NM right to bring child support system into this century

Could it be that the reason New Mexico has a lower-than-average showing on child support payments is the lack of modern technology built into the system?

Probably not completely, but Human Services Secretary David Scrase’s efforts to drag the state system a step further into the 21st century will probably help at least a bit. And when you are a single parent scraping by, every bit helps.

As a July 25 Journal story noted, parents who shirk child support payments can face harsh repercussions, including losing their driver’s license or even being arrested. But the proverbial stick alone hasn’t seemed to move the needle much, as evidenced by the fact New Mexico is still below national average on payments successfully collected by the Child Support Enforcement Division. Conventional wisdom would tell you that’s in large part because it’s hard to pay up when you can’t drive to work or are sitting in jail.

Scrase’s plan to help improve those numbers seems both practical and achievable. First, the department will try to make the payment process easier by ensuring it can be done online. Frankly, it’s a little astounding that option has been unavailable until 2019, but better late than never. Other technological improvements are reportedly in the works.

The plan is also careful not to shoot too high. Between July 2018 and June 2019, the division collected about 57% of child support owed. The state goal for this current 12-month period is just a bit higher, at 62%.

Scrase has been in his post since January, but his common-sense approach and modest goals are a good sign he is grasping a basic concept: that punishing derelict parents too often punishes their children. Here’s to Human Services making regular, if incremental, progress for N.M.’s kids.