Child support payment problems in at least three states : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

There are at least two other cases of computer screw-ups reported to this forum, one in Illinois and another in the Lake Tahoe area, as I recall. Here's the latest on the North Carolina mess (a report from Charlote appeared earlier) and it doesn't look as if it's going to be straightened out before the rollver. More complications!

Wednesday October 20, 1999 07:08 PM

State Taking Blame, Giving Few Answers Regarding Late Child Support Payments

LOUISBURG (WRAL) -- Six hundred thousand parents in North Carolina count on child support payments each month. When that check does not arrive, some families are put in a real bind.

"It's our fault and there's no excuse..." That is what the state says about problems with the new centralized child support system.

Coupons and envelopes for people to send their payments with did not go out. Now there are checks totalling $1.5 million that cannot be matched up with the proper case.

The counties which used to collect child support are not at fault, but are fielding a lot of the complaints.

Amy Oakley is getting a lot of calls about child support these days, but she does not have a lot of answers.

Oakley used to handle child support collection for Franklin County, but now it is being handled by a centralized system in Raleigh -- a system which is not working very well.

"When they call they want an answer here. And when I can't tell them anything either, it is very frustrating because some of these women rely on this money for livelihood," says Oakley.

Some counties are so overwhelmed they have resorted to leaving a recorded message at their child support office explaining why they cannot take calls personally.

"But the truth is more calls are coming in than my office and my staff can handle. I still don't know who has paid, who has not paid, nor when you'll get a check."

"They still look at us and say 'Well, you've been giving me my check for the last eight years, why can't I get my check,'" says Ralph Knott.

Knott has been the court clerk in Franklin County for 37 years. He says he listens, but he cannot help people track their child support because it is now in the hands of the state.

"Our hands are tied, we don't know how to help them," he says.

Franklin County says their records show that at least 1,500 checks from their area have been sent to Raleigh and just 83 families have been paid.

At this point the state will not even estimate how long it is going to take to get the unravel the mess. The state has 60 people working on trying to match up the unidentified checks with the proper cases. At this point they cannot even estimate when the problems will be solved.

Anyone who sends in a check without a coupon attached should be sure to put their case number and social security number on the check to make sure it can be identified.

-- Old Git (, October 20, 1999


I wonder if those states all upgraded to the same sofware? It would be nice to know. There are big software firms that sell the same packages to various states, just like states that have contracts with certain hardware vendors. This could be the problem.

I know from experience (where I work) that some companies are upgrading their systems to new software specifically written for their type of business and are having problems getting the company that contracted with them to write/rewrite/configure the software. They end up spending lots of money, get nothing in return, then have to go elsewhere and start again. I think a lot of smaller specialized companies are going to end up filing bankruptcy.

-- Darla (, October 20, 1999.

Darla, you're not from Little Rock, are you? Someone I knew a long time ago worked for the state in computers and had the same name. If you ARE the same person, don't let on what my real name is!

-- Old Git (, October 20, 1999.

Old Git,

Heres an article on the child support system in Nevada: 92.html Link

Previous: A slice of Yucca 20 Oct. 11:36:39 Next: News briefs 20 Oct. 11:27:50 Printable text version | Mail this to a friend

October 20, 1999

Computer problem delays child support checks


The government computer that distributes local monthly child support payments has been plagued by glitches, resulting in hundreds of custodial parents receiving checks several weeks late since January, officials said.

However, the Clark County District Attorney's Child Support Division says it is fixing the problem and has reduced the number from a peak of 1,500 late checks in August to a few hundred this month.

"We understand that the parents and children need those checks, and we are working hard to correct the situation," Lee Wastell, assistant director of the District Attorney's Child Support Division, said Tuesday. "Our staff is on top of it."

The District Attorney's Child Support Division computer is part of the federal-state-county-linked NOMADS system that also monitors the Nevada welfare system and already has cost the state more than $100 million because of unexpected problems and delays.

The glitches in payments occur, Wastell said, when noncustodial parents send the wrong amounts of child support -- either too much or not enough -- and the computer spits the payment into a pool that requires workers to manually input the data.

"The check can go into the pool even if the difference is as little as a penny," Wastell said, noting that not all of those checks wind up being late. "The computer tells us the amount is not accurate and that it does not know what to do with the check."

Another problem occurred last month because the DA's computer was programmed to accept just two payments per month. However, because September was a rare three-paycheck month for many companies that pay every two weeks, the computer rejected those wage garnishment checks, which then had to be inputted manually.

"We fixed that problem by rewriting a code," Wastell said.

Those incidents are the latest in what is becoming a growing series of problems with new government computers statewide that were installed to address the Y2K problems.

Besides NOMADS, the most costly of the troubled computers, significant glitches have surfaced in the $20 million Family Court Services Family Tracs computer since it was installed in April 1998. Problems included juvenile delinquency and child abuse data not converting properly from the old system and a duplication of numbers issued for the same cases.

The problems with the Department of Motor Vehicle's $35 million Genesis computer became widely publicized when Las Vegans were forced to endure extremely long waits for licenses and registrations and because of a backlog of mail-in registration renewals at the DMV's Carson City office in recent months. Those waits have gotten shorter but are still about two hours.

Wastell said 20,688 child support checks were distributed in August and 17,242 checks went out last month from his office. The number of checks vary, he said, depending on payment schedules for noncustodial parents.

To speed the solution, Wastell said, 20 caseworkers early this year were taken off their regular assignments to help convert the agency's 40,000 cases from the old computer system to NOMADS. To date, he said, they are 35 percent done and expect to complete the job by next August.

Until then, those employees' cases are spread out among other workers, he said.

Because of the high volume of phone calls his department receives on a range of issues, it may be necessary for people who have not received their support checks to try several times to get through, Wastell said.

He said his office is required to give noncustodial parents 10 days past the due date to send in support checks and must give companies that garnish employee wages 30 days before approaching them. The DA's office deposits the checks it receives and issues its own checks to recipients.

Wastell said not every situation with late checks is the fault of the computer.

"I looked into one incident this morning and found that the reason one woman's child support check was late from North Carolina was because that state went to a centralized system, which Nevada will do once NOMADS is ready," Wastell said.

"I would suspect that we also will have some problems when that happens. However, the centralized location in Nevada will be Las Vegas."

No date has been set for the state's NOMADS system to take over distribution of child support checks from Nevada's counties.

Also, Wastell said, a problem he handled this week involved one of his workers simply punching in the wrong case number, crediting the money to the wrong client.

"I called the woman today and asked her if she wanted us to hold the check for her to pick up or mail it to her, and she told us to mail it," Wastell said. "One of our staff walked the check to a mailbox so it would get to her as soon as possible.

"Our policy is to try to get all child support checks out 48 hours after the funds arrive. We do not send the checks out on a set day each month. Child support checks are going out all of the time around here."

-- Homer Beanfang (, October 21, 1999.

Thanks, Homer. Here are two other reports:

This article appeared in the Government Technology, February 1998

Big Project Woes Halt Child Support System

A host of problems must be resolved before a new system can rise in the wake of California's SACSS failure. . . - Last modified 28-May-99 [this link no longr works but is still evidence of yet nother problem]

Letting Down the Kids. New Mexico agency that collects child support payments has massively failed to come through for waiting families. . .

These were the only two other sites I could find but more may be buried in newspaper reports on the Web somewhere.

-- Old Git (, October 21, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ