Feds Bless New Mexico's Child Support System

New Mexico's automated child support enforcement system last week became the 16th state system to be fully certified by the federal government.

The system, which went live 10 months ago, has helped the state locate more than 1,300 absentee parents, has increased child support collections more than 15 percent and has returned more than $4 million in funds to the state and federal government. The state paid an estimated $10 million in consulting services for its system.

"This was a project that was in trouble, and we knew it," said New Mexico chief information officer Jim Hall. "We went from being one of the [states] furthest back in the pack a year and a half ago to one of the ones on top. The rigor that the new system brings will be really effective in enforcing child support in our state."

The certification "releases the state out of the umbrella of fear of losing its federal money, and it is recognition that it has the type of system needed to improve child support," said David Wilkins, a state government managing partner with consulting giant Andersen Consulting, which provided project management, design and installation of the computer system. Andersen Consulting has built similar automated child support enforcement systems in six other states.

"Lots of states looked at this as a computer system project and let computer people run it," Wilkins said. "New Mexico looked at it as a major business program change with a new computer system to help. They completely redesigned how they deliver services to clients."

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