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Deadbeat Illinois 2: Child Support and Social Security

Updated: Tuesday, May 27 2014, 10:34 AM CDT

ILLINOIS -- Taxpayers like you are on the hook paying for state workers who are trying to collect billions in unpaid child support from Illinois parents.

There's 800 employees at the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. And while there is some help from the federal government, you're paying for the department's operations and salaries.

In part 2 of our special report on child support in Illinois, Newschannel at Nine's Shantel Middleton takes a look at what you're getting for your money and what's happening to those who don't pay.

He's had custody of their two sons since 2003, and Jeremy Rhodes gets $92 in child support each month from his ex-wife.

"Once she lost the battle, she quit the job that she had," Rhodes said.

Because of their similar stories, he has found an unlikely friend in Rachel Bowman. His brother is more than $3,000 behind in child support to Bowman for their 13-year-old daughter.

"I take care of mine so it's hard to say why they don't. I would say for my situation it's more to get at me, but the kids are the ones that are hurting," Rhodes said.

Here's something else Rhodes and his niece's mom have in common.

"I do get $135 garnished out of a Social Security check," Bowman said.

They both only get child support consistently because it's garnished from the other, non-working parent's Social Security benefits.

"Social Security actually has two, different kinds of programs," Pamela Lowry with the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services said.

She explains that one of those is a disability program for people who've contributed through their earnings.

"In that program, you can actually apply for the dependence allowance which is wonderful," Lowry said.

As taxpayers we spend $175-million for Child Support Services in Illinois. Across the state there are 800 employees to do the job.

"We have to distinguish between child support that's owed by people who are avoiding their obligation to their children and child support that is owed by people who are actually poverty-stricken themselves," Lowry said.

With more than 300-thousand families owed child support folks at Health and Family Services say the need is too great-- with calls to the office---often going unanswered. When they do answer, it's not always what a parent in need wants to hear.

"Personally, we find that there are a lot of remedies that bring people into compliance with child support that are much more effective than jail time and much more effective for taxpayers," Lowry said.

In jail her child's father earned no money; now it's the same story even though he's free. Still owed thousands Rachel Bowman says her child's cost of living-- is not.

"It's just a day to day thing. I mean-- it's like I can't force the system," she said.

Bowman is calling on state lawmakers to come up with stiffer penalties for parents who don't pay.

Deadbeat Illinois 2: Child Support and Social Security

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