State officials are counting on a new Kansas Department for Children and Families website to shame parents into paying their child support and reduce the tax burden of welfare programs.
Gov. Jeff Colyer and DCF secretary Gina Meier-Hummel announced the Child Support Evaders program Wednesday, saying they want to encourage responsible behavior. DCF has published 10 names and faces alongside amounts owed and last known locations. The website also includes links that allow people to report an evader’s contact information.
The program “has a deterrent effect, and that’s the important part,” Colyer said. “There’s a pretty good reason to make your child support payments. Who wants their face on the website? And as we know, parents who support their children are more involved in the lives of their kids.”
When one parent fails to make a payment and the other one can’t make ends meet, Colyer said, the household is more likely to rely on assistance from state programs for food and child care.
“For countless families in Kansas, when both parents financially support their children, it means the difference between being in poverty and being independent from government assistance,” Colyer said.
Trisha Thomas, child support services director for DCF, said the state is only able to collect about 56 percent of the payments owed. Last year, the state collected about $200 million in child support.
Once an individual is found, the state can withhold money from the person’s paycheck or go after bank accounts, vehicles, tax returns and other assets. The people featured on the website, Thomas said, haven’t made a payment in several years and are “not working above ground.”
Those selected for the website owe more than $5,000, are not facing bankruptcy and are not receiving state aid, she said.
“We really wanted to make sure that folks really needed to be on that site and really needed to take their personal responsibility for their kids,” Thomas said.
Colyer and Thomas said similar programs have worked in other states.
Of the first 10 people displayed online, the amounts owed range from $36,585 to $95,009. Only six were last seen in Kansas. Nine of the 10 are fathers.
Meier-Hummel said the department is willing to work with people who are identified to help them make payments.
“It’s about promoting personal responsibility and ensuring that what is owed to children is collected and responsibly given to those who are in need,” Meier-Hummel said. “I think the other piece certainly serves as a deterrent for other families who may choose or think twice about paying their support.”