Imperial County removes itself from undesirable list

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EL CENTRO – At the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Gustavo Roman, director of Child Support Services reported that Imperial has finally worked itself off the California underperforming list.

Roman said that in 2005 the state realized that several counties that made up over 60% of the total child support cases of the state were not collecting adequate amounts from delinquent payees. This factor started the Key Counties Initiative. Every county but Imperial had removed themselves from the list.

“When I first started, that was what the State Director told me, that we were the only underperforming county,“  Roman told the board.

Roman gave credit to the dedicated staff. “It’s hard to have so many changes at work, but the staff wanted to do better and were willing to learn new ways.”

Roman said when he came on each case worker had 1800 cases, now he has the number down to 500. He also teamed up caseworkers and changed the policy so a caseworker follows a family from beginning to end, they stay with the same family.

The budget for Child Support Services is $4.3 million and they collect $2.2 million. Roman says their department has become very cost efficient. “I love to compare the Imperial County to other counties now. They have more money and more staff, but we go toe to toe with them on case resolutions and money collected. We are now the most cost efficient county in California.

Gary Wyatt, District 4, asked about the policy of revoking drivers license to those who don’t pay child support. “That seems counterproductive to me. If they can’t drive to work, they certainly can’t pay. Doesn’t that do more harm?”

Roman explained that the policy is that if a provider falls three months behind in payments, the government revokes the drivers license, their passport and puts a lien on their house, and state and federal tax credits. “But we do try to work with them to get their license back. However, that policy isn’t made at the local level but by higher ups.”