Employees help make Minn.’s child support program one of the best in nation

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August is Child Support Awareness Month and state government employees are working to ensure more than 220,000 Minnesota children receive the financial support they deserve. The State’s child support program collected and disbursed more than $550 million in child support last year. 

“It’s important to be there to help children and families – especially children – to get the support they need to thrive. We’re a neutral third party, trying to do what’s best for the children. Whether it’s money for rent, food, transportation or to pay for the kids to be on a baseball team or take music lessons,” Local 201’s Bruce Erickson said. Erickson serves as Policy and Communications Coordinator for the Child Support Division of the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Praising their work, Gov. Tim Walz “thanked the county and state child support professionals who provide high quality service to more than 314,000 parents and their families across the state to ensure children receive the financial support they deserve” and proclaimed August as Child Support Awareness Month.

Minnesota’s child support program consistently ranks high nationally on a handful of measures used by the federal government to monitor states’ program performances, including fourth nationally on the percentage of monthly child support collected last year.

“We’re talking about people who can be very angry with each other, and sometimes try to use money against the other parent, and it’s the kids who suffer. We establish paternity so a child has better financial stability, health care, inheritance rights and so on. Once this relationship is established, parents have a better chance of establishing relationships with the kids,” said Cathleen Cotter, a program representative with DHS’ Child Support Division. She is also a member of Local 201.

Approximately 87% of Minnesota child support cases has a child support order in place. Minnesota uses income withholding, license suspension, tax refund intercepts and other enforcement methods to collect child support. “Everybody does income withholding now – the stigma is gone – there is no choice in the matter. It also saves taxpayers money by keeping families off public assistance,” Cotter added. 

For every $1 spent on Minnesota’s child support program, $3.09 was collected in support of Minnesota children.

Cotter says she and her small group of child support professionals, most of them MAPE members, have more than 200 years of collective State service. “Our institutional knowledge and experience help us learn from what we’ve tried in the past. We can explain, for example, why some decisions were made when PRISM, Minnesota’s automated child support computer system, was first developed,” Cotter said.

“The experience and expertise of our child support staff help the division be more effective. Staff learn from each other and bring in their own experience. It’s significant having that program knowledge to share  with new people coming in,” Erickson added.