Mississippi Offers Free Paternity Testing

Deadbeat parents, those who are not paying child support, are a big problem in the state of Mississippi.

State officials say non-custodial parents paid more than a quarter of a billion dollars in child support last year, but as many of nine percent of children not living with their parents don't know who their parents are.

That leaves as much as $25 million in uncollected child support because paternity has not been established.

But Mississippi is now leading the way in efforts to cut state costs, while connecting families.

Officials say Mississippi is the only state in the nation offering free paternity testing, using the state Department of Human Services. Started in July, the free testing is being paid for by federal funds.

"After paternity is established, the next thing we are going to go after is financial support on a monthly basis and medical support," said Walley Naylor, director of Child Support Enforcement.

Naylor said retrieving this money for the children will not only help them, but also the state, because it eases the burden in paying medical expenses for many children who do not receive child support.

"We have about 350,000 cases, about 444,000 children in our system," said Naylor. "Obviously, we don't have orders on all of the cases, but if we had a child support order with medical support on over 400,000 children, you know you can just begin to imagine how much money that would be."

Naylor says over the years the state has held about one free paternity testing day a year. He says because of available funds from the federal stimulus package, this year the agency is able to offer the free testing for three months.

"It's a very good idea, we think, especially since it's not costing us state dollars," Naylor said.

For anyone interested in taking part in this free testing, even if the testing date has passed in your county, you are advised to contact your local child support office as soon as possible because the free testing will end at the end of this month.

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