National registry to track 'deadbeat' parents goes on line
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new national registry aimed at helping keep track of the 16 million U.S. parents required to pay child support goes on line Thursday.
The Federal Case Registry is designed to help custodial parents who aren't receiving child support track down the non-custodial parents who owe the money.
Once the "deadbeat" parent is located, even in another state, officials can ask his or her employer to withhold child support from paychecks, which the employer is obligated to do under federal law.
"This is an exciting day of hope for children whose parents have abandoned them financially," said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala in a statement.
HHS figures show that states now collect about 22 percent of the $50 billion in back child support owed each year. The new database is expected to be particularly helpful in cases where the children live in a different state than the deadbeat parent.
"Since one-third of all child support cases are interstate, we now can confidently close the loopholes for parents escaping their financial obligations," said Olivia Golden, an HHS assistant secretary.
Custodial parents can enter information about the deadbeat parent in the registry. That information will then be checked against data in a separate registry, the National Directory of New Hires, which includes records for everyone who begins a new job.
Critics of the registry concept say that many custodial parents who try to go after child support after a multi-year lapse won't have enough accurate data to make a match.
Fathers' rights groups have also expressed concerns that the tracking system could be used to invade the privacy of law-abiding parents. However, Golden says the law that set up the registry prohibits unauthorized use of the data.
Thirty-nine states will begin entering information into the registry immediately. The remaining 11 states are expected to come on board during 1999.
Correspondent Jennifer Auther contributed to this report.
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