For the first time in seven years, the St. Clair County State's Attorney will have more money to spend in their efforts to collect child support payments.
State's Attorney Brendan Kelly announced that his child support enforcement division received a $50,000 increase in funding from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, sending the grant from $617,00 to $667,000 per year.
"We made our case to HFS that St. Clair County was the place where resources were most needed, where enforcement of child support is an important part of breaking the cycle of poverty and violence and they agreed," Kelly said.
The increase will be used to hire more support staff and pay for technology improvements to reduce waste in the child support collection process. The child support grant includes funding for 3 1/2 prosecutors, five support staff and two investigators.
Child support enforcement is part of the state's attorney's Children's Justice Division, which handles prosecution of crimes against children, abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency, truancy and child support.
"A truant child with a higher chance of committing a crime may not be attending school because they simply don't have the right uniform or a new book bag or good shoes," said Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Leahy, supervisor of the child support unit.
"Fair, consistent child support can really help the custodial parent meet those needs, especially in household living below the poverty line."
Last year, the child support division handled 3,522 cases. Of those, 1,608 were new cases. The unit conducted 427 DNA tests to confirm parentage. The unit's investigators had to serve papers to the noncustodial parents in all those cases.
Child support is currently based on a percentage of the non-custodial parent's net income. Under Illinois law, a non-custodial parent must pay 20 percent for one child, 28 percent for two children, 32 percent for three children, 40 percent for four children, 45 percent for five children and 50 percent for six or more children.
These guidelines may be altered if a judge finds that the amount is inappropriate because the financial resources and needs of the child, the financial resources and needs of the custodial parent, the standard of living the child would have had if the divorce had not occurred, the physical and emotional condition of the child, their education needs and the financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent.
In the past three years, child support policy has shifted from setting high child support payments that accrue to unpayable levels to setting consistent, sustainable payments as well allowing non-custodial parents to receive credit for providing child care and other support. The effect of this policy shift is to improve the bond and relationship between the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent and the child, which can have a greater positive effect on a child than support alone, Kelly said.
Child support services are free and a person does not have to apply or receive public assistance to get help collecting child support payments, Kelly said.
To sign up for free child support services, call the Child Support Customer Service Call Center at 1(800)447-4278 or visit the Belleville Regional Child Support Office at 1220 Centreville Ave., Belleville, or go to www.childsupportillinois.com.