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O.C. 45th Among 58 Counties in Collecting Child Support

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Of California’s 58 counties, Orange County was ranked 45th in child-support collections in a report to be released today by the San Francisco-based Children Now coalition of advocacy groups.

Of California’s 15 largest counties, where more than 80% of the state’s children who depend on child support live, Orange County was ranked 10th in the national study.

But Kathy Raphael, an Orange County member of the group ACES, the Assn. for Children for Enforcement of Support, said the county has made substantial improvements to its child-support collection system in the past year, adding some 90 new workers.

“It’s about time that we’re starting to take notice of how poorly collection has been and basically still is,” said Raphael, a Santa Ana building inspector who struggled for 17 years to collect payment from her ex-husband.

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She finally managed to collect some $17,000 in back payments last year after the state Franchise Tax Board located and seized a bank account with that amount in it.

Jan Sturla, supervising deputy of the Orange County district attorney’s family-support unit, said his office has “completely reorganized the management structure” of the unit and hired the new workers.

As a result, Orange County has cut its overburdening caseloads from 1,000 per caseworker to about 750, Sturla said, and at the same time increased the number of cases with court collection orders to 55% of all cases, from 45% a year ago.

Timely and efficient collection of child support keeps impoverished women from falling into the welfare system, Raphael said.

“There’s a strong correlation between women on welfare and the failure of the collection system,” Raphael said. “People there are just a lot of teenage moms on welfare, but many of them end up there because they can’t collect child support.”


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