Public vs. private debate under way on child support services

January 09, 1997


Staff Writer

There's a battle going on to determine whether private or government agencies can better provide child support services in Washington County.

The outcome is still uncertain.

"Customer service has already improved," said Ed Maloy, assistant director for administration at the Washington County Department of Social Services.

The Hagerstown office was set up as a demonstration model in 1995. Maryland had enacted child support enforcement legislation requiring privatization of Baltimore City's system.

At stake are about 6,000 support cases in the county. Maloy said serving families quickly and efficiently is the goal.

"We were given flexibility in hiring legal representation and discretion in selecting personnel," Maloy said.

What works here will be put into effect statewide.

In December, the customer service unit was put into place, Maloy said. "We are getting deeper into the business of public service," he said.


Now four employees are assigned to take calls instead of that job falling to already overburdened agents, Maloy said.

There also are now two new units within the office, dedicated to enforcement and modification. A fiscal/customer service unit will work with central check processing system in Annapolis.

"Once we get a case in the door, the same person will now deal with that client for all things," Maloy said. "This will not only be more efficient but more personal."

Under the new system, the legal arm of the office is no longer the Washington County State's Attorney's office, he said.

"We hired our own attorney," he said. Tim Gordon, who already handles cases for DSS, has assumed the position for child support.

Five management vacancies were created by this change, Maloy said. Four were filled through interoffice promotions, and one newcomer was hired.

In mid-January, R. Christine Hart will arrive to assume her job as assistant director of the child support demonstration project, Maloy said.

Accomplished with some federal assistance, the Hagerstown project is providing an example of the benefits of federal/state partnerships.

Maloy said the staff has been energized by the changes but he stressed that the big winners are the children and families who are being ensured they will get the financial support they deserve.

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