been built with out-of-date mainframe technology, making it difficult to add new features, such as the Web. Other systems lack relational databases or the now-standard graphical user interface. "Many of these systems were not well designed," explained Williams. "They are limited in

how they can handle complex functions."

One of those functions is report management and analysis. Although they are capable of compiling huge amounts of information, state child support systems lack the tools that allow government officials to analyze data for decision support and policy planning. As the current crop of mainframe systems continues to age, making changes becomes harder and harder. "Yet child support is a government program that is constantly changing," Williams said. "States need to plan for system redevelopment involving new technologies."

One thing state officials dont want to do, however, is let technology take over the process entirely. There is technology out there that can automate virtually every aspect of child support and chase down nearly every nickel and dime with ruthless efficiency. But government officials are reluctant to turn technology loose on a problem with such human dimensions. "We dont chase every dollar out there as aggressively as we could," said Virginias Young. "Our spirit and intent is to modify behavior. Its our goal to get both parents to contribute to the well-being of their children."

Tod Newcombe  |  Features Editor