Update: state officials respond to I-Team report

July 24, 2008 1:27:52 PM PDT
The director of the Illinois child support system says that parents serving in the military are treated fairly in the collection of child support and with the best interest of children in mind. Pam Lowry, Administrator of the Division of Child Support Enforcement for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services contacted the I-Team after our report: "Fighting For His Country; Fighting Against Illinois."

After declining to be interviewed or provide any details for the Wednesday evening TV report, Ms. Lowry and the department's communications director Annie Thompson said they received permission from the parents who were featured in our child support story to speak with us.

Lowry and Thompson both dispute the statement by Army Sgt. Joshua Hinkle that "The state of Illinois child support collection agency basically stole $4,000 from me without any notification or anything for child support they say I owe and I disagree with?I don't know how it is legal. Even if I was at home, how is it legal to take 100 percent of my income?"

They admit however that Child Support officials did not know Sgt. Hinkle was stationed in a war zone when they slapped a lien on his bank account for monies past due.

"We try to help people overseas with their situation," Thompson told the I-team. "We work to accommodate military people."

Ms. Lowry provided the I-Team with a detailed chronology of the Hinkle dispute over past due child support for his two children.

Lowry said that on Sept. 28, 2007 the department gave notice to Hinkle of his outstanding child support balance and informed him of his right to challenge the notification. "He didn't protest," Lowry stated.

On June 9, 2008 the department sent notice of lien to his bank and to Hinkle, Lowry said, which included a provision that the money would be frozen for 180 days or until the issue was resolved whichever came first. "Hinkle was given time to react and didn't," she said.

On June 19 the department received a reply from the bank stating that Hinkle's account balance of $4268.59 was frozen.

On June 24 a department case worker spoke to Hinkle, who was serving in Iraq. "He was aware of the lien," said Administrator Lowry, who noted that the child support division received subsequent emails from Hinkle and his JAG attorney.

Illinois Child Support officials say they did not know until that conversation on June 24 that Hinkle was in Iraq.

On June 27 the department told Hinkle why a lien was being used and gave him his balance owed. The state offered to lien $2268 of account balance and leave $2000 alone in Hinkle's account.

On July 3 Lowry said the state received an email from Hinkle stating he didn't agree with the proposal and wanted to take issue to court. She said that he had a right to do so, but that would not stop the lien from being executed.

On July 21 the state agency told Hinkle's bank to remit $2268 to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services for child support arrears. They sent that amount to us and left $2000 in Hinkle's account.

The bank, this morning, said they will send $2268 to HFS and we will send it to family tomorrow.

"We didn't take all the money," Lowry told the I-Team. "We try to be fair to both parents?when people owe significant amounts of child support we look at bank accounts that have a balance and we notify them that we will lien that account. When they contact us we try to learn particulars of the case."

Firmly, Ms. Lowry said that they follow all federal and state laws and that "We know there are opportunities for soldiers to work with us. We were able to communicate with Hinkle. We try to help people overcome barriers."


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