The Leavenworth County Attorney's Office has been handling enforcement of child support orders for the 1st Judicial District since 1976. But in September, a private company will be taking over child support services in the 1st Judicial District and other areas of the state.
YoungWilliams, which is based in Jackson, Miss., was awarded a state contract last week to handle child support support services for many of the counties in eastern, southern and western Kansas, according to a news release from the Department for Children and Family Services.
The state will pay the company $2.7 million to handle child support services for the 1st Judicial District, which consists of Leavenworth and Atchison counties, through June 2017. The state and company can agree to three two-year extensions, according to the contract which is posted on the Kansas Department of Administration's website.
Theresa Freed, public information officer for DCF, said there's been some privatization of child support services in the state in the past but only on a limited basis. The contracts awarded last week are for full-service child support activities.
Freed said it's anticipated the contracting for these services will substantially improve collections for child support. She said bids were accepted for each judicial district.
County Attorney Todd Thompson said his office submitted a bid for the services for the 1st Judicial District.
"We have felt we have done an exceptional job," he said.
According to the website for the County Attorney's Office, the office has been under contract with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which is now DCF, for child support enforcement since 1997. But the County Attorney's Office has been doing the enforcement for the 1st Judicial District since 1976.
Thompson said his office has handled only enforcement in the past. But the recent bidding process was for overall child support services.
He said the local child support enforcement unit has seven staff members. There's also an attorney from his office assigned to the unit.
Thompson stated that he hopes to maintain as many people from the unit as possible in other duties.
Rob Wells, president of YoungWilliams, said his company will be recruiting people who've already been working in child support services.
Wells said company officials were still deciding Thursday where they will locate offices in Kansas. He said the goal is to have offices that will be within reasonable driving distances for the people they serve. He suggested there may be an office located in Olathe.
Four entities were awarded contracts last week to provide child support services in Kansas. One of the other winning bidders, Lee Fisher, was awarded a contract for providing services for many counties in northern and western Kansas. Veritas will be providing services in Wyandotte County, or the 29th Judicial District. The 18th Judicial District Court Trustee will be providing services in Sedgwick County, which is where Wichita is located.
Page 2 of 2 - The Topeka-Capital Journal recently reported that Wells and his wife each gave $2,000 donations to Gov. Sam Brownback's campaign in 2010.
The newspaper also reported that, Trisha Thomas, a former employee of YoungWilliams, was hired in 2011 to be the director of child support services at DCF. Earlier this year, she announced the child support services program would be privatized.
Freed called the Topeka Capital-Journal story misleading.
Freed stated Brownback and Thomas had nothing to do with the selection of the winning bidders. She stated the winning bidders were chosen because they submitted the lowest bids.
Freed also stated that YoungWilliams has had contracts for child support collection services in various judicial districts in the state dating back to 2005, which was before Brownback became governor.