It isn't fun trying to sort out questions about child support, and Florida's child support enforcement division shouldn't make it any more frustrating. But those seeking help through the agency's hotline are often greeted with nothing but the sound of bureaucracy: a busy signal.
In April, 1.9-million calls of the 2.2-million to the hotline landed on a busy signal - no message system, no friendly "hold" message. That's a success rate of less than 14 percent, which can't be considered a success by any standard.
After offering this service for the past decade, the Department of Revenue ought to do better than this at a cost to taxpayers of more than a half-million dollars a year. It is a vital service in a state where 34 percent of the children live with one parent.
The Department of Revenue has about 200 operators to field calls, but it is swamped. The hotline received 8.7-million calls last year and has been receiving 2-million calls a month this year. If any private company's customer service line had such a terrible track record it wouldn't stay in business long.
The department offers a number of explanations, including suggesting that the problems reflect the agency's success in promoting the hotline. Spokeswoman Renee Watters said 10 individual call centers have been combined into one and a new computer system required more training for its employees this year. But those excuses don't help the exasperated parents looking for answers on child support.
The state needs to fix this or find another way to help parents get answers. A hotline isn't really a hotline if more than 8 of every 10 callers get a busy signal.