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WE NEED TO REFORM OUR CHILD-SUPPORT SYSTEM

The Dec. 3 op-ed article entitled "When child-support cases are delayed in court, families end up on welfare" highlighted one of the most important aspects of the current changes in the welfare system.

It is estimated that, nationally, 90 percent of the children who depend on welfare are owed child support, but do not receive payments regularly or at all. Taxpayers subsidize absent parents who do not pay child support.

The article's authors recommend establishing child-support orders administratively, instead of through the courts. This is being done successfully in other states, such as Washington, Missouri, South Carolina, Oregon, West Virginia and Virginia.

Once paternity is established, an automatic centralized system searches state data bases for the non-custodial parent's address, income and employment information. The court system is used only for appeals, reserving its overburdened resources for difficult cases. Both parents retain the right to due process for legitimate disputes.

Delays in docketing cases are greatly reduced, as is an absent parent's ability to avoid his or her responsibilities by failing to appear in court or by giving false income information. The result is that more children receive payments more quickly.

Gov. Pataki and state legislators should move to streamline our state's child-support system and relieve the congestion in the courts.

Most importantly, this change would help single parents and their children avoid the need for welfare benefits. That would be real welfare reform.

MARY T. STENGEL Program Director
Child and Family Services
Buffalo

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