Updated: 04/05/2012 5:40 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Albert
Imagine being owed tens of thousands of dollars and having that debt erased.
It happened to one Twin Cities mother, whose child support case was closed by mistake - a mistake that, if caught in a federal audit or repeated, could cost the state millions of dollars in funding, state officials have warned.
As 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reporter Mark Albert found out, the mistake has now launched a state audit into a Case Closed.
In February 2011, the result of the Department of Human Services audit revealed Hennepin county child support staff wrongly closed 217 cases worth $5.9 million in debt owed to families.
DHS launched an audit in all of the state's 87 counties, which revealed in April 2012 a final tab of $24 million wrongly closed.
Watch our original investigation from Nov. 23, 2011 above.
Watch our follow up investigation from Feb. 2, 2012 which revealed the $5.9 million in child support debt erased by Hennepin county.
Watch our Apr. 5, 2012 story that revealed the final tab of erased accounts statewide: $24 million.
Click here to read the April 2012 results of the DHS statewide review, which found $24 million in cases improperly closed.
Click here to read DHS's Dec. 16, 2011 letter "expanding the scope" of the audit.
Click here to read DHS's Dec. 28, 2011 letter to Hennepin county warning that its actions "violate federal regulations and expose the county and the state to the potential for lawsuits..."
Click here to read Hennepin county's Jan. 25, 2012 response to DHS that despite reopening 217 cases, it's "highly unlikely" the $5.9 million owed will ever be paid to families.
Click here to read the two letters sent by Hennepin County that cited reasons for closing a Twin Cities mother's case - including that there had been "no payments in over 5 years" - that the MN Dept. of Human Services later determined to be "contrary to federal law."
If your child support case was closed for the same reason, the Minnesota Dept. of Human Services encourages you to contact your county or DHS directly.
Click here to see how many child support cases were closed in 2011 statewide and the reasons given for the closures.
Click here to learn more about Child Support in Minnesota.
Watch an extended interview with Anne Barry, Dep. Commissioner of the MN Department of Human Services, talking about the department's efforts to make sure other cases aren't being improperly closed. (11/2011)