In The Sun News on Sept. 11, I was shocked to read that South Carolina is the only state that does not have a child-support enforcement system. This system is required by the 1988 child support guidelines developed and legislated in the Family Support Act of 1988. South Carolina has failed to comply for 18 years.
The article further stated that this failure to comply has cost the state “more than $100 million in federal penalties.” These funds, I assume, are being withheld from benefits due to children in need. The State has chosen to blame HP, who had the contract for creating the system, and HP blames the state for failure for constantly changing goals and access in a timely manner. HP is the third vendor contracted to develop the system.
The goal was to have the systems within the state amalgamate, share, and use the data collected by different departments’ computers to provide information. In other words, electronically share welfare, education, Medicaid, food stamps, social security and the public information on paystubs. The information needed to track and collect the support money for children from the responsible parents is already collected, is public information, and only needs to be shared. Admittedly, this oversimplification of a technologically complex set of issues is not why I am writing.
My primary concern is the impact on the children of these negligent parents and the seeming indifference, foot dragging, finger pointing, and lack of timely production of a process by the state and the contractors. Regrettably, the words that come to mind to describe what has happened include sloth, greed and self-centered interests. The end result is perpetuating poverty for thousands of South Carolina children.
This perpetuation of poverty has resulted in increased roles on welfare, Medicaid, food stamps, poor health of children, low birth weight babies, and inability to receive an adequate education.
There is, therefore, increased financial burden of taxes needed to support the minimal support provided by the above-mentioned programs. Welfare becomes a way of life rather than temporary support for a family in crisis. If anyone is not familiar with impact of poverty of our children these effects include: poor quality of child care, educational gaps between low income, middle income, and higher income, poor brain development and higher rate of special needs, and malnutrition.
At this time, South Carolina ranks 47th in infant mortality. Addition statistics show that 47 percent of South Carolina’s are born with low birth weight; 24.4 percent live in poverty, 11.5 percent live in extreme poverty. Each month, 45,000 adults and children receive assistance, and the monthly maximum cash assistance is $240. Almost 14 percent of our children do not have health insurance; 271,000 children receive food stamps; 323,000 children receive free or reduced lunches in school. Another 127,000 women and children receive WIC supplemental nutrition program.
Each year South Carolina spends $16, 417 to support a prisoner, but only $8,120 to educate a child. Seventy-two percent of fourth graders cannot read or do math at grade level; 17,681 students drop out of high school.
Certainly there are complex causes for the bad things that are happening to our children. However, when poverty has so many negative results, I cannot fathom the reasons for the failure of the state and the contractor to meet requirements that every other state has met. The state had notice and the format for the titles of the law 24 years ago. Eighteen years should be more than adequate time to develop a computer system to collect, analyze and identify parents who are neglecting their responsibilities to their children.
The law is not the problem. The children are the victims. Parents need to take financial responsibility to the best of their ability. The state and HP should both be holding their respective heads in shame.