economy, the Georgia Department of Human Resources set a record during the last fiscal year by collecting $523.7 million in child-support payments.
That's an increase of more than 6 percent compared with fiscal year 2002, agency officials say.
"It has a lot to do with the fact that we're more automated," said Robert Riddle, the director of the DHR's Office of Child Support Enforcement.
"Employers send us e-mails for every hire they make. If people on our database (who are late on their child-support payments) show up, we send an order within a couple of days to withhold their pay."
But the child-support office's improvement goes beyond new equipment, said Normer Adams, the director of the Georgia Association of Homes & Services for Children. He said the office also has made boosting collections a staff priority.
"They dedicated a team to make it happen," he said. "I know the team. These are some of the best managers in the DHR."
More than 29 percent of Georgia children receive child support through the office, which helps custodial parents obtain court orders and collect payments.
Custodial parents may apply to any of the agency's local offices for help finding an absent parent, establishing paternity, getting a court order, collecting support and enforcing payment through legal remedies.
The fee is $25 for everyone except welfare recipients, who pay nothing. Under state law, the office can collect overdue child support directly from tax refund checks, lottery winnings and worker's compensation settlements, in addition to paychecks going to noncustodi-al parents who are under court order to pay.
According to Mr. Riddle, nearly 395,000 noncustodial parents with child-support cases made payments in fiscal year 2003, which ended June 30, benefiting almost 625,000 children.
Reach Dave Williams at (404) 681-1701 or firstname.lastname@example.org.