In many cases, when underage children are living without Mom or Dad in the home, the absent parent's financial child support is crucial to providing the child some of the bare necessities as she or he is growing up. The required financial support from the absent parent could help with paying for snacks for school, school supplies, a new pair of prescription eyeglasses, a new pair to replace worn or overgrown shoes, payment for a doctor's visit, food, a haircut and many other needs of a growing child.
It's tough to imagine a child growing up and missing Mom or Dad. And it's even tougher for the child to cope if she or he is being deprived of the financial support an absent parent has already paid for as a result of a bureaucratic snafu that has gone on for years. That's beyond cruel.
The Office of the Attorney General under AG Leevin Camacho, who has been in his elected position less than half a year, needs to find out and tell the public exactly why, under his predecessor or predecessors' time, millions of dollars of child support payments have been left unclaimed. If a child support check is mailed and then returned to the AG's office because the child's home could not be found, you'd think those responsible for delivering the child support payment would do their best not to leave the checks and paperwork sitting in boxes upon boxes for years.
Camacho on Wednesday announced the start of efforts to clear the backlog of $5 million in unclaimed child support payments that number in the thousands and fill boxes in the Child Support Enforcement Division office.
He also said the office needs funding to hire more people to carry out the locally and federally required mandate of ensuring child support gets paid.
His office has recently tracked down 80 parents and sent them child support checks totaling nearly $60,000 that have gone unclaimed, in some cases for years. One stale check that had to be reissued was for a child whose absent parent had paid for an amount owed in 2008 – more than a decade ago.
The $60,000 is a tiny ripple out of $5 million that should have benefited child support recipients years ago. There are thousands more in child support payments that need to reach the recipients. Letting these payments sit longer is just not acceptable.
While we welcome this new effort to find the children who are owed thousands of child support payments collectively worth $5 million, Camacho should also share with the public his office's findings on who dropped the ball that has led to these child support payments remaining unclaimed for years.
If bill collectors can use creative ways to find debtors, Guam's prior attorneys general do not have an excuse for allowing these child support payments to stay in limbo for so long that some of the children who needed this financial support may already be adults by now.
The AG's office has a payroll budget of almost $4 million a year for child support enforcement this budget year, and more than half of that – 66% – is federally funded. That's a decent if not generous amount of financial resources for the task of finding child support recipients and giving them the money they need. If a check is returned, there should be a better mechanism for the AG's office to keep on trying until the check is claimed.
Hire a third-party locator, post information on social media to encourage people waiting for child support to reach out to the AG's office, make announcements in the local media, and keep a steady flow of public service and announcements. There are many ways to ensure child support money reaches the kids.
If you're trying to find people to hand off money, it shouldn't be an impossible task if you don't give up trying.