County braces for new system : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Tuesday, March 07, 2000

County braces for new system

Child support pay to be rerouted


The Cincinnati Enquirer

In exactly one month, more than 60,000 Hamilton County residents receiving child support payments will be switched to a new system that promises to be less efficient and more frustrating than they're used to. Officials with the county's Department of Human Services (DHS) are taking steps to make the transition as painless as possible.

But by all accounts, those same officials are expecting a giant pain from a computer system they're being forced by the federal government to adopt.

It's called the Standardized Enforcement Tracking System, or SETS.

All of Hamilton County's child support cases are scheduled to be on the SETS program by April 7. DHS Director Don Thomas said county officials should know the extent of the problems that come with the new program by April 10.

We don't believe all of the problems will surface immediately, he said. Where they will surface is if people don't get their checks.

And that is exactly what has happened elsewhere.

The idea behind SETS is that it will be easier to track deadbeat parents across county and state lines if the entire nation is hooked into one system.

That will make it easier to force collection from those parents, the theory goes.

But Hamilton County officials think their child support system is pretty good. They fear that residents here will find SETS a degradation of service and that they will have less ability to correct mistakes the system is bound to make. Child support checks which used to be cut in Hamilton County will come from Columbus under SETS, which will delay those checks by a day or two.

Montgomery County had a 600-percent increase in the number of calls coming into their Human Services offices after converting to SETS, said DHS spokeswoman Mindy Good. Nobody was getting their questions answered.

That can lead to issues like the phone lines getting jammed.

Among the steps being taken in Hamilton County:

 Direct mailings to 61,000 parents receiving child support, asking them to verify their correct mailing address. The county also is mailing to 3,800 parents receiving child support via direct deposit because that service must be discontinued for at least a month.

 A dedicated telephone line for child support questions, which will be available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. The number will be 946-SETS.

 A 24-hour fax line for SETS questions or problems will be established, in case the phone lines are jammed. That number will be announced later.

 A 24-hour Internet site will allow people to e-mail their problems or questions. Caseworkers, however, will respond only during regular business hours.

In addition to the direct mailings, a video is being sent to all child support recipients which will give them information about SETS in short segments.

Although there are 60,000 child support cases, there are more than 120,000 parents  custodial and noncustodial  who will be affected by the changes.

Also, about 22,000 employers deducting child support payments from their employees' checks must be notified of impending changes in the system.

And those changes will be numerous:

Every parent will receive a new case number; most cases will be assigned to a different caseworker; county officials no longer will control the child support computer system; and automated information about the cases no longer will be available from Hamilton County.

-- Carl Jenkins (, March 07, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ