OLYMPIA - The Department of Social and Health Services' (DSHS) Internet site for the online payment of child support has won a major software industry award.

WSA (formerly the Washington Software Alliance) yesterday announced DSHS' Division of Child Support took first place in the "Outstanding Contribution to Digital Government" category for its pioneering work to allow employers and individuals to pay child support electronically through its secure Web site. The announcement took place at the 8th Annual Industry Achievement Awards dinner and awards ceremony in Seattle.

Developed for employers who deduct child support from their employees' pay, as well as for parents, the Child Support Internet Payment Service (CSIPS) is administered by the Division of Child Support (DCS) and is available statewide. The interactive site is available at no cost to users, and provides a secure and convenient way to make child support payments online by Electronic Funds Transfer.

"This award is another example of the national leadership role demonstrated by our state's child support program," said DSHS Secretary Dennis Braddock. "We are very proud to accept it as testimony to our continual efforts to better serve the public faster and with less cost."

The site allows employers to make one transaction for multiple employees. An employer also can share up to 200 of its employee files with the DSHS CSIPS database so information about each employee doesn't have to be entered manually.

On average, DCS collects some $60 million in child support each month through approximately 250,000 payments. Currently, more than 180,000, or around 75 percent of the payments, are checks sent by regular mail.

When the Web site was launched in August 2001, it received four payments totaling $885 during the first month of operation. During November 2002, nearly 1,500 payments were received through the site, representing over $660,000. Since its inception, nearly 12,000 payments have been made on 2,400 cases for a total of $5.3 million in child support.

Braddock noted that while approximately 94 percent of payments made by check are processed by DCS within two days of receipt, 100 percent of the electronic payments are processed the same day they are received.

Washington has been recognized nationally as a leader in the use of technology to improve child support collections. Two years ago, the division's Support Enforcement Management System was the first information technology system in the nation certified to meet all federal requirements and was cited in the February 2001 issue of Government Technology.

Washington also was one of the first states to meet requirements for a centralized payment processing center. The division's payment processing imaging system received the Award of Merit from the American Society for Public Administration in 1998.

Anyone interested in using CSIPS can set up an account or view a demonstration of the site at: www.childsupportpayment.dshs.wa.gov.

Information also is available by calling the Division of Child Support toll-free telephone number 800/468-7422. That number is also the one to call for network technical assistance.

-- Washington State Department of Social and Health Services'