Lee County DHR a top statewide performer

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By Morgan Bryce

Opelika Observer
Staff Reporter

Through a partnership called the IV-D program, the Lee County Department of Human Resources and the 37th Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office collected more than $11 million in child support funds last fiscal year, earning them the annual Division Director’s Award from the Alabama Department of Human Resources, given to the top performing Alabama county in the child support program.  The Lee County partnership is currently collecting an average of $925,000 in child support each month on behalf of the children of Lee County.
Alabama’s IV-D program was created in 1998, and, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources website, the program “is a joint federal and state effort to help families establish paternity (when necessary), obtain orders for payment of child support, and secure compliance with child support court orders.”
Lee County’s IV-D partnership  is made up of Lee County Family Court Judge Mike Fellows, Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes, Assistant District Attorney Margaret Mayfield, and their staff:  child support coordinator, Shannon Franklin, Tametra Eiland, Dana Crowe, Shirley Frost and Ebony Mitchell, child support referee, Ben Hand (appointed by Judge Fellows), Lee County DHR Director, Emily Jones, Program Supervisor, Lillian Snipes,  Supervisor Vernecia Dowdell,  and their staff, Nashea Batts, Mary Cash, Joann Ceasar, James Coleman, Drew Hill, Jasmine Milner, Ursula Scott, and Shalanda Welch.
Due to the high volume of cases that the family court faces daily, Hand makes recommendations to Family Court Judge Mike Fellows in determining the amount of child support money the non-custodial parent will owe and pay each month.
The District Attorney staff works with the Lee County DHR to present to the court paternity and obligation establishment as well as enforcing the court orders.
“(Lee County) DHR contracts with the district attorney’s office to be the arm of the legal services,” Mayfield said.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Department also assists in service of the child support documents and serving writs of arrest for those noncustodial parents who fail to appear for court or pay as ordered.
For non-custodial parents having difficulty finding work or making enough money to pay their child support, Mayfield said there are options to assist them such as partnering with the career center in Opelika to provide employment search seminars.  She said she hopes that this program will assist the non-custodial parent to obtain employment so that they may successfully meet their child support obligation.
Reflecting on the award, Lillian Snipes said she and her agency’s main takeaway is not the amount of money they collect, but the impact her staff and the DA staff make on the lives of the family and children they work with daily.
“That’s what DHR sets out to do … to give services to the families and children of Lee County … and it (the award) lets them know that we’re doing a good job. To be a part of that means a lot,” Snipes said.
District Attorney Brandon Hughes echoed that sentiment, stating that it is dedicated and hardworking personnel that help make the program a success.
“It’s a critical role that we play in the process, and we’re just grateful that the (Lee County) Department of Human Resources allows us to play that role … and obviously helping children is a big part of what we do. We have a super, super talented staff that does that, and I’m grateful to be the district attorney to be able to serve the county with the staff that we’ve got and DHR gives us the ability to help these folks …  I’m just super excited and grateful for it,” Hughes said.
For more information or child support inquiries visit the website:  http://www.dhr.state.al.us or http://www.leecountyda.org, or visit Lee County Department of Human Resources located at 1715 Corporate Drive in Opelika.

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