Secrecy surrounds TN child support program

DHS Commissioner Danielle Barnes

NASHVILLE, April 18, 2019 — The Tennessee Department of Human Services is a pretty big outfit. DHS has 133 fulltime state workers and 356 contract employees. It has another 527 contract employees who work for other state agencies. Much of state business is outsourced to private companies.

By Peter White /

DHS helps families pay for childcare, gets people with disabilities vocational training, and also provides services for the blind and deaf. DHS’s Adult Protective Services helps adults who are abused or cannot help themselves due to mental illness or old age. 

DHS administers Tennessee’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The department also runs the state’s Food Stamp program, SNAP. And DHS is in charge of the state’s child support program.

DHS has 44 child support offices around the state in thirty-one judicial districts. Those offices establish paternity, collect, and enforce child support payments. Child support is established by court-ordered parenting plans that take into account parents’ income and time spent with the children. 

Mississippi-based YoungWilliams operates the Child Support Office in Nashville. In 2017, the company managed 545,000 child support cases in 12 states, 67% of the nation’s total outsourced child support cases, according to its website. It collected $820 million in child support and disbursed $420 million, mostly to single moms. 

On its website YoungWilliams claims they are happy to answer questions. The Tribune wanted to know where the other $400 million went, so we asked them. “All media inquiries must go through the Tennessee Department of Human Services,” wrote the YoungWilliams Communications Team in Ridgeland, MS.

We asked DHS for financial information about the company. DHS Communication Director Sky Arnold said corporate financial information is not subject to the Public Record Act. So we asked him how much DHS paid to YoungWilliams in the last two years. Arnold did not get back to us by press time.

Rob Wells, Young Williams President and CEO, made about $400,000 last year and his company options are worth $2 million, according to Bloomberg L.P. 

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