April 23, 2003
Administration For Children’s Services Office Of Child Support Enforcement Honored By National Advocacy Group
Today the Administration for Children's Services’ (ACS) Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) received several awards from the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support (ACES), a national child support advocacy organization. These "golden heart" awards were given to OCSE for providing excellent child support services to New York City children and families. OCSE Associate Commissioner Michael Infranco and Deputy Associate Commissioner Frank Richards accepted the awards which were presented by Debbie Ecker who leads the Queens-based chapter of ACES.
“Collecting the financial support that is due to children in New York City is critical to ACS’s mission of protecting children and strengthening families,” said ACS Associate Commissioner Infranco. “We are proud that New York City’s child support program serves as an example for other government entities, and we are grateful to organizations like ACES for the support they provide to our efforts.”
Under ACS, OCSE oversees child support enforcement and collection for families within the five boroughs. Through this division, ACS works to ensure that New York City children and families receive the financial support they need and deserve from non-custodial parents. In calendar year 2002, the agency collected $477 million, which is more than double the collections from seven years ago. OCSE works closely with the New York State Office of Child Support Enforcement and Family Court to continually advance the child support enforcement system.
ACS recently succeeded in working together with the State OCSE and Family Court to develop the new Expedited Court Process. This initiative, which began as a pilot in Manhattan Family Court last year and recently expanded to Queens, has put forth a number of adjustments to the Family Court system in New York City that have significantly improved court related support services and results for clients.
In its first year of operation in Manhattan, the Expedited Court Process led to an increase of 698 clients (or 44 percent) applying for child support services to initiate the process to obtain a child support order. The process provides faster, one-stop service for child support intake and filing a petition. Summons services that in the past were only provided for public assistance cases are now offered to all clients. The process has also allowed for employment and income information provided by ACS’s computer system to be used in child support hearings.
Additionally, this new initiative enables Family Court to establish child support orders by default when a non-custodial parent fails to appear after a summons service has been confirmed and adequate financial data is provided by OCSE. These efforts have shown that more clients are applying for services, more non-custodial parents are attending child support hearings and more child support orders are being established
In addition to child support collection, ACS takes into consideration the situation of non-custodial parents who simply cannot make child support payments because they are unemployed or underemployed. Rather than enforced compliance, these parents need assistance in getting to a point where they can satisfy their child support obligations. In February 2002, ACS and Family Court created Support Through Employment Program (STEP), a program that links unemployed or low-earning non-custodial parents to job training and placement services offered by community organizations.
Eligible non-custodial parents can enroll in STEP at the time of their child support hearing, where their payments are temporarily set at a minimum of $25 per month and their hearing is adjourned for approximately three months. Since the STEP program was implemented in Manhattan Family Court in February 2002, there have been 1066 participants. More than half (55 percent) now have child support cases with payments coming in. STEP was launched as a pilot program in Manhattan Family Court and is currently being expanded to Queens. However, the 16 community organizations that collaborate with ACS in the program can provide services for non-custodial parents throughout the five boroughs.
Another advancement in ACS’s efforts to collect child support from non-custodial parents through OCSE is a system that matches names of parents who owe child support with those who receive worker’s compensation and who receive insurance settlements. Launched six months ago, by the New York State child support office this system is expected to compliment existing collection tools, which include payroll deductions, suspending driver’s licenses, seizing bank accounts, tax refunds and lottery winnings, credit reporting and denying passport renewals.
ACS’s efforts to work with hospitals and parents to promote and facilitate paternity establishment through voluntary acknowledgements of children born out of wedlock continue to be very successful. More than 70 percent of all such children born in New York City last year had their paternity legally established voluntarily at the time of their birth or shortly thereafter. This compares favorably to similar efforts around the country, making the City a leader in this important aspect of the program’s mission.
The New York City Administration for Children’s Services protects and ensures the safety and well being of New York City’s children and strengthens families. Formed in 1996, the agency oversees the City’s programs of child protection, foster care, preventive services, adoption, child support enforcement, childcare and Head Start.