Child support group will rally today in Minden |

Child support group will rally today in Minden

by Christy Chalmers

A children’s advocacy group will rally in Minden today as part of a statewide protest criticizing a flawed but federally-mandated computer system.

The Association of Children for Enforcement of Support is planning rallies in Las Vegas, Reno, Carson City and three other communities from 4-6 p.m. to draw attention to shortcomings in child support enforcement. One part of those problems is a federally-required computer system that is intended to track child support and welfare cases.

The system, called NOMADS, short for Nevada Operations Multi Automated Data Systems, is difficult to use and does not forgive operator errors, but Nevada’s counties, including Douglas, are converting based on federal and state requirements.

ACES state program director Vicky Snyder said she’s invited state lawmakers to the rallies, which she says are not a reflection on individual counties.

“The decision with the computer system was made at the state level. People (at the county level) had no choice in what was going to happen with this computer, but our kids are the ones suffering because of this decision,” she said. “We think they need to dump this computer and start over.”

The Douglas County rally will be held at the judicial and law enforcement building, 1625 Eighth St., Minden.

Douglas County was one of the first three counties, along with Washoe and Clark, to try converting to NOMADS. The process, which started in 1998, has been difficult and frustrating. Although an end is finally in sight, deputy district attorney Brian Chally isn’t anticipating an easy resolution.

“In terms of getting the cases loaded, we feel pretty comfortable we’re going to make the July 31 deadline, but that isn’t to say the system is going to function beautifully after that,” he said. “A lot of the problems that are there will continue to get worked on and debugged over the next few years.”

He said about 79 percent of the 1,400 child support cases in Douglas County have been converted. But a status report to the county commission notes there’s no guarantee that NOMADS will actually be certified as meeting federal standards by a Sept. 30 deadline.

Plus, a state plan to take over processing child support statements – a task now handled by counties – could create more problems for the parents who rely on the payments.

The proposed state distribution unit, which is also federally mandated, would have a payment processing center in Las Vegas, with the resulting checks to be sent from a state facility in Carson City.

“It takes the local element out of the system,” said Chally. “Right now, if there is a problem we can work with the clerk’s office. Now that is going to be limited.”

In addition, the compatibility of NOMADS and the distribution unit’s computer programs is unknown.

“We’ve seen a printout of screens on the program, but we will have no idea until we go through training what the interaction with NOMADS will be,” he noted.

Clark County is supposed to inaugurate the state distribution unit in April, followed by the other counties in July.

As for ACES, Snyder says the group is growing and is organizing a chapter in Douglas County.

She said the group was founded in 1985 by an Ohio woman who was having trouble collecting child support and now boasts 290 chapters with 47,000 members nationwide. Nevada’s ACES chapters are located in Reno, Elko, Las Vegas and Battle Mountain, with the establishment of groups in Fallon and Douglas pending, Snyder said.

She said ACES plans to increase its profile in Nevada by lobbying during the 2001 legislative session. At the federal level, she said the group is pushing for laws that would allow the IRS to help enforce child support orders.

“If people owe the IRS money, they’re scared,” she said. “If they owe child support, it’s like it’s no big deal. We need to collect it and get it out to the people.”

Details: For more information on ACES, call 1-888-310-2237. The Minden rally will be held at the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Building, 1625 Eighth St., from 4-6 p.m.