Politics & Government

Kansas posting mug shots of child support ‘evaders’

Kansas has launched a new website listing people who owe more than $5,000 in back child support.
Kansas has launched a new website listing people who owe more than $5,000 in back child support. The Wichita Eagle

Kansas plans to post mug shots of people who owe thousands of dollars in back child support in an effort to shame them into paying or solicit tips on their location.

The program comes as Kansas struggles to improve its child support collections.

Called Child Support Evaders, the program features a website showing people who owe more than $5,000 in late support. Included is the person’s name, mug shot, the amount owed, the number of children they owe support to and where they were last seen.

The website allows the public to submit tips anonymously on where a so-called evader might be located.

“Child support is a key component to a families’ economic stability,” Gov. Jeff Colyer said in a statement. “Far too many families in our state are left to rely on public assistance when the other parent should be supporting their children financially and emotionally."

Colyer said he hopes the program encourages people who are behind on child support payments to work with the state to pay up, aided by fatherhood grants, arrears programs, electronic programs and career training.

"Who wants their face on a website?" Colyer said.

The page is hosted on the Kansas Department for Children and Families website and will be updated quarterly. Children who receive support from both parents are better off, said DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel.

The new Kansas initiative is among a growing number of name-and-shame programs around the country designed to encourage payment of child support.

In 2016, Arizona launched a campaign to post on Facebook and Twitter the names and photos of individuals behind on support. Texas also has a Child Support Evaders website. Louisiana and Georgia have similar programs.

The Child Support Evaders program follows a $50,000 ad campaign in 2015 that was aimed at encouraging businesses to report new hires to the state. Kansas then compares new hires against a list of those owing support.

Kansas privatized child support collections in 2013 in an effort to increase collections.

According to the governor’s office, $840 million in child support remained owed to Kansas families as of the last federal fiscal year. During that same time, the state collected about $206 million.

"Over the last decade, we have increased our efforts to collect child support, but obviously more needs to be done," Meier-Hummel said.

In 2012, the year before privatization, DCF collected more than $207 million. A 2013 agency news release projected privatization would increase collections by $52 million over three years.

Rep. Jarrod Ousley, D-Merriam, said he would like Kansas to revisit the decision to privatize collections.

“To my knowledge, it’s still not where it was before it was privatized, as far as collections go," Ousley said.

Over the past decade, collections have improved, however, according to data provided by DCF. Kansas collected about $178 million in 2007. Collections have ranged from $198 million to $206 million a year since privatization.

The cost-effectiveness of support collections have increased since privatization, from $3.51 to $5.90 — meaning that $5.90 in support costs $1 to raise.