Child support collections in the Cherokee County area approached $7 million in the year ending June 30, 2005, officials said Wednesday.

District Attorney Richard L. Gray said the Tahlequah child support office, which collects for people in Cherokee and Wagoner counties, showed a jump of 20 percent in collections over the previous year. The Sallisaw office, which has Adair and Sequoyah County cases, had similar numbers and a 21 percent increase.

“I think it usually takes about two to three years to get your program running like you want it,” Gray said. “We’ve got a good group of hard workers.”

The local child support offices had an investigator for the last 13 months who worked daily, going out and picking up “deadbeat” dads and moms who weren’t paying child support.

Gray said news of people going to jail caused others who owed to come in before they were located by the investigator. The investigator is no longer working daily on child support, but Gray hopes to be able to return him to the program soon.

Gray said his staff attorneys and case workers are making a difference in collections.

“It’s all because of them we’re able to have these good figures,” he said.

There has also been a big push in paternity cases to determine the identities of some of the fathers who aren’t paying child support. Support order collections are also up by 19 percent in Tahlequah and 24 percent in Sallisaw.

The offices collected a combined $6.82 million during the year ended June 30.

“We’re looking for even better numbers in the next year,” Gray said.

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