Created on Monday, 19 August 2013 Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A statewide push to improve child support collection rates is getting mixed results from county to county in Ohio.
The varying outcomes can be attributed mainly to two things, say child support experts: how much money counties spend to find those who owe child support and the economy in the individual counties.
Ohio last year set a goal of increasing collections to 70 percent by the middle of 2015 so that it can to apply for federal grants to pay for caseworkers and programs to help parents.
The state average is about 66 percent, which is still better than the national average of 61 percent, said Benjamin Johnson, a Department of Job and Family Services spokesman.
Around the state, Geauga and Delaware counties each collected over 80 percent of the child-support money owed in the last fiscal year. Both of those counties have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/16ytYAu) reported.
Two of Ohio's biggest counties, Cuyahoga and Hamilton, were among those with the lowest collection rates. Meigs County in southeast Ohio, which had the worst unemployment rate in the state in June, also was near the bottom in collections.
The director of Franklin County's Child Support Enforcement Agency said that the number of parents with late child-support payments grew in recent years with the economic downturn.
Almost a third of those who owe in the county that includes Columbus have limited education and are likely to earn lower wages, said Susan Brown, director of Franklin County's agency.
Another factor is government funding.
Each county decides how much it wants to spend on collecting child support, meaning that the number of cases assigned to child-support caseworkers differs by county.
"We've been very fortunate here, in that our caseworkers don't have the same caseloads as caseworkers in other counties," said Joyce Bowens, director of Delaware's Child Support Enforcement Agency. "That allows us to be proactive."