Kansas Health Institute
By: KHI News Service
July 24, 2014
Kansas welfare officials said today that they will use more than $600,000 in grants from two nonprofit groups to launch a program aimed at getting parents to pay down child support debts.
The program, called the Child Support Savings Initiative, will encourage parents who owe child support to pay into education savings accounts for their offspring. For every dollar put into an account, the state will reduce the parent's debt obligation by $2.
Money from the grants will be used to publicize the program and to pay offsetting sums to the custodial parent owed the child support money.
"The program is a win-win," said Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the agency that was awarded the grants by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. "The non-custodial parent who owes child support will have arrears reduced, the parent who has custody of the child will have the money he/she is owed and the child will know that money is there available when it's time to start college or a technical program."
The Kellogg Foundation gave DCF a grant of $600,000, of which $100,000 will be used to promote the program with the remainder paid out to custodial parents, agency officials said.
The Casey Foundation gave $50,000, which will be used for a media campaign and related promotional services.
DCF officials said a child who has designated school savings is nearly five times more likely to graduate from college than a child with no savings account.
Accounts created through the program will be in the state's name so that neither parent can withdraw funds from it. But the money can be used at any college or technical school accredited to receive financial aid.
The program will be run with assistance from the State Treasurer's Office.
Non-custodial parents who owe back child support may owe debt both to the custodial parent and the state (if the custodial parent is receiving assistance). The non-custodial parent with debt now has the opportunity to pay $25 to open a CSSI 529 account and for every $1 paid into that account, the state will forgive $2 of state-owed debt. The individual will still be required to meet his/her monthly obligation to the custodial parent.
Television ads publicizing the program are scheduled to air in early August and online ads will begin this week, officials said.
DCF officials said they also would work with the Kansas Department of Education and its community partners to spread the word.