Enforcing child support

November 25, 1991

Last week, the Baltimore County sheriff's office carried out another gimmick in the perennial battle to ensure that child support payments are actually made. This one -- an offer for free tickets for the Orioles' 1992 Opening Day -- was aimed at about 360 offenders and netted a paltry eight.

We don't condemn Sheriff Norman Pepersack for trying, but the episode illustrates again the difficulty of making sure children receive the financial support to which they are legally entitled. Maryland has tried just about every program ever devised to make sure non-custodial parents live up to their financial obligations, but none seems to solve this many-faceted problem.

A major obstacle is the lack of coordinated enforcement procedures among the states. In September, the federally mandated U.S. Commission on Interstate Child Support completed a draft report detailing a wide range of proposals and ideas for better enforcement throughout the country.

The absence of effective child support enforcement has long been an egregious example of this country's lack of serious attention to children and their needs. Optimists have suggested recently that this attitude may be changing. One way to tell will be to see what emerges in the commission's final report -- and then to watch what actually happens in legislation and regulation governing child support.

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