August is "Child Support Awareness Month" in New York.
Officials say child support is a vital source of income for hundreds of thousands of children and families, and it's especially critical for the poorest families.
"What we know from federal data, census data, is that for those who are particularly at the lowest income, that child support makes up a higher percentage, in some instances up to 50 percent of their income, " said Eileen Stack, assistant deputy commissioner of the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the agency that helps custodial parents get the financial support they need from non-custodial parents.
OTDA representatives will be in Rochester today for two meetings at Monroe Community Hospital. One meeting will educate hospital employees about how they can play a role in establishing the paternity of newborns. There is a form hospitals must make available to unmarried parents at the time of birth
"Hospitals are, indeed, required by law to facilitate and to help and to notify the parents that there is this opportunity to enter into a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity," Stack said.
Employers also play a crucial role when it comes to ensuring that families get the financial support they are entitled to. Nearly three of every four dollars in child support collected in New York State are withheld from a worker's paycheck.
Another meeting at Monroe Community Hospital this morning will explain to local employers what information they must provide to the state.
"For example, we have what is called new hire reporting,” said Stack. “Employers must submit timely paperwork and that allows us to ensure that we have wage garnishment in place as soon as possible and that money begins to flow to the family."
New York State's child support program collects more than $1.8 billion each year on behalf of 900,000 children.