State finally finds lost checks Woman will now receive child support payments

November 02, 1990|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Evening Sun Staff

A woman's unflagging pursuit of child support payments that were lost by two state agencies has convinced the Maryland Department of Human Resources to order a review of all delinquent support cases in Baltimore over the past six months.

Kate Franks, who lives in Savage but collects her child support through the Baltimore City Department of Social Services, has finally been told what she knew all along -- her missing checks, totaling $1,050, were lost in bureaucratic limbo.

Franks was sure her ex-husband had made the payments because his paycheck is garnished every week in Georgia. The agency there then forwards a monthly $200 check to the city DSS.

It seemed obvious to Franks that something was wrong. But it took her repeated calls and letters to the city, then the state, to convince someone her ex-husband was paying the support. Apparently, the checks were lost, in part, because of the agency's change of banks.

"I asked if it was possible that anyone else had experienced the same problem," said Meg Sollenberger, director of DHR's Child Support Enforcement Administration. "They assured me it was possible, so they're going to go in and identify any case that has had any problem or change since May."

The apparent source of Franks' problem was traced back to April, when the city DSS switched from Signet Banking Corp. to Sovran Bank. Confusion engendered by the transfer delayed checks for up to a month, a problem then described by DHR officials as a "one-time glitch."

Under a lock-box system, support payments are sent to the bank, which notifies the agency the money has arrived. The agency then writes the check.

But when DSS changed banks, Sovran apparently received some checks that were missing key information, such as the special account numbers used for each client. In a typical month, the city processes 90,000 checks.

An agency review of Franks' case showed $400 was being held for her in Baltimore, while another $650 had been returned to Georgia.

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