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Social Services
Erie County, NY

Issues has reported instances of what appears blatant abuse within the Erie County, New York Child Support Collection Unit. (Refer to Back Child Support The Story of Dave from NY and The Story of Bruce from Florida)Issues has even become involved in attempting to "get to the bottom of these problems" but to no avail. Not only were the Customer Service Reps rude, they blatantly told me that No Family Court Judge had a right to set up any payment arrangements in regards to back child support." Upon further questioning, I was informed, "they (The Child Support Collection Unit (CSCU)) did not have to do what the judge had ordered they (CSCU) set the amounts." Upon suggesting that this tactic appeared to be a legal loophole against breaking the 14th Amendment Rights of the non-custodial parent, I was basically informed that they (CSCU) could not discuss any cases with me, end of conversation. The problems are much greater than what I have portrayed to date, therefore Issues will devote a great deal of effort to track down officials in regards to the concerns I have located within this system, as well as investigating whether the problem lies within the CSCU or within the group that is in charge of child support collection; the Erie County Department of Social Services.

This week, Issues will look at some of the problems that have been referred to us in regard to both the CSCU and the Social Service Department of Erie County. We will allow our readers to view for themselves the disastrous consequences associated with becoming involved with this particular entity.

From Terry: a single working mother whose child support is collected via automatic withdrawal of her ex-partners wages by the CSCU.

"I know they (the CSCU) continuously take money from his (the ex-partner's) check, I've seen the stubs, sometimes I get the money regularly then months will pass and I have to call and call and call just to get the money."

When asked whether or not she received the full amount after the fight to obtain the funds, Terry admitted she was unsure. When the person in charge of the Erie County, New York Child Support Collection Unit was questioned concerning this matter, he responded: "it's not the unit, it's the employers, they don't send the money to us like they are suppose to."

Issues has had three additional respondents suggesting the identical problem with receiving the money. This indicates one of two problems are occurring on a regular basis in Erie County; either businesses are not sending in money on a timely basis (which would lead one to believe that the local child support collection unit is not handling their responsibilities of collection properly) or the collection unit is lapse in their capacity to follow through with the laws that they seem determined to enforce. (During our June investigation Issues will bring our readers actual documentation in one child support collection case. Upon first reviewing these documents, Issues felt that the CSCU was determined to uphold the laws in regards to the collection of child support and assuring that the children in these cases did not suffer. As our investigation deepens, Issues is leaning towards the belief that the CSCU is more a self appointed "BAD COP" that is turning the good that was meant to happen into a nightmare no one should be trapped in.)

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One respondent, who has asked to remain unidentified, explained to Issues that he has had more than $7000, in excess child support withdrawn from his account. Issues has spoken with a person, whom has asked for anonymity, within the Erie County Family Court system. We were told that unfortunately, once the matter leaves court they no longer have control. Most people do not understand this, and they (the court) have lines of people on a daily basis reporting problems, while these people should be directing their problems to the collection unit. In response to this matter, Issues again spoke to the "person in charge" only to learn that: "a person can have their account audited at anytime." When we explained the problem as it occurred with Bruce, the suggestion to have the account reaudited was made. Audit and reaudit, sounds like a plan, unfortunately, it appears that the child support collection unit has no one to answer to, therefore all of these pleas are as hopeless as the plans.

Issues pondered the question, was the problem within the CSCU or Erie County Social Services. In order to reveal a more enlightened approach, we asked a few people determined to have at least once been involved with the Erie County Social Service program, the following is what we learned:

One man who asked to remain anonymous told Issues that he had been through a "bad time" which took him to the Social Service Department. Some years later, after his case had been closed and he had returned to the workforce, his account was audited and he received a letter indicating that the Social Service Department had determined they had overpaid the man one month's benefits, for a total of slightly more than $500 in cash and food stamps, and that they (the Social Service Department)were now taking the money from his income tax unless he reimbursed the county. There was a notation on the letter indicating that he could respond via telephone or certified letter if he felt this determination was incorrect and a hearing would be held.

He indicated that he spent every available moment attempting to call the number but was only able to reach a voice message. He left repeated messages requesting a hearing, his messages received no replies. As time was expiring for his appeal to be heard, he sent a letter, a receipt of which he provided to Issues. There was never a response made to the man, nor was there a hearing offered, instead, money was withdrawn from his income tax to cover the amount the Social Service Department had determined to have been overpaid.

Issues proceeded to interview two women who find the need to secure Medicaid coverage due to their extreme medical conditions. One woman is 77 years old; she receives a total of $800.00 in social security and retirement benefits monthly. She lives alone and rents a tiny apartment. She must pay $190.00 per month to secure Medicaid. She also produced letters showing Issues that after every ten doctor visits she is informed that her Medicaid coverage is to cease for the year because she has used her allotted coverage benefits, she then explained how she must return to the doctor who must in turn write a letter to the Social Service Department requesting additional benefits. (note - This same woman has refused to obtain food stamps, producing a letter indicating she was eligible for a $10.00 monthly food stamp allotment.)

The second woman is just past 50 years old. She receives approximately $800.00 in social security disability benefits monthly. She also lives alone, but she owns her own home. This woman pays $30.00 per month for her Medicaid coverage and receives $130.00 monthly allotment in food stamps. She indicated that she visits the doctor as often as the first woman but has never received any indication that she has used her allotted benefits for coverage. There is one difference between the two individuals, the younger woman pays a cobra payment monthly for additional health insurance coverage, the total between the cobra payment and the Medicaid payment is equivalent to what the older woman pays. Issues is eager to learn why one woman is allotted $10.00 monthly food stamps while the other woman is allotted $130.00 monthly. We are also interested on the formula utilized by the Social Service Department to determine the amount of cash to be paid for Medicaid coverage.

These are just a few of the complaints Issues has received. It would take our allotted web space to write the problems we have reviewed. It is apparent to Issues that a problem exists, the question is where exactly does the problem begin and what can be done to make this system work the way it was meant to?

Child Support

  1. Current Cases: Back Child Support

  2. Is The System Working?

  3. Caught in the Web

  4. Debate: New Child Support Laws

  5. Department of Social Services: Erie County, NY

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Page Last Updated: 6/15/2002
C 2002 L Munro