On Sept. 27, YoungWilliams Child Support Services will take over all federal and state services for spousal and child support in the Ninth Judicial District. Unable to bid to keep these cases due to stringent state requirements, the Ninth Judicial Court Trustee’s Office will find its budget cut by a third of a million dollars.
On Sept. 27, YoungWilliams Child Support Services will take over all federal and state services for spousal and child support in the Ninth Judicial District.
Unable to bid to keep these cases due to stringent state requirements, the Ninth Judicial Court Trustee’s Office will find its budget cut by a third of a million dollars.
Despite this situation, Ninth Judicial District Chief Judge Richard Walker vows services to the people of McPherson and Harvey counties won’t diminish, though the process of the last few months has been frustrating.
“Our office was winning awards and commendations,” Walker said. “We ended up thrown in the basket with everyone else, good, bad and indifferent.”
In June, the Kansas Department for Children and Families announced that YoungWilliams, a private corporation based in Jacksonville, Miss., was the winning bidder for 23 of the 31 judicial districts in the state of Kansas.
The services YoungWilliams will provide include collection and disbursement of support payments; distribution of collected support; consent to income withholding and garnishment; and civil actions to enforce support obligations.
The state requirements for bidding corporations or agencies was too prohibitive for the Ninth District Court Trustee’s Office to put in a bid.
The Ninth District Court Trustee position was created 27 years ago by Judge Carl Anderson, who appointed Charles Prather as the first person to hold the office. With Prather’s passing June 27, Harold F. Schorn II was promoted into the position from Deputy District Court Trustee.
Now, after 27 years of serving the public, the Court Trustee will lose all of its Title IV D cases to YoungWilliams.
Schorn said out of 2,800 current cases, the District Court Trustee will potentially lose 1,000, resulting in budgetary losses of a third of a million dollars.
“There won’t be a Deputy Court Trustee anymore,” Schorn said. “We’ve also had to lay off two support staff and an attorney.”
In more cutbacks, the agency’s office in Newton will be moved from an office building to the Harvey County Courthouse. The McPherson location at 116 N. Ash will remain open for the immediate future.
The District Court Trustee also has eliminated a contract with a collection agency. It plans to take on the collection agency’s responsibilities itself, a move which Schorn estimates could bring in 33 percent additional revenue for the agency.
Ninth Judicial District Chief Judge Richard Walker said the Court Trustee’s office will not slacken its services.
“There will be no docking in our services,” Walker said. “Our size will shrink, but you won’t see any drop-off in the quality of our services. We will just have some transitional issues, and it’s difficult to predict what they all will be as of yet.”
The cases that will go to YoungWilliams will be those in which federal or state support is involved.
Examples of this include cash assistance programs, work-related assistance, government-supplied insurance, such as Medicaid, WIC, and day care assistance.
Many cases don’t involve such government support, though, and these are the cases the District Court Trustee will be left with. The District Court Trustee also collects spousal maintenance, formerly known as alimony, and collects for medical bills for uninsured children.
While dedicated to providing services into the future, Walker, who, by statute, is responsible for the District Court Trustee program, said he thinks the District Court Trustee’s office wasn’t given a fair chance.
Examples of these sorts of issues in the bidding process would include requirements to contractors and employees not to conduct anything other than child support services on the premises, staff handling non-IV D cases required to be completely separate those who do handle them and that all equipment and software used must be considered property of the state during the term of the contract and disallowed from any non-contract usage.
For a small operation like the District Court Trustee’s office, this level of specialization on a staff and resource level would have been costly and impractical.
“We were allowed no meaningful opportunity in the bidding process,” Walker said. It feels like we’ve been penalized for doing a good job.”