FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2011
(225) 342-9640 (o)
DCFS Intercepts First Casino Winnings For Child Support Debt
Collection part of new pilot program with Hollywood Casino
BATON ROUGE -Just two days after the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) launched a pilot with Hollywood Casino to intercept casino winnings from non-custodial parents, a Baton Rouge area father became the first to hand over his winnings, surrendering nearly $2,000 in winnings on Thursday.
The non-custodial father, who forfeited $1,995.40 in winnings, makes regular payments but owes more than $9,000 in child support arrears for two child support cases.
"With a backlog of nearly $1.2 billion owed by non-custodial parents statewide, DCFS must use every avenue to collect child support from these parents who have evaded our other efforts to collect the money that will help to provide for the needs of their children," DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson said. "It is no surprise that just two days after the launch of this pilot our first payment was collected because our research shows from other states and also data from Louisiana Casinos that this will be a very effective means for collecting arrears payments."
The pilot program with Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge was launched on September 6, 2011 and the first payment was intercepted just two days later on September 8. The program will be implemented statewide in all casinos next month.
Legislation introduced by former Senator Nick Gautreaux and passed during the 2010 Legislative Session made the requirement to collect winnings of more that $1,200 dollars for child support arrears state law. The measure had the support of 28 District Attorneys across the state.
Several states including Mississippi, Indiana, New Jersey, New Mexico and West Virginia have similar laws. Colorado collected more than $500,000 in one year after implementing a similar law.
Johnson said that a study conducted prior to the law being passed using one year's worth of data provided by Pinnacle Entertainment from their Bossier City or Harvey casinos identified 225 parents owing back child support had winnings of more than $1,200, which would have resulted in the collection of $478,901 for the winners' dependent children.
Child support payments are used by the custodial parent to offset costs for raising the child, including providing food and shelter, medical costs, child care and school fees and uniforms.
A substantial body of research shows that child support collections significantly reduce the number of families receiving cash-based assistance like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, also called welfare).
"We know that regular child support payments help families become stronger and more self-sufficient," said Johnson. "It reduces a family's dependence on public assistance and improves outcomes for children."
Families that receive regular child support payments also are less likely to become involved in the child welfare system, according to Johnson.
To date in Federal Fiscal Year 2011, DCFS has collected more than $320 million in child support payments to date. Of that, more than $6.4 million dollars have been collected in 2,328 cases from payments made by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility as a result of the BP oil spill.
In an effort to further increase collections, DCFS recently launched the Child Support Delinquent Payors Search on the agency's website to allow users to search an online database of 53,000 delinquent payors by name, last know city, amount owed and parish where the court order for payment was established. Search the database www.dcfs.la.gov/delinquent.
In addition, the agency released is "Most Wanted" poster, a list of 18 non-custodial parents who owe a total of nearly $945,000. The poster and longer list of all individuals owing at least $10,000 who have not paid child support in at least six months is available on the DCFS website at www.dcfs.la.gov/MostWanted.
Failure to pay court-ordered child support can result in liens against the non-payor's property, seizure of assets, suspension of driver's, business, professional, hunting or fishing licenses, interception of state and federal tax returns, passport denial and contempt of court charges, among other enforcement actions.
DCFS Child Support Services offers custodial parents several resources, including parent locator services, paternity establishment, establishment of child support orders, enforcement of orders, and collection and distribution of child support.
Any parent or person responsible for a child can receive services from DCFS' Child Support Enforcement program. Those currently in the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP) or Kinship Care Subsidy Program (KSCP) or who receive Medicaid automatically receive child support enforcement services. Any one not in those programs may apply for Child Support Enforcement services through an application and a $25 fee.