By Cat Ferguson
Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ -- The Department of Child Support Services is getting a new director, Jamie Murray, who is moving here from the same job in Sutter County.
A 20-year veteran of child support services around California, "she brings to the table a lot of tools that you really want to see in the department," said Lynn Miller, the interim director.
Murray has a bachelor's in industrial psychology from CSU, Hayward and a master's in public administration from CSU, East Bay. She will oversee a staff of 64 employees and a budget of $6.8 million in Santa Cruz County, as well as 19 employees and a budget of $1.86 million in San Benito County. Child Support Services does everything from garnishing wages to revoking passports in an effort to get kids their fair share. They also handle state-mandated paternity tests.
Most people who owe child support do their duty: About 60 percent of parents pay on time, Miller said. In Santa Cruz County, those payments totaled more than $14 million last year -- a little less than the entire Capitola budget in 2011. That's spread across about 5,900 families here, and 2,200 in San Benito County, which shares the office with Santa Cruz County, according to the service's website.
To deal with all of these cases and cash, the department has begun transferring from a paper service to an online one, to streamline the process. Child support payments can be deposited electronically via the department's website. It then gets distributed to families by either check or prepaid MasterCard.
Miller is confident in that Murray will do well in the department.
"She was one of the few candidates that came down to the county and talked with the staff, looked at our plan, saw what we do. I think she'll bring a lot of new and innovative ideas," Miller said.
The department has a lot of options for finding delinquent parents and getting them to pay child support, including revoking driver's, hunting, fishing and medical licenses. But the goal isn't just to punish delinquent cases. They'll work with parents through job loss and other financial straights, to make sure everyone can afford their payments.
"A lot of people who aren't in the system wonder what we do," Miller said. "We serve a lot of families. And we really want to keep the noncustodial parent as involved in the child's life as the custodial parent. We didn't in the past, but we're really trying these days."