Ohio child support gets conditional federal nod


COLUMBUS - Ohio's automated child-support tracking system has been granted conditional certification by the federal government.

The preliminary approval by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that Ohio's computerized collection and disbursement system largely meets requirements of the Family Support Act of 1988.

The 1988 law mandated that Ohio move away from 88 independent county agencies to one statewide system, a shift the state initially resisted. Ohio surrendered $43 million in fines for failing to meet deadlines before the system became fully operational on Oct. 1, 2000.

Although the system still needs some improvements before receiving final certification, the conditional approval allows a rebate of $25 million of the federal fines.

This certification is separate from current upgrades under way to bring the state into compliance with child-support aspects of the 1996 federal welfare-reform law.

Failure to incorporate provisions of the 1996 law into the collection system resulted in the state improperly withholding $38 million in past-due child support that should have been forwarded to families who left the welfare system.

The state still must seek certification for the welfare-reform changes. The latest upgrade has its own problems, as the state reprograms to fix glitches that have prevented county agencies from entering crucial information updates.