State glitch reveals confidential info in child support letters

Thousands of noncustodial parents received letters with the address of the parent who has custody, officials said.

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Washington state's Department of Social and Health Services' Division of Child Support today announced it had inadvertently sent forms to noncustodial parents that include the address of the custodial parent of the child -- information considered confidential and protected, officials said.

The division sends out 5,000 to 8,000 federally required letters every month to the employers of parents who do not have custody of their children, said Adolpho Capestany, department spokesman. "It tells them 'these two children belong to this parent and if you have medical insurance, enroll this employee.'"

Normally the custodial parent gets a copy, as does the noncustodial parent -- with address information deleted, Capestany explained.

However a revision in the form failed to add in coding that deletes the custodial-parent home address from the appropriate letter on the July 1 mailing, he said.

The mistake was caught by the department after 3,950 forms had been mailed to noncustodial parents. That said, a separate program that codes for domestic violence issues and foster-care situations was not affected by the glitch, Capestany noted.

"In most of these cases, both parents know where each other lives."

The form was corrected when the error was discovered and steps have been taken to minimize the chance of it occurring again, he said.

A letter is being sent to all affected custodial parents apologizing for the error and providing resources, including a toll-free number and email address, to contact trained child support staff for more information about any risk of identity theft or the possibility of physical or emotional harm.

For more information call the Division of Child Support's Community Relations Unit at 800-457-6202.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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