The child support unit in District Attorney Larry Moore’s office is planning a move in the near future that will create some relief for workers, which should translate to better services for customers.
According to Jennifer Gourd, who works in Moore’s child support office, the basic purpose of the child support office is currently limited by physical space restrictions in the courthouse.
“Our main function is establishing and enforcing child support,” she said. “We currently have more than 5,000 cases open. There are 11 people on staff, but there are supposed to be 16. Right now, we don’t have the space, and we are in very cramped quarters. Moving to a new facility will allow us a better ratio of caseworkers to cases.”
Remodeling of a structure to house the child support office at Denison and Main streets is under way. It will be in a section of adjoined business named Bodega Bay by the property owner.
Gourd provided some explanation of duties assigned to the child support unit.
“The program was created in 1975 for welfare recovery,” she said. “One thing we do is establish support orders; the custodial parent can name the father, who can come to court and acknowledge he is the parent or request a DNA test.”
Gourd listed several other responsibilities the unit handles.
“We also enforce existing orders, and we’re also charged with collecting Temporary Assistance to Needy Families,” she said. “We enforce payment for foster care from the biological parents, we enforce medical support, we can enforce support alimony, and we can enforce child support orders issued in other states.”
Moore said the new facility, which may be ready in August or September, is more than twice the size of the current space.
He explained the importance of having good child support services, which are offered free of charge to the custodial parent.
“The child support division statewide is for whichever parent has custody, and it enables them to better collect child support,” he said.
Moore said the majority of cases involve mothers trying to collect support they are owed.
“These are cases where paternity has been an issue, or the paying parent gets behind on payment or will not pay,” he said. “It is a service.”
Moore added that the new facility also will have room for expansion.