All across Minnesota, counties are required to collect child support, detoxify those that are drunk and place children in foster care, among other tasks.
While the tasks are the same, each county performs them differently.
Of the counties evaluated was Blue Earth County. This is due to the fact the county is above average in how it establishes paternity and in that it is cost-effective. For every $1 that the county spends, they collect slightly less than $6 in child support. This is compared to a state average of $4.50 for every $1 spent.
But while Blue Earth County is above average in some areas, it is below average in its percentage of court-ordered child support that is paid. The county collects approximately 67 percent of owed child support, compared to the state average of 71 percent.
Phil Claussen, the Human Services Director for Blue Earth County, is considering making changes to the child support strategy by levying child support based on the payer’s ability to pay. He feels that there is a major deterrent when an order is for an unrealistic amount. Rather than being able to pay at least some of what is owed or through an affordable payment plan, the individuals who cannot afford the ordered amounts are not paying at all.
However, the county has not made it a goal to always beat the average. The goal is to help the children in need of support and care. The statistics could improve if the amount of child support orders was reduced, but the question lies in whether or not such changes would be beneficial for the affected children.
At a commission meeting, commissioners had questions about how Blue Earth County collected child support. One question was what is done when people don’t pay. The answer is that the county can garnish tax returns and wages, but not much is done in the way of criminal prosecution. It has been shown that putting someone in jail for not paying child support does not do much good because their ability to pay usually does not change no matter the penalty.
The Blue Earth County commission also heard about what other counties are spending. Out-of-home placement for children increased to $1/3 million. Detox costs increased 8 percent because only 20 percent of individuals that end up in detox are insured. On a positive note, child care costs decreased by $1.01 million.